It was to be another disappointing trip to South Gloucestershire for David Wagner and his men as they suffered a heavy 4-0 defeat for the second time in consecutive seasons at Bristol City’s new-look Ashton Gate Stadium.
A potentially serious injury to Jonathan Hogg early on in the first half overshadowed the evening’s action, with the midfielder clashing with team-mate Mark Hudson in a nasty looking collision.
In truth, the Town performance hardly matched the standards of recent times; chances were at a premium due to the solid organisation of the home side, along with mistakes in possession which gifted the hosts with opportunities to cause havoc amongst the Terriers’ defensive ranks.
Head Coach David Wagner made three changes for the trip to the South West; Mark Hudson came into the starting eleven to replace Michael Hefele (illness), with Isaiah Brown slotting in for Jack Payne and Aaron Mooy taking the place of Philip Billing. Mark Hudson captained the side, which reverted to its usual 4-2-3-1 set up.
City Head Coach Lee Johnson also decided to line-up with a 4-2-3-1 formation, allowing battles in key areas to determine the eventual outcome of Friday evening’s televised encounter.
The Terriers came into this clash buoyed by last Saturday’s victory at Brentford; the opening goal very nearly arrived within minutes of the first period as Tommy Smith’s advances were noticed by Elias Kachunga.
Kachunga, who’s recent form has earned a call-up to the Democratic Republic of Congo National squad, slid a clever reversed pass through the legs of Reds left-back Joe Bryan to Smith who produced a teasing ball across the face of goal; Nahki Wells misjudged his run, leaving the ball to agonisingly roll across Frank Fielding’s six yard box.
From then on, the home side would start to gain a foothold in the match, beginning with a promising surge down the left from Irishman Callum O’Dowda.
City’s left-winger did well to beat a recovering Tommy Smith before delivering a high cross towards David Cotterill; Chris Loewe doing just enough to glance the ball away before a lurking Cotterill could drill the ball home.
The following collision with Jonathan Hogg would see a substantial amount of time added on at the end of the second period; but following the hold-up, the Terriers never really came back into the game with any real panache.
Lacklustre defensive play saw the clinical Tammy Abraham take-up very dangerous positions in and around the Town box, with skipper Mark Hudson doing just enough to cover and clear his lines before any attempt could be mustered.
As a result of Town’s failure to grasp any sort of control within the encounter, it was to be the home side who broke the deadlock; playmaker Lee Tomlin found himself through on goal following Abraham’s poke forward after the front-man got the better of Hudson. Tomlin coolly rounded a helpless Danny Ward to slide home; ensuring the Black and Green Terriers side that not only would they have to battle with the deteriorating Gloucestershire conditions, but with a City side in no mood to give up any points in their fight against relegation.
The desired response which many associated with Huddersfield Town expected did little to materialise; David Cotterill threatened yet again on the City right providing two more golden chances to double the home side’s advantage.
The winger firstly drifted inside far too easily before laying off to a patient Gary O’Neil who luckily fired a tame effort straight at Town stopper Ward, before the same player drilled a low teasing pass across the Town six yard box which could only see Callum O’Dowda miss with any contact by inches.
Offensive capabilities had seemed to have eluded ‘The Yorkshire Club’ in the first 45, with one of the main opportunities coming up to three-quarters of the way through; Rajiv van La Parra did well to beat his marker and cut inside, but the Dutchman could only manage an effort high and wide into the newly built stand behind City ‘keeper Frank Fielding’s goal.
Chris Loewe’s set-piece floated just over the cross-bar, before City broke and found a determined Christopher Schindler in the way to prevent Abraham from grabbing a second at the other end.
Van La Parra once again outlined his intentions to create chances through positivity; the winger’s run into the heart of the Bristol City defence seemed to have been halted under a challenge, but referee David Coote waved away any suggestions of a spot-kick.
Instead of a Town equaliser, it was to be a killer second goal for the hosts at the end of a prolonged stoppage time; that man Cotterill once again this time delivered a fruitful cross to the agile Tammy Abraham at the front post, with the Chelsea loanee nipping just in front of Christopher Schindler to prod home from close range.
With the home side netting on the brink of the interval, the momentum with which Town was looking to capitalise on in the second period all but vanished; the introduction of Joe Lolley at the break was a necessary injection of energy to raise the morale of what had been a somewhat flat performance up to that point.
In ever worsening conditions, the Terriers’ woes just continued to tumble; Callum O’Dowda the next Robins player to see an attempt thwarted. Tammy Abraham this time turned provider to serve up a guilt-edged chance for O’Dowda who saw his downward header tipped magnificently on to the cross-bar by Ward.
The home attacking intent threatened to give the score-line an even worse look to it come the final whistle. Defender Bailey Wright followed up the thwarted header by the woodwork by firing tamely into a busy Danny Ward’s gloves.
Isaiah Brown had to be replaced by Collin Quaner after picking up a knock in a challenge with the impressive Aden Flint; ‘impressive’ being the word to describe many of the home side’s performers in the encounter, as Town’s advances up the field were brought to a halt on many occasions from tenacious tackling and pressing which David Wagner’s men just couldn’t seem to match with their opponents on this particular occasion.
The away side would put up some sort of resistance following the City flurry of chances; Joe Lolley fluffed his lines on the rebound from Nahki Wells’ initial effort being blocked by Fielding, before Rajiv van La Parra would blast high and wide after yet again facing organised walls of Red shirts on his path into the danger area.
The looming figure of Aden Flint had been imperative to Bristol City’s defensive resilience; however, the central defender found himself in the thick of the action at the other end mid-way through the half.
Joe Bryan continued to impress down the left as he fizzed a cross into the area looking for Tomlin, and after the Town defensive compartments failed to clear their lines effectively, veteran Gary O’Neil’s shot was skilfully flicked in past a stricken Danny Ward to all but seal a valuable three points for Lee Johnson’s outfit.
To sum up a pretty bleak evening, Philip Billing was adjudged to have been the guilty party after felling an advancing Joe Bryan in the area.
Danger-man David Cotterill stepped up to ensure he had a taste of the goal-scoring action by despatching the spot-kick, ensuring the long-journey back to West Yorkshire wouldn’t be complete with any points to boot.
Town’s line-up (4-2-3-1):
Danny Ward; Chris Loewe, Christopher Schindler, Mark Hudson (c), Tommy Smith; Jonathan Hogg (Philip Billing, 22’), Aaron Mooy; Rajiv van La Parra, Isaiah Brown (Collin Quaner, 66’), Elias Kachunga (Joe Lolley, 46’); Nahki Wells
Joel Coleman, Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, Martin Cranie, Jack Payne.