Huddersfield Town 2
Vaughan 42 + 54
Bradford City 1
Tuesday 6 August, 2013
Written by Gareth Walker (images by Jason McKeown)
There will be no League Cup run this year after an Adam Clayton-inspired Huddersfield Town put paid to our hopes at the first hurdle last night.
Clayton was the only real difference in quality between the Championship outfit and a Bantams side that was seven players different to the team which drew 2-2 at Bristol City on Saturday. The four City players who maintained their places were Jon McLaughlin, Stephen Darby, Nathan Doyle and Garry Thompson, as Parkinson gave some of his other squad members a chance to impress and force their way into his plans.
The game itself was a typical derby, only really let down by the poor level of support from the home side. The away end was a sell out and us City supporters were in full voice throughout. There was also a competitive edge to the game which was epitomised by a crunching but fair tackle by Carl McHugh early on in proceedings.
For the first 10 minutes or so, the home side were well on top as they tried to impress their Championship quality and quick-fire passing style of play on proceedings. They kept the ball and moved it around very well as the three men in midfield, led by Clayton at the fulcrum, dominated without really creating any clear cut chances.
A couple of worryingly free headers from corners was about as close as the Terriers came to opening the scoring, and things began to settle down with City slowly coming into proceedings. Kyel Reid was probably our main threat as he went on a couple of jinking runs which were only ended by either a cynical foul or by his all too often decision to go it alone rather than play a teammate in on the overlap.
Our best chances also came from set prices as twice we went close with headers from crosses – once forcing Alex Smithies into a smart stop and the second time creating a goalmouth scramble which somehow didn’t fall to a claret and amber shirt. On both of these occasions, new signing and debutant Matt Taylor was in the thick of things. Taylor has a look of Luke Oliver from a distance, so much so that a supporter stood behind me kept referring to him as “Olly” throughout the entirety of the first half.
The real Luke Oliver had in fact failed to make the bench as he was deemed not quite ready for competitive action. He is however likely to play some part in the friendly against Bradford Park Avenue next Tuesday.
Huddersfield again tried to up the tempo in the final 10 minutes of the first half as Clayton – whose long range passing was admirable all night – really came to the fore. The home side set up camp in the City half and a crescendo was built resulting in a fine jinking run from Clayton where he beat three City players and McLaughlin, only to see Darby pull off a brilliant goal line clearance. It felt that City had survived, but the relief was short lived.
During the next phase of the same attack, Town worked the ball infield from their left towards former Premier League striker James Vaughan, who hit a speculative drive from the edge of the area. The shot was not destined for the corner, but somehow seemed to go through McLaughlin’s hand and nestled in the back of the net. Jonny may have been unsighted, but it was an extremely poor goal to concede particularly having just survived the previous chance – a chance that, had it led to a goal, would have been somehow easier to take due to it coming from quality play rather than a City error. One may suggest that McLaughlin needs to strengthen up his wrists.
The second half began with no changes to the City line up but one change for Town as Callum Woods was replaced by Adam Hamill. The home side again tried to pass the ball about and work City around the pitch using their three men midfield against the City two of Ricky Ravenhill and Jason Kennedy.
This tactic worked for long periods as their quality began to show and we were at times chasing shadows. Kennedy – who was given the Gary Jones role in the team of trying to set the tempo – seemed to struggle and in my opinion was overshadowed by Ravenhill’s workrate and determination. It is early days for the summer signing from Rochdale and he has the unenviable task of being the stand in for Jones. I did, however, feel that Kennedy was too often guilty of failing to get his head up in order to pick the right pass and was slow at moving the ball. Since it was his first competitive appearance in claret and amber, he certainly deserves to be given more time to settle in.
Town doubled their lead on 58 minutes when a marvellous cross-field ball from Clayton was picked up by Hamill who crossed for Vaughan to expertly head home. This time, despite getting a hand to the ball, McLaughlin had no chance.
Vaughan’s second of the night resulted in an almost immediate reaction from the City bench as Phil Parkinson made a triple substitution. James Hanson, Nahki Wells and James Meredith replaced Taylor, the anonymous Alan Connell and the disappointing Rafa De Vita. Connell again showed that, despite his excellent effort and workrate, he is far more suited to a role coming off the bench than he is as a starter. De Vita – who impressed me during his cameo at Bristol on Saturday – seemed to duck out of a couple of tackles and a Yorkshire derby may have been the wrong game for him so early in his City career.
The changes had an immediate impact as McHugh went to centre back in order to accommodate Meredith, and Thompson – who had looked a threat up top with his pace – moved to the right hand side of midfield allowing Hanson and Wells to take up their familiar central striking positions. Suddenly City looked a different side as Hanson almost scored with his first touch and the tone was set for the remainder of the contest. The Bantams were now the dominant force, as Huddersfield were restricted to playing on the break.
Thompson forced a smart save from Smithies as Reid and Meredith began to link up impressively. The noise was cranked up by the 4,000 Bradfordians. But unfortunately – partly due to some good defending, partly due to some cynical fouls, and partly due to an inept performance from one of the referee’s assistants – we couldn’t find a way through until Wells’ sweetly struck shot from the edge of the area in the last minute gave us hope.
Disappointingly, it was too little too late as there was only time for one more corner and some time wasting from Smithies before the contest was brought to a close.
Yet far from being disgraced by an expensively assembled team from the division above, City more than held our own throughout and were arguably the better team once the thee substitutions were made. The worry for me, however, is our shortage of a goalkeeper to challenge McLaughlin and the toothless nature of our forward line when Hanson and Wells are missing. It is also difficult to argue that anyone from last night did enough to earn themselves a staring spot on Saturday
The biggest disappointment was of course losing to Town. I have a strong dislike for their supporters following their attitudes after the Gordon Watson tackle in 1997. The exit from the cup doesn’t bother me too much.
After all, we have been there and done that. As one of our contingent said on the way home, “Its freezing cold at Wembley in February anyway, let someone else do it this time”.
City: McLaughlin, Darby, Taylor (Meredith 63), Doyle, McHugh, De Vita (Wells 63), Kennedy, Ravenhill, Reid, Thompson, Connell (Hanson 63)
Not used: Ripley, Davies, Yeates, Jones