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Huddersfield Town 1 v 1 Leeds United
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 2nd March 2024 Kick-off 12:30
Farke acknowledges we weren’t at our best as Leeds held to a draw by Huddersfield
Saturday, 2nd Mar 2024 21:01 by Tim Whelan

We played against ten men for more than half of this game, so it might have been expected that we would put them under pressure for most of the second half, but we failed to make the advantage count and a determined Huddersfield Town held on for a much-needed point.

In the post-match discussion on social media, much has been made of the team looking a bit tired after playing less than 72 hours after the fully committed performance at Stamford Bridge. But this was the same starting eleven as the previous league game against Leicester last week, and only five of them had played the full 90 minutes at Chelsea.

As ever we made a bright start to this game, and could have gone in front inside the first few minutes. Archie Gray was left free to run down the right, and his ball infield was played on to Gnonto by Rutter, but perhaps Kamara wasn’t the ideal player for his cross to fall to. He should have shot first time, but seemed to lack the confidence to do so, instead playing it on to Summerville.

That gave Nicholls enough time to get into position to block the final shot, aided by Summerville scuffing his effort instead of striking it cleanly. We didn’t know it then, but that was the closest we would get before half time. After that scare the dog botherers sorted out their defensive shape, and despite having a lot of possession we found it difficult to play through them.

And as the hosts started to get into the game, Rudoni twice brought the best out of Meslier. First with a curling shot from distance that our keeper had to stretch to turn round the post, then a clever flick from the resulting corner, which the Frenchman had to spot very quickly to keep out. These efforts raised the atmosphere inside the stadium as the home fans began to get behind their team.

Huddersfield have already shown signs of improvement under new manager André Breitenreiter and this was always going to be a tougher fixture than it would have been if we’d come here a few weeks ago when Darren Moore was in charge. There seemed to be a new spirit of optimism among their team as they worked hard for each other, but more than once their enthusiasm spilled over into being over-aggressive.

They picked up three yellow cards in quick succession, and I thought one of them was harsh, but not the booking of their captain Jonathan Hogg for bringing Summerville down from behind. Even if it did cause more damage to one of their own players, as Summerville crashed into Nakayama after being sent flying, and the Japanese couldn’t continue, being seen on crutches later in the afternoon.

But Huddersfield’s physical presence also brought a danger of a more legal kind with the number of tall players they could send forward for set pieces, to be picked out by the excellent deliveries from Thomas. One of his free kicks led to their goal, as Pearson rose above our defence to meet it, and Helik was the quickest to get to the rebound after Meslier had done well to stop the ball crossing the line the first time.

Nine minutes were added to the first half after a number of stoppages, and that was enough time for the moment that was to swing the momentum back in our favour. Hogg swung an elbow that connected with Firpo’s head as the ball came down, and the referee showed him a second yellow card and then the red. The home fans booed the official when he came off the field for half time, but I can’t see how they could complain about either of Hogg’s bookings.

We came out for the second half a good couple of minutes after the home team, which suggested that there had been quite a long discussion about how we were going to get back into this game. Meanwhile Huddersfield brought Matos on for Ward, as they prepared to sit back and defend their lead with the ten men they still had.

The result was the kind of deep defence that we have found it difficult to break down at times this season, and when space is tight the passing has to be accurate to make the best of the opportunities we are able to create. But too often it wasn’t, and Rutter’s radar seemed a bit off, with a couple of wayward through balls and a shot so wide it went for a throw-in rather than a goal kick.

Just after the hour mark Daniel Farke decided it was time to make changes, with the man advantage meaning he could move to a more attacking formation without any real risks. Piroe came on for Kamara as a forward for a midfield player, but the other subs were like for like, with James and Roberts replacing Gray and Gnonto.

And five minutes later our new right side paved the way for our equaliser, as James’ ball into the area found Roberts in an advanced position, and Bamford was first to the ball he swept along the six yard line. At that point it seemed likely that we would go on to win the game, but the Terriers stuck doggedly to their task, with Nicholls wasting time at every opportunity without ever being asked to get a move on.

Further chances saw Piroe sending a powerful shot over the bar from 25 yards, Bamford shooting just wide and Rutter getting under the ball and heading over when he got to the ball at a corner. This last effort would have led to some controversy if it had gone in, as the home side had been dumbfounded that they hadn’t been awarded a goal kick instead.

But our best chance came from one of Summerville’s trademark jinks into the area from the left for a right foot shot, but he hit it a bit too firmly, which didn’t allow the ball to curl sufficiently to find the far corner rather than clipping the post on it’s way behind. Such are the fine margins on which two crucial points can depend.

On 86 minutes there was one more attacking change as Anthony came on for Firpo, but despite the array of attacking talent we had on the field and the addition of five more minutes, we still couldn’t find a way through their stubbon defence. And the hosts could even have snatched it right at the end, with Pearson shooting just wide and Meslier having to punch a last gasp corner to safety.

And so we were held to a frustrating draw, though you couldn’t say that our performance over the whole 90 minutes deserved anything more. We gained a point on Leicester, who must be getting worried after a surprising third successive defeat, but Ipswich and Southampton both won, the latter being the most annoying result as their winner came well into injury time.

Daniel Farke was quick to get his excuses in when he spoke to the BBC after the game. "I'm far away from punishing my players for their performance. We have won 28 points out of the last 10 games, so I won't criticise them because they didn't have their best game. Individually they didn't have their best day. But you have to expect that sometimes.”

“We have to draw a line under that pretty quickly. It's difficult when a team defends and that's all they do. It was a quick turnaround for us and the pitch was not easy to play. We created chances, we got the equaliser, but it was a bit like a cup game with how scrappy it was. We had to rely on the offensive players to put the ball into the net. We should have won, Summerville hit the post. But we have to accept the point."

So we didn’t quite manage set a new club record with a tenth successive league win, and while we can’t expect to keep winning every game, we need to work out how to beat these relegation-threatened teams who desperately need the points themselves. The next three games are also against teams in a similar position, so our play in the final third is going to have to be a lot crisper than it was today.


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