Ten-men Huddersfield Town recorded an important single goal victory over visitors Walsall this afternoon thanks to a spectacular goal from the in-form Anthony Pilkington.
The midfielder scored his eighth goal of the season late in the first half after Alan Lee had received a straight red card for an apparent arm in the face of a defender, but Lee Clark's side did fantastically well with ten men against a physical Saddlers side.
Town were on the front foot in the early stages, pressing the Saddlers into their own half and being denied a stonewall corner off left back McGivern in the opening minute thanks to a poor decision by the officials. Despite this, the first shot of the game came from the visitors in the 6th minute when former Town loanee Steve Jones pulled a left-footed drive well wide from the edge of the box.
Walsall had come with five across midfield, but the Terriers were trying to pick their way through their opposition with some brisk passing. Alan Lee went down in the area under a challenge from the giant Clayton McDonald to no avail as the 10th minute approached before the same player clattered into Lee inside the centre circle barely a minute later.
A low cross into the area from Pilkington in the next minute was cleared by Walsall with no Town player on hand to tap the ball home.
BOOKING - Walsall's on-loan Manchester City left back Ryan McGivern was then booked by the referee in the 14th minute for a late challenge on Pilkington just inside the Town half.
The Saddlers were here to frustrate and were getting as many bodies behind the ball as possible to restrict Town's chances. However, Irishman Graham Carey came close in the 20th minute after collecting Johnson's flick on from a Peltier throw inside the Walsall box; he knocked the ball into the air before attempting an acrobatic overhead that flew narrowly over the crossbar.
SENT OFF - Alan Lee then received a straight red card from the referee in the 24th minute for what was deemed to be an elbow on defender Emmanuele Smith as the pair challenged for one of Ian Bennett's clearances.
That decision fired up the Town faithful and they were backing their ten-man team loudly as the half hour approached. Lee Clark and Paul Stephenson were busily rearranging their players and Town were now deployed in a 3-4-2 shape, with Anthony Pilkington lining up just behind Jordan Rhodes and Lee Peltier advancing down the right.
Jon Macken floated a harmless long range effort straight into the waiting hands of Ian Bennett in the 34th minute
GOAL - Then, in the 34th minute, Anthony Pilkington sent a superb strike arrowing towards goal from 25 yards to put his side ahead. The in-form winger netted his sixth goal in five matches after picking up the ball just infield from the right touchline, stepping casually inside and powering a low left-footed drive right into the 'keeper's bottom left corner - leaving Walsall custodian James Walker with absolutely no chance!
Jones blasted over again from range soon after the restart before an excellent 40th minute cross from Liam Ridehalgh was sent clear by defender Smith with Jordan Rhodes close by.
HALF TIME: HUDDERSFIELD TOWN 1 WALSALL 0
The game restarted with Town still in their new-look shape, but it was Walsall with the first shot of the half on the stroke of the 48th minute when deep-lying midfielder Aaron Lescott advanced and struck a shot that Bennett had to push around the post.
BOOKING - Walsall's Steve Jones was booked in the 50th minute for a cynical trip on Jordan Rhodes as he looked to break away from a Saddlers corner.
The ball was soon at the other end of the pitch, but Joey Gudjonsson volleyed wide from the edge of the box.
Another incisive Town breakaway from Pilkington almost led to a great scoring opportunity for Rhodes, but Smith did very well to intercept the winger's low ball across the face of goal.
Town skipper Peter Clarke then pulled off a tremendous 58th minute block to deny Lescott another shooting opportunity, diving full length to block the ball at the midfielder's feet.
BOOKING - Walsall's Manny Smith was then booked for a poor challenge on Jordan Rhodes on halfway.
SUB - Walsall boss Chris Hutchings changed things in the next minute, replacing Jon Macken with Reuben Reid.
Pilkington was then released by Johnson into the right channel in the 64th minute, but big McDonald did well to get his head to the ball just ahead of Rhodes at the near post when the midfielder crossed the ball.
SUB - Walsall then made their second change, with Alex Nicholls replacing Lescott. Richard Taundry took over as Captain and the Saddlers switched to two strikers, with the new man joining Reid in attack.
SUB - Town made their first change in the 68th minute, with Joe Garner replacing Jordan Rhodes in attack.
Icelander Gudjonsson started another Town attack two minutes later, spreading the ball to the right for Damien Johnson; he stood a cross up to the back post, but new boy Garner could only send a floated header straight into the hands of the 'keeper.
At the other end Reuben Reid looped a flicked header onto the top of the Town goal after McDonald had sent a long ball into the area.
SUB - Scott Arfield was then introduced to the game by Lee Clark in the 76th minute; he replaced Graham Carey.
Walsall began to throw men forward as the final ten minutes approached and Lee Peltier did well to turn away Jones' dangerous cross from the left before Ridehalgh did similarly well when a cross was delivered from the opposite flank.
Town were playing four at the back again since Arfield's introduction with Peltier slotting back in at right back, but Walsall were pushing four players right onto them - with wingers Jones and Gray playing very high up the pitch.
The Town supporters made a massive contribution towards the end of the game as Lee Clark's side held on for three important points.
FULL TIME: HUDDERSFIELD TOWN 1 WALSALL 0
Huddersfield Town (4-4-2):
Ian Bennett; Liam Ridehalgh, Peter Clarke (c), Antony Kay, Lee Peltier; Graham Carey (Scott Arfield 76), Damien Johnson, Joey Gudjonsson, Anthony Pilkington; Alan Lee, Jordan Rhodes (Joe Garner 68)
Unused Subs: Nick Colgan, Nathan Clarke, Jamie McCombe, Lee Croft, Chris Atkinson
Town Red Card: Alan Lee (24)
Walsall Bookings: Ryan McGivern (14), Steve Jones (50), Manny Smith (58)