REPORT: TOWN 0-1 BURTON ALBIONHuddersfield Town's first ever home meeting with Burton Albion ended in heartache as substitute Jackson Irvine struck deep into injury time on what was a heavily frustrating afternoon for the men in blue and white.
The Terriers ended the contest with only 10 men on the field of play after Skipper Dean Whitehead was shown a second yellow card towards the end of the highly-charged proceedings, which included both sides having dubious penalty appeals waved away.
Head Coach David Wagner made five changes to the side that endured the defeat at Bristol City last time around. Due to injuries, Jonathan Hogg and Isaiah Brown were absent, allowing starts for Dean Whitehead and Jack Payne. Collin Quaner was preferred to Nahki Wells leading the line, whereas cult-hero Michael Hefele returned to the central defensive unit in place of Mark Hudson. The fifth and final change saw Joe Lolley slot onto the right side of the 4-2-3-1 set-up; a selection which saw both Lolley and Jack Payne make only their second home starts of the season together in a match which also saw Rajiv van La Parra make his 100th appearance in the Sky Bet Championship.
On paper, the task in hand looked a fairly simple one for the Terriers against a side languishing in the bottom realms of the Sky Bet Championship table; albeit on a run of form which saw the Brewers lose only one game in seven.
Fresh from international duty with Australia, although sitting out the midweek win against the United Arab Emirates through suspension, Aaron Mooy returned to his industrious self early on producing a delightful chip for Tommy Smith to chase, only to be denied by both a defiant block from Burton 'keeper and the linesman's flag on the far-side.
However, Nigel Clough's Brewers hadn't arrived in Kirklees to easily give up the three points; Cauley Woodrow outlined the away side's intentions shortly after by blasting over from close range.
Inevitably, the response to the drubbing down in Bristol gathered expected momentum throughout the opening exchanges; Chris Loewe's cross found a restored Joe Lolley who could only scuff his shot wide of the target, before neat interplay worked its way to Tommy Smith on the right-hand side who’s shot stung the palms of McLaughlin before trickling out for a corner.
As ever when on the field, Joe Lolley continued to utilise the energetic aspects of his display by sharply cutting inside and agonisingly curling an effort over the visitor’s goal. The wide-man stayed in the thick of the action; this time skillfully jinking past two potential markers before firing wide of the target once again.
Following a pattern of raised intensity from the home side, the game's first controversial moment came to light; Tommy Smith went down under a challenge of Tom Flanagan, but the referee deemed that no subsequent contact had been made ruling out any possibility of Town taking the lead from the spot.
Flanagan would then see a penalty appeal of his own waved away after advancing into the home side's danger zone, but once again the referee deemed that any challenge made was a fair one.
Tempers and ferocity began to intensify throughout the late stages of the first period; key battles in the defensive sections were beginning to take shape in the form of Michael Hefele and Christopher Schindler competing well against the physical presence of Marvin Sordell.
Many would agree that the first period lacked any sort of exciting moments to really spark up the 20,154 crowd inside of the John Smith’s Stadium; chances were limited for the Terriers, largely down to a tough resilience from Albion which the Club has prided itself on throughout the campaign.
At long last, Town flew out of the traps to open up the second 45; Rajiv van La Parra showed a tremendous burst of pace to out-run the majority of the Burton right flank before being hacked down by McFadzean, with the resulting goal-bound free-kick from Mooy somehow being diverted over the bar from the back-pedalling Ben Turner.
The alarm bells would continue to ring for the Terriers defensive compartments, however. Marvin Sordell showed Town just how determined the away side was to come away with the vital points by dancing round two markers; luckily though for the 'Yorkshire Club', the big man up top would fire softly into Danny Ward's gloves.
Further attacking intent was a must for David Wagner's side; cue a double substitution in the form of Nahki Wells and Elias Kachunga to provide that necessary injection of creativity and panache in the search for the elusive opening goal.
Nonetheless, Town maintained its application of pressure with and without the ball; albeit having Tommy Smith to thank after the right-back steered away a dangerous John Brayford cross destined for Sordell.
The Brewers would have the best chances in the next 20 minute spell of the match; Chris Loewe made a superb sliding tackle to deny Sordell from this time turning provider, before Kyle McFadzean won the aerial duel on the Town penalty spot who could guide his header into the Fantastic Media stand.
The Terriers had another penalty claim waved away following Burton's offensive spell; the Bermudian seemed to have been felled under a challenge from Turner after his heavy touch took him away from goal, all coming from Michael Hefele's exquisite ball over the top nonetheless.
Eventual goal-scorer Irvine had an accurate free-kick held securely by Ward, before Town's golden chance to nudge ahead was agonisingly wasted by Quaner.
The tirelessly working German couldn't adjust his feet following Aaron Mooy's scuffed attempt, resulting in the ball taking an awkward bounce and trickle painfully away into the arms of McLaughlin.
The pendulum of momentum then swung the way of the away side once more; Burton's Tom Flanagan found himself with room to shoot within the Town 18-yard box, only to be crucially blocked by a Town body valiantly throwing himself in front, before Ben Turner squandered what seemed to be an open goal from an acute angle; another let-off for the home side.
In truth, despite retaining the large majority of possession as well as producing a high quantity of offensive pressure throughout the half, the Blue and White's best chances of the half came two minutes in from the full 90; firstly Elias Kachunga's powerful attempt was diverted off the line from John Brayford, before Michael Hefele's looping header looked certain to hit the back of the net only to be denied once again by the head of Brayford at the far-post.
Following the clearance of the Hefele chance, Dean Whitehead was adjudged to have committed a foul on a visiting player, earning him a second bookable offence which made the job that little bit harder for the Terriers to gain maximum points.
With six minutes added on, belief began to grow amongst the terraces of the John Smith’s Stadium; but the fairytale ending that many would've hoped for took a severe turn for the worst.
In fact, Burton could've been ahead earlier on into the additional time if it wasn't for Christopher Schindler's important block on Marvin Sordell after Luke Varney's quick break-away.
The killer blow came in the shape of another Burton break after Town was caught in possession whilst hunting for the golden winner; Marvin Sordell got the better of Chris Loewe to advance down-field unchallenged before squaring to an unmarked Irvine, handing the Brewers a vital three points and condemning David Wagner's men to a second defeat in a row.
Town's Line-Up (4-2-3-1):
Danny Ward; Chris Loewe, Christopher Schindler, Michael Hefele, Tommy Smith; Dean Whitehead (c), Aaron Mooy; Rajiv van La Parra, Jack Payne (Nahki Wells, 54'), Joe Lolley (Elias Kachunga, 54'); Collin Quaner (Philip Billing, 79')
Joel Coleman, Mark Hudson, Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, Martin Cranie
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