A first league goal in approaching seven years for unlikely match winner Jonathan Hogg sealed a third win of the embryonic Sky Bet Championship season for Town at home to Barnsley on a wet and windySaturday afternoon at the John Smith’s Stadium.
The 27 year-old, who has been outstanding in his Terrier-like performances in central midfield to begin the campaign, was rested by David Wagner today – but emerged from the bench to become the fourth substitute in as many league games to net a significant strike at the death.
Earlier in the game, left back Chris Löwe scored a great debut goal in English football to give his side the lead at the interval, only for centre back Alfie Mawson to showcase the Tykes’ strength at set-plays.
However, Hogg’s composed finish stole the show and cemented the positive start to the campaign in front of over 20,000.
With Town fans rocking the John Smith’s Stadium at kick-off, Town started well. Nahki Wells – back in the line-up as his steps back from a pre-season knee issue continue – almost played Rajiv van La Parra through on goal and then visiting ‘keeper Davies almost spilled Tommy Smith’s cross straight to Sean Scannell, only for Josh Scowen to clear at the last moment.
Perhaps the best chance of the opening 10 minutes fell striker Elias Kachunga’s way after a miscued clearance sent the ball high into the sky, but the Congolese forward’s acrobatic effort went straight at the goalie.
Barnsley tried to fight back, with Marley Watkins shooting tamely wide before winger Ryan Kent blasted high into the Fantastic Media Stand, but the Terriers were on top in the first half
The goal that Town deserved came in some style in the 27th minute, with Löwe capping off one of his best games for the Club yet. With Town passing patiently, the German injected pace into the move and fired the ball into Kachunga’s feet before racing into the area to collect the return pass. Once he did, he curled a beauty into the top corner from around 18 yards out in front of the NSL.
Fellow full back Smith almost made it two on his 100th Sky Bet Championship appearance soon after, but curled wide on his left side after cutting inside former Town player Adam Hammill.
Barnsley’s main threat came through set pieces, with Danny Ward clawing one corner away well just before the interval. However, the equaliser came barely two minutes into the second half through a long throw. Centre back Marc Roberts hurled the ball into the six yard box and his defensive colleague Mawson rose highest to nod the ball inside the far post.
That goal rocked the Terriers somewhat and Kent tested former Liverpool colleague Ward with a low drive soon after following neat build-up play from Hammill and half time substitute Stefan Payne.
However, it looked like Town had restored the lead on the hour mark. Van La Parra found Löwe’s overlap and his cross was perfect for Wells to head into the top corner. Unfortunately, goalkeeper Davies had other ideas – leaping left to push the ball away excellently.
Kent was at it again soon after, testing Ward with a good 25 yard effort after stepping inside van La Parra, but a Löwe-inspired Town went close again twice soon after. The left back sent another two crosses straight to the boots of teammates, but first Kachunga scuffed a volley into the turn and then van La Parra curled over after being set by sub Kasey Palmer.
Dean Whitehead, on his first appearance of the season following suspension, had a decent afternoon, but almost gifted the visitors a winner with 10 minutes left with a horrible back-pass that put Payne clear. The striker raced clear of the desperately recovering Schindler before shooting, but hit the outside of the left-hand post to spurn a golden opportunity.
Another man making his seasonal debut, Harry Bunn, warmed the fingertips of the ‘keeper with an 89th minute snapshot before the winner came.
Hogg fired a pass into Kachunga’s feet and followed the ball, peeling off with a run on the outside. Kache initially delayed the pass, but then found his teammate with a low pass. Unmarked in the box, Hogg turned goalwards and dispatched the ball calmly into the top corner with the finesse of a man who scored every week to send the home fans into raptures.
Town’s team (4-4-2):
Danny Ward; Chris Löwe, Christopher Schindler, Mark Hudson (c), Tommy Smith; Rajiv van La Parra, Aaron Mooy (Jonathan Hogg, 56), Dean Whitehead, Sean Scannell (Kasey Palmer, 56); Nahki Wells (Harry Bunn, 75), Elias Kachunga
Joel Coleman, Martin Cranie, Jack Payne, Michael Hefele