As first matches go this was probably as good as it gets playing an unfancied team away.
Our starting 11 comprised 8 of the team that gained promotion in 2013 and the fact that this was the back and midfield 4s shows just how far they have come as units in the intervening period. All the players brought in cannot dislodge them from the starting line-up. It also shows how you have to improve your fire power up front and that a top quality ‘keeper is vital in the Championship.
The season got off to the best possible start in that we were ahead after just 26 seconds. After we kicked off Daniels’ probing ball to Wilson was repulsed but a switch to the other wing saw Ritchie ping a low left footed cross between the Huddersfield centre backs and behind their right back for Pugh to ghost in and control it perfectly enabling him to drill the ball under Smithies with his second touch. Disbelief from the away fans (unfortunately at the other end) but also a rush of pleasure.
Huddersfield offered nothing in the first half apart from effort (and not a lot of this) although Cook did have to produce a cynical foul to halt an attack and get a totally justifiable yellow card, one of only two down points of the day. We continued to probe and looked the more likely to score. Indeed after 32 minutes a ball up to Wilson from Elphick, after a spell of rotating the ball around the back four and midfield, saw Lynch misjudge his challenge with Wilson allowing the latter to sprint clear and slot past Smithies with ease. Huddersfield complained that Lynch had been fouled but if either of our centre-backs had been beaten so easily we would have been very disappointed.
Before half-time Huddersfield produced two attempts on goal, the first being easily dealt with low down by Camp whilst the second long range effort thumped against the bar. At the other end Ritchie intercepted a poor clearance by Smithies and audaciously shot from 70 yards out a la Beckham etc but without sufficient power or accuracy to really embarrass the struggling Smithies. Two nil at half-time was a fair reflection of the events of the first period.
The surprise was that Huddersfield made only one change during the break with Hammill being replaced by Scannell. It didn’t make much difference and we continued to dominate and it wasn’t long before the third goal went in Wilson ran at the heart of the home defence causing panic. His pass to Ritchie was blocked but Matt won back the ball and rolled it back to O’Kane who whipped in a gorgeous ball to the far post where Kermorgant and Pugh were loitering with intent. Pugh met the ball with a diving header which the poor Smithies (Smithers-Jones more like) could only parry and Kermorgant casually lifted the loose ball over him into the net.
Huddersfield now had their best spell of the match and two headers from corners had to be dealt with by Camp, one easily whilst the other demanded a smart tip over. This resurgence was short lived and soon snuffed out by our fourth. Ritchie was put clear down the right and to my surprise he put in an early cross with his right foot, usually only used for stopping him falling over. What was more it was a cracking ball and met by the onrushing Wilson who stabbed the ball goalwards with his left foot. Smithers-Jones could only partially stop it and it trickled into the net to continue his bad day. This got worse a bit later when A poor back header by a stretched defender was collected by Wilson who was felled by the hapless ‘keeper as he attempted to go round him. A penalty and yellow card. It was obvious that Yann Kermorgant is the designated penalty taker this season as he collected the ball and walked towards the spot. Wilson badgered him to take it with vocal support from the away fans. Yann looked over to the bench but without a clear signal from them placed the ball on the spot and walked away to cheers from the supporters behind the goal. Wilson looked confident whilst running up to take the penalty (he took them for Coventry last season) but Smithies day improved slightly as he saved the rather poorly placed effort.
We then saw out the match with ease and Rantie, Gosling and Stanislas were given a run out replacing Wilson, Kermorgant and Pugh. Quite where 5 minutes added on time came from I don’t know but it was totally unnecessary as Huddersfield were not going to score and we appeared to have lost interest by then. A 4-0 away win is a rather good way to start the season.
You do not learn too much from the first match of the season but it was clear that Huddersfield will struggle this season, that we are likely to score goals fairly easily (how many we concede will be the deciding factor as to where we finish in the table) but most of all how fit our players look. Even when we were four up the midfield, Arter in particular, were chasing down there opposite numbers.
Unfortunately the Huddersfield ship does not appear to be a happy or united place at the moment. When Majewski was substituted just before the hour choruses of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ were heard from the home fans. So whilst I was surprised and disappointed that Mark Robins was sacked the day after the match it may show that there are more issues below the surface. It just seems a strange time to address them, did the board ‘bottle it’ during the summer or have they panicked now. I hope that the situation is sorted out as Huddersfield is a very pleasant place to visit and I would miss it next season.
You may gather from my last comment that I do not think that we will go up this season. Despite this thumping I suspect that we may finish slightly lower in the table than last year as it is even better than it was last season and there are only a few teams that would appear to be natural relegation candidates. Rotherham, Blackpool and Leeds would appear to lead these but after today another team can be added to the list.
Wilson looks a good buy and is similar to Grabban but doesn’t look to have as much place and his work-rate was not as high (a bit early to judge of course) but he looks a far more natural finisher. Lewis used to score very few one on ones but Callam took his chance with ease. A guy sitting behind me stated after the match that we won it in midfield and I totally agree with him. Pugh, Ritchie and Arter all put in great shifts both in defence and attack but O’Kane is my man of the match. Wins like this are often built on an anonymous performance in the engine room by someone who just gets on with it and does his job perfectly without fuss and that is what Eunan produced here. Simon Francis also deserves a mention but no one played poorly.
AFCB: Camp, Francis, Cook, Elphick Daniels, Ritchie, O'Kane, Arter, Pugh, Wilson, Kermorgant
Subs: Buchel, Pitman, Harte, Ward, Rantie (for Wilson, 82 mins), Gosling (for Kermorgant, 82 mins), Stanislas (for Pugh, 90 mins)