REPORT: TOWN 1-3 NEWCASTLE UNITEDA second-half battling display wasn’t enough for Huddersfield Town as the Club suffered its first defeat on home soil since 28 November as a resilient Newcastle United held firm to leave West Yorkshire with all three points.
Despite retaining the lion’s share of possession throughout much of the first and second periods, Town just couldn’t find a way to break down the league leader. However, the effort levels and desire to achieve a positive outcome from the match was nonetheless evident in large portions of the Blue and White’s play, but in truth very rarely threatened the visiting ‘keeper’s goal from close range.
Having to watch from the Director’s Box due to serving the second game of his two-match touch-line ban, Head Coach David Wagner maintained the usual 4-2-3-1 set-up, and reverted to the same eleven that lined up against Reading in the previous Sky Bet Championship fixture; Philip Billing retaining his place from Wednesday’s cup exit at Manchester City ahead of Jonathan Hogg, who once again was named amongst the substitutes on his return from an injury set-back. Another pre-match boost for the Terriers saw Christopher Schindler passed fit to play a part in one of the pivotal clashes of the season so far.
The warning signs of a potent Magpies attack came to the fore early on in the contest; the towering Mohamed Diame played in former Ipswich striker Daryl Murphy, who’s powerful effort more than stung the palms of an alert Danny Ward.
As Town looked to gain a foothold in the game from the off to disrupt the league leaders’ style of play, the first of the game controversial moments came to light. Matt Ritchie was adjudged to have been tripped by Nahki Wells after a burst into the penalty area; not to the pleasure of the record league attendance of 23,213 inside the John Smiths Stadium who raucously voiced their dismay.
Winger Ritchie sprang to his feet to coolly dispatch the spot-kick, steepening the hill that the Terriers would have to climb to avoid losing ground in the race for automatic promotion.
Although the structure of Rafael Benitez’s side oozed organisation of the highest quality, Town briefly rallied after finding themselves a goal down.
Elias Kachunga showed glimpses of positivity by delivering a ball into the box with which no player in blue could connect with, before Michael Hefele’s goal-bound header took a vital deflection from a Toon defender.
Arguably ‘The Yorkshire Club’s best chance of the first half fell to Philip Billing; the young midfielder, who kept his place in the squad after impressing on several recent occasions, drilled a blistering 30 yard effort towards the Newcastle net but found a determined Karl Darlow in the way; the Geordies’ stopper reacting sharply with his left glove to block the sublime attempt from nestling in the bottom corner to bring Town level.
Town’s failure to find net within the mini flurry of chances would ultimately make them pay a heavy price
The restored Daryl Murphy, who has found starting opportunities hard to come by in the North East, paid back the faith his manager placed in him by tucking away a second, crucial goal to double the away side’s advantage.
An exceptionally weighted through ball from playmaker Jonjo Shelvey released the Irishman, who somehow received the ball at a second attempt from Danny Ward to the discontent of the home players and supporters, allowing the physical front-man to roll home past a Town attempt to clear on the line.
If the first goal was the cue for the visitors to change their game-plan to sit deep and allow the Terriers onto them, the second goal more than confirmed that notion.
Town was now facing a mammoth task to restore parity against the side leading the way in the Sky Bet Championship; but the Blue and Whites’ confidence kept on growing; even though the Magpies were proving a very tough nut to crack.
Izzy Brown’s first real involvement saw the on-loan Chelsea man fire an effort straight into Darlow’s grasp, before Aaron Mooy tried his luck from range only to find the opposition number one in defiant mood.
Brown continued to raise the Town intensity, this time cutting in from the right before unleashing a curling effort bound for the top corner; no surprises as to how the shot ended up with Darlow commanding his area well to pluck the attempt from the sky.
As for Town’s shot stopper, who had been relatively quiet in the first period despite the score-line, the Welshman picked up a knock in a collision which paved the way for Joel Coleman to enter the action after the interval.
The one-way nature of the contest would continue in the same pattern for consistent patches of the second 45.
The key to unlocking a highly resilient Newcastle door was still being hunted by the Terriers, as forward play kept on coming without the real threat of a clear-cut chance.
Philip Billing found himself again in an attacking position following Nahki Wells’ knock-down, only to scuff the effort wide of the target and keep Town on the search for the golden route back into the contest.
Tommy Smith’s advanced saw the right-back in a perfect position to slide the ball across for a team-mate; Ciaran Clark the hero this time for Benitez’s side, throwing his body on the line to deny the attempted ball into the box from reaching any HTAFC intended target.
Dwight Gayle entered the fray and instantly carried on where his team-mates had left off by once again ensuring that Izzy Brown’s goal-bound effort was thwarted, before the golden chance that the Terriers so desperately needed arrived in a clumsy fashion.
Jonjo Shelvey the guilty party having bundled over Kachunga in the box, allowing Aaron Mooy to halve the deficit from the spot and more than raise the noise and atmosphere levels from the packed stands.
Although the whole stadium was now more than willing the home-side to push on and grab a deserved leveller, that elusive second goal for the Terriers just wasn’t to be; Rajiv van La Parra saw his pop at goal denied once again by a solid Darlow.
All of the hope that the people of Huddersfield were holding onto vanished in injury time.
Substitute ‘keeper Joel Coleman misjudged a bouncing ball sent up from the Newcastle back-line, which happened to be the way which the Magpies went about their business numerous times in the second period, allowing prolific forward Dwight Gayle to pounce and walk the ball into an empty net and give the table-topper a precious three points.
Gayle’s goal condemned Town to its first home defeat since the loss versus Wigan back in November, whilst also allowing the home side to wonder how they finished the game without any sort of thoroughly deserved reward.
Town’s Starting line-up (4-2-3-1)
Danny Ward (Joel Coleman, 46’); Chris Loewe, Christopher Schindler, Michael Hefele, Tommy Smith; Philip Billing (Jonathan Hogg, 66’), Aaron Mooy; Rajiv van La Parra, Isaiah Brown, Elias Kachunga; Nahki Wells (Collin Quaner, 88’)
Mark Hudson, Martin Cranie, Jack Payne, Joe Lolley
Tweets by @htafcdotcom