Town sealed a place in the fourth-round of the Emirates FA Cup after overcoming a spirited Bolton Wanderers 2-1 on a cold afternoon over the Pennines.
Rajiv van La Parra and Danny Williams struck within a minute of each other early into the second-half giving the Terriers a comfortable two-goal cushion, but it wouldn’t all go their way as the hosts hit back through Derik Osede on 63 minutes. Bolton wouldn’t capitalise on the momentum of the consolation, with Town marshalling the rest of the contest with a high level of professionalism to cement that all important place in Monday evening’s draw.
The traditional slot for FA Cup Third Round weekend at the start of January saw Town make a number of changes from the New Year’s Day defeat at Leicester.
Terence Kongolo appeared from the off to make his Huddersfield Town debut at the Macron Stadium following his mid-week arrival from Monaco, paired with Michael Hefele in the centre of the defence. Abdelhamid Sabiri featured for the first time since the November trip to Bournemouth, whilst Joel Coleman started between the sticks against his home-town Club. Philip Billing (ankle) made a welcome return to the bench, with young prospect Lewis O’Brien also named amongst the replacements.
Town’s most recent fixture on this ground occurred around a similar time of the year; a 2-0 success on January 2nd 2016, a game where one of today’s starters, Joe Lolley, managed to get his name on the score-sheet.
Phil Parkinson’s Wanderers side sit in the Championship’s relegation zone, but the recent form prior to kick-off was impressive to say the least with three wins out of the last four.
Meanwhile, the Terriers were swiftly looking to get back to winning ways and kick-start another FA Cup run which concluded with two captivating ties against Manchester City at the fifth round stage last season.
Scrappy passages of possession opened up the encounter, with neither outfit able to fully take control. Joe Lolley started lively, but couldn’t find Collin Quaner with a clever flick as he approached a good attacking position on the edge of the area with white shirts seeming to back off.
David Wheater proved no match for the strength of Laurent Depoitre as the big Belgian stormed his way to the by-line whilst shrugging off the home Skipper’s challenge, but the end product eluded Laurent as the pull-back towards the arriving Abdelhamid Sabiri lacked power and was efficiently diverted away for a corner.
Despite hounding the hosts out of possession on multiple, pivotal occasions, the final ball continued to be the aspect of play which was yet to click.
The defensive line of Smith, Kongolo, Hefele and Malone had been relatively quiet in the opening 20, with duties carried out with the usual high standard with good positioning and the winning of key battles.
Terence Kongolo in particular had settled well and looked comfortable, instantly recognised by the vocal Town following behind the goal who roared the chorus of ‘He’s Magic You Know’ towards the new Dutch recruit.
That reputation came a whisker away from being ramped up several notches as Terence saw his goal-ward header blocked by a brave Josh Vela, originating from a Joe Lolley cross at the second time of asking from the right flank.
Bolton rarely threatened; Joel Coleman’s only actions in the first half-hour were two confident claims of looping crosses from either flank, delivered by Filipe Morais and Mark Little.
Scott Malone proceeded to carve out an opening for the Terriers. The left-back whipped in a fruitful delivery which skimmed its way across the six-yard area, and with the goal gaping, Tommy Smith was unable to side-foot home at the far-post under pressure from the recovering Antonee Robinson’s out-stretched boot.
It was safe to say that the encounter wasn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but Town were definitely starting to take a firm grasp over their Championship counterparts.
As the offensive urgency looked to have been upped, Jonathan Hogg’s eyes lit up as a loose, rebounded cross fell kindly on the edge of the area, and with acres of room to manoeuvre, Hoggy’s effort failed to trouble Mark Howard in the Trotters’ goal by sailing over the bar.
It took the home side 40 minutes to have their first clear sight of goal. Filipe Morais danced his way to the by-line before chipping deep towards three, un-marked white shirts congregated at the far post. Aaron Wilbraham is well-known throughout English football for his aerial prowess, but couldn’t get his header on target this time around having drifted dangerously away from his marker.
Abdelhamid Sabiri ensured the second-half would begin with imperative positivity. The Moroccan received possession on the half-turn from a firm Danny Williams pass, and produced a clever, curling lob in a bid to catch Mark Howard off his line. Home ‘keeper Mark Howard was agile enough to claw away to safety, keeping the deadlock in-tact.
That deadlock wouldn’t remain in-tact for too long, as Town gained a two-goal advantage in as many minutes.
The first arrived courtesy of Rajiv van La Parra stabbing home inside the six-yard box. The substitute opened the scoring after prodding home from a corner initially won through Joe Lolley’s determination to get a shot away having skilfully evaded two Bolton challenges.
Danny Williams followed up Rajiv’s strike by doubling the lead a minute later. The American’s speculative long-range effort took a wicked deflection off David Wheater, totally deceiving and wrong-footing the unlucky figure of Howard. Ultimately, Town were now 2-0 to the good and looked on course to make it through to the fourth round.
At the other end, Town switched off defensively to allow Wanderers a route back into the game. Jonathan Hogg blocked David Wheater’s goal-ward poke, with the resulting corner nodded in at the back-post by Derik Osede, who had gone un-noticed with time to place his header beyond Coleman into the back of the net.
Out of nowhere, a match with next to zero chances had exploded into life, and although it was the Terriers who were the more controlling of the two sides, Bolton had now given them something to think about and be alert with as the match entered the last 25 minutes.
The tie was starting to live up to the reputation of Cup football; the lower-division side now had a spring in their step, and were on the front foot in the search for the equaliser.
Goal-scorer Osede came inches from doubling his own tally for the afternoon as well as bringing his side level after firing a powerful half-volley over Joel Coleman’s cross-bar from an acute angle.
Mark Howard gifted Town the chance to stretch the lead once again. His attempted clearance landed straight at the feet of Scott Malone, and the latter drove to the by-line and squared towards Depoitre, but Wheater had recovered timely in order to sweep across the back and clear.
Wheater could well have made an impact on the attacking front, as he leapt highest to meet an out-swinging corner, but failed to make an adequate connection which would trouble Joel Coleman.
On the break, Town had a fantastic chance to kill the game off once and for all. A mix-up between Bolton’s midfielders let to a 3 on 1 counter, and despite Abdelhamid Sabiri finding Danny Williams in space, Danny couldn’t grab his second thanks to Howard’s strong wrists tipping the ball over the bar.
The combination of Philip Billing and Rajiv van La Parra both saw respective efforts fail to cause problems on the commencement of four added minutes, but those misses would have no influence on the outcome as Town completed the task of making it through to the next round.
TOWN (4-2-3-1): Joel Coleman; Scott Malone, Terence Kongolo, Michael Hefele (Dean Whitehead, 85’), Tommy Smith (c); Jonathan Hogg, Danny Williams; Joe Lolley (Philip Billing, 76’), Abdelhamid Sabiri, Collin Quaner (Rajiv van La Parra, 39’); Laurent Depoitre
UNUSED SUBS: Robert Green, Florent Hadergjonaj, Dean Whitehead, Lewis O’Brien, Steve Mounié
REFEREE: Roger East
ATTENDANCE: 11, 574