Huddersfield Town 1 - 2 Middlesbrough

An air of positivity has flowed around the club since the arrival of Chris Powell as manager. He has said the right things to ease the concerns of fans and there is a likeable quality about the man which makes you want him succeed more than any manager that has gone before him in recent times.

The stage was firmly set for his first game as Town boss with a larger than usual crowd who had all come to 'pack the stands for Powell' as the club had urged. Throw in a couple of Chris Powell masks and blokes coming dressed in flat caps and you'd expect a good atmosphere.

Yet what was served up on the pitch, as the Town faithful were forced to watch turgid football and a team lacking any real signs of creativity.


It all started fairly well though with Nahki Wells' overhead kick being well saved by Middlesbrough 'keeper Konstantopoulos and a header from a corner narrowly going over the bar.

Those early exchanges were just about as good as it got during a disappointing first half which saw striker James Vaughan once again leave the field of play injured.

Vaughan has often been an enigma for Town, but his decision to go in for a 50/50 challenge with the Boro keeper saw him pick up a yellow card and injure himself in the process and from then on our attacking intent subsided.

Our opposition, on the other hand, were well organised and grew into the game. Yet Town seemed relatively comfortable at the back as new signing Mark Hudson showed just why many of the Town faithful feel like the club are lucky to have signed him.

It was one of those days when you felt someone on either team had to do something special to beat either 'keeper and Middlesbrough captain Grant Leadbitter did so with a 35 yard pile-driver that swerved away from Alex Smithies into the top corner, an astonishing free-kick.

It could have easily been 2-0 before half-time with Kike being put through on goal, only to see his effort fantastically tipped round the post by Smithies.


The second half was no better than the first, the midfield too narrow and being overrun by Middlesbrough. The style of football was turgid and consisted of long balls aimed in the direction of substitute Jon Stead.

Anyone who has watched Stead in the last decade knows that his link up play is mightily good when the ball is into his feet, yet he was having to compete aerially for the ball time after time and nearly always coming off second best.

Defensively Town were reasonably comfortable with the only iffy moment being when Hudson made a slight error that Smithies swept up upon.

Powell finally made the change on the hour mark bringing Joe Lolley into the game, yet the youngster who went onto the right flank saw little of the ball as it bypassed the midfield time after time.

It wasn't until the introduction of Danny Ward with ten minutes left that Town looked a threat. Ward brought to the table width, creativity and aerial ability, which were all prevalent on the equaliser.

Ward won a header from a punt up field and cushioned the ball nicely for Jacob Butterfield, who had finally been moved into the centre of midfield. A nice interchange between the two saw Ward fizz a low hard cross in for Jon Stead to bundle home from six yards.

Suddenly a stadium that had it's life slowly drained away due to a disappointing performance suddenly sprung to life once again. And it seemed the players had woken up too, with Wells being put through with a ball over the top before getting into a muddle with a tame shot straight at the opposition 'keeper.

Yet just as you felt that the game was petering out for a draw a ball into the Town area caused panic and as the ball was cleared Adam Reach went down in the area and the referee awarded a penalty.

Did Reach make the most of a slight tug on his shirt from Tommy Smith? Yes. And was it a soft penalty? Very much so. However, it was a foul and it was a stupid, naive and moronic thing for Smith to do with the ball going away from goal in the penalty area.

Leadbitter sent Smithies the wrong way and a fortunate point turned to nothing in one moment of madness.


Those who left the ground may have complained that Smith had lost us the game and in truth he did. Yet it was the tactical misjudgements of Chris Powell that hindered Town as a side.

Playing Butterfield out wide simply didn't work as he is the creative enigma in the engine room. Lee Peltier for all his hard tackling only works in midfield if you have a midfield three like that Charlton game. Harry Bunn is simply not a left midfielder in a 4-4-2 and with him cutting in on his right foot and Butterfield drifting inside we had no width.

It may have been Powell's first game but it's hard to forgive a tactical performance like that and one where he was too slow to change his previous mistakes.


Ratings

Smithies - 6.5

A great save from Kike and communication with Hudson the highlights. Had no chance with either goal and his distribution wasn't helped by poor movement by Town.

Smith - 4

An ok performance. Yet his decision making in giving the penalty away was amateurish.

Hudson - 7 (Man of the Match)

A terrific debut in the blue and white and ended the game with the captains armband on. Surely it could be a permanent fixture on his arm very soon...

Lynch - 6.5

The partnership with Hudson looks to be a good one and the complemented each other nicely. Used his pace and strength well.

Robinson - 5

A very average performance against Adomah and he never got to grips with the winger.

Peltier - 6

Defensively sound in midfield and broke up play well with some hard tackles. Distribution is not suited to a two man central midfield though. Annoyed fans with how long it took him to leave the field when subbed.

Coady - 5.5

Is the honeymoon period over? Probably not and this was largely due to the midfield being constantly bypassed.

Butterfield - 5.5

Wasted on the right of midfield, an enigma when he moved into the centre. Harshly booked after only eight minutes.

Vaughan - 4

Such a threat on the pitch but often goes into challenges he has no need to go into. This time it earned him another spell on the treatment table and a yellow card.

Bunn - 4

Quite simply not a left midfielder. On the left of a front three it works but he offered little going forward.

Wells - 5.5

The poor lad is living off scraps and poor service. Lacks the technical ability for a top championship striker currently.

Stead - 6

Good link up play when he had the ball to feet and a well taken goal. Never has or will be a target man.

Lolley - 4.5

30 minutes on the pitch and rarely on the ball. When he did see it he did look dangerous but needs to get involved more and track back.

Ward - 6

Brought on far too late and showed his qualities immediately. Great assist and surely starting against Wigan.

Powell - 3

Picked the wrong players in midfield and was too slow to correct it. We have to see an improvement on the style of football too. Round pegs, round holes...

 

By Greg Marah

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