Result: Huddersfield Town 3-2 Preston North End (EFL Championship)
Venue: John Smith’s Stadium (Friday 14th April 2017, 3pm)
The second game of my Easter weekend sees a visit to the upper echelons of the English system and a fair change from the previous evening’s venue! A barred-off pitch to a 20,000-plus seater stadium is a bit of a leap in ground standard to say the least and with me ideally needing to be back at a fairly early time, high-flying Huddersfield & their John Smith’s Stadium fit the bill nicely.
Setting off over the Pennines at just before 11am, I arrived into Huddersfield at just after midday. Joining a few other earlier arrivals from both sides in the station’s Head of Steam pub, I plumped for an Orchard Pig cider, costing around £3.50. It even came in one of those old-school dimpled glasses, which is always something of a plus….God, how sad does that sound…?
Anyway, after remaining in here for a good half-hour and creating something of an itinerary for my tour de Hudds, I upped sticks and headed off for the town centre, being collared by some guy selling booklets in support of dementia charities whilst heading through the town’s pedestrianised area. Now, I’m usually careful when it comes to things like this, but I reckoned a pound either way doesn’t mean anything, even if it wasn’t kosher. So, with good deed for the day done, I reckoned I deserved a treat and this came in the form of King’s Bar and a pint of an old favourite of mine, Warsteiner.
This was actually an unplanned diversion, as I was originally headed for the neighbouring Wetherspoon’s, the Lord Wilson, but King’s looked the more interesting of the options and I always like the sort of small, hip bar thing they had going on. The Warsteiner wasn’t too pricey either, but having paid around the £4 for my previous two pints, I decided the ‘Spoons would have to come up next, if only to readdress the balance somewhat.
“Hi, do you have any Punk IPA left in there?”, came my question. The answer brought a chill to my spine as the barmaid replied “Oooh, doesn’t look like it”. No Punk IPA. In a Wetherspoon’s. This was clearly the work of the lone Magpie I’d been unlucky enough to spy earlier in the day. Alas, I decided the 5AM Saint would be a fairly decent softener for my disappointment.
With the Lord Wilson being the usual ‘devoid of any atmosphere’ modern ‘Spoons outlet, I quickly downed the red ale and headed off in the general direction of the ground. Of course, with a good hour and a half to kick-off, it was still far too early to get to the John Smith’s Stadium and so I instead made a pit stop at the bustling Vulcan pub, which is definitely the one to be in for nearby drinks it seemed. Fans from both sides mixed well in here and got on with no issues. I was also able to grab an issue of a fanzine in here, just to negate the loss of my £1 earlier. Yes, I’m that turgid with money.
With pint in here finished, I made my way through the crowd and out onto the streets. I was now headed for the ground, but it wasn’t the end of the pre-match drinking yet Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, oh no (DISCLAIMER: I don’t recommend it to the latter two categories, though. Well, not until you’re 18 anyway). I’d decided it was probably best to beat the queues now and pick up my ticket from the ticket office before the masses engulfed the area and it proved a shrewd move (even if I do say so myself), and I was swiftly in possession of my match ticket and back en route to the Yorkshire Rose pub, a short walk away.
Having been directed there by a steward in the car park, I arrived just as the place had begun to empty out, which was handy. One further pint was had in here (the dearest of all I’d had during the day, though I can’t remember what this one was) and, to be honest, very little happened in this recent build place and so I swiftly finished it and headed off, properly this time, to the ground for the big game of the day: Huddersfield Town vs Preston North End.
Arriving at the ground via the footbridge over the neighbouring canal, I made my way around to the North Stand, in within which I would be situated in the lower tier, pretty much behind the goal. After going through the turnstiles, I decided to head for food pre-game and so set my sights on the trailer in the open concourse. For £3.50 I was in possession of a decent sized chips & curry. But not for too long though.
The stadium is a pretty decent one in my view, helped by it having a bit of a unique shape to it (a little Bolton-esque to my eye) and with the tree-filled hill behind the East stand. All stands are largely similar, though the North and Riverside (Main) Stands are two-tiered and host the posh boxes. The South Stand was playing host to the large, vocal band of PNE fans today and also features a large, electronic scoreboard which was much-needed as it told all in attendance just who sponsored each goal-kick. Essential. Anyway, as for Huddersfield Town….
Following the birth of Rugby League in the town in 1895, an association football team, Huddersfield Town AFC, was formed in 1910 and took up residence at Leeds Road. After an initial season in the Midland League, the club quickly moved up into the Football League after just one season. Fans then staved off a move that would have seen the club move to Leeds in late 1919 and replace, the then recently defunct, Leeds City at Elland Road.
In something of a celebration of Huddersfield retaining its football club, Town reached the 1920 FA Cup Final as well as winning promotion to the Division One come that season’s end. This post-war success continued with the club lifting the 1922 FA Cup and, later, three successive Football League titles, spanning 1924-’26, as well as finishing runners-up for the two seasons immediately after their hat-trick of titles.
After WWII, and a fire at Leeds Road that saw the club actually end up at Elland Road for two games, the club entered a decline which saw them eventually relegated from Division 1 in 1952. Despite coming straight back up the following season as runners-up, they were relegated again just three years later. They would remain out of the top-flight for the following fourteen years, returning in 1970, but were relegated after just two years back in Division One, which signalled the final time the Terriers have competed in the English system’s top division…so far!
The drops continued for Town, finding themselves in the third tier in 1973 and 1975 saw the club languishing in the Fourth Division, the Terriers dropping from the top-flight to the bottom rung of the League within four seasons. However, their recovery began in 1980 with promotion as Division Four Champions. They followed this with promotion back to Division 2 in 1983, though a blip did follow with Town relegated back to Division 3 in 1987.
After missing out on a return to the second tier in 1992, ’93 saw them end up there anyway, of sorts, with the formation of the Premiership meaning Division 3 became the Football League’s “new” Division 2. 1995 saw Town return to Division One after defeating Bristol Rovers in the play-off final. They remained in the second-tier until 2001 when they were relegated once more.
Back in Division 3 by the time the 2002-’03 season came to its conclusion, their stay here lasted just one season, another play-off success seeing Town overcome Mansfield Town on penalties in the final. With further renaming seeing Division 2 becoming League 1, the club missed out on promotion to the Championship on two occasions, defeats in the play-offs in 2006 & 2010 seeing them remain in League One until they got lucky at the third time of asking, defeating Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United on penalties at Wembley. Since being promoted, Town have mostly struggled to lower mid-table positions. However, this season has seen David Wagner and his side get the Terriers to within sight of automatic promotion and a likely play-off spot, the club currently sitting in fourth position.
The game got underway and it quickly became apparent that this was going to be an open affair, with both teams going for it from the off. Elias Kachunga’s deflected effort was saved well by Chris Maxwell early on, as the hosts began brightly, but the visitors grew into the game and in the 23rd minute they struck, Aidan McGeady firing in a stinging, rising drive from 20+ yards that flew beyond the despairing dive of Danny Ward. 0-1 to Preston.
Both teams continued to really go on the attack and although little was created in terms of clear-cut chances, the game was very watchable. But, just a couple of minutes before the break, Town got the leveller when a corner from the right flew over the lost Maxwell and Elias Kachunga nodded in from around six-yards. Half-Time, 1-1 and cue Alan Kennedy (I think I remember that rightly and it actually was him!) doing the draw while dodging the sprinklers!
The second half continued in the same vein as the first, with Kachunga again being the first player to go close, firing into the side netting after good work by Town’s impressive Aussie midfielder Aaron Mooy. The game got a bit tetchy here and there, with yellows being dished out on a regular basis and little really happening going forward for ever team. See the resemblance?!
But, on 70 minutes, the Terriers took the lead with a quick-fire move that saw a cross-field ball being run on to by full-back Tommy Smith and his first time ball in was met by sub Jack Payne’s head and the ball hitting the net sent the home fans into raptures.
However, their delight wasn’t to last too long. Within ten minutes the Lancastrians were level, Jordan Hugill powering a towering header beyond Ward and this time it was the band of Lilywhite fans who were up and cheering. 2-2 and a grandstand finish looked to be all set up. However, who would it be who would get that one final chance to take all the points.
Well, it looked like it would be no-one as both teams struggled to create that one big final opportunity. But, as anyone knows by now, there usually is one that arrives through some means, and this time it was through Hugill’s utter stupidity. The ball had just been cleared away when Hugill squared up to Kachunga. Now, all he had to do was walk away and his side would surely have come away with a more than creditable point. But no, Hugill decided to floor the home striker off the ball, leaving the ref no option but to award a penalty, the assistant doing well to have seen the issue. Being right behind it, it was a clear spot-kick.
With 95 minutes on the clock, up stepped Mooy. Faced by Maxwell and his clever gamesmanship, that sadly earned him a yellow (I love a bit of mind games), it was the gloveman that came out on top to push the pen away and seemingly secure that point. That is until the ball fell at the feet of recent sub Colin Quaner and the big German striker gleefully slid the ball under Maxwell and into the back of the net. 3-2, the home fans went wild and that was that. Great game to watch and credit to Maxwell for his, seemingly genuine, applause to the opposition fans after the game.
A quick exit was made to ensure I made the earliest possible train back, which I did without any issue. It was only as I jumped on the train that Paul managed to alert me to his presence! Paul was on his way back from watching some egg-chasing antics at Castleford and we just happened to be on that same carriage. Spooky. Anyway, this all made the journey pass quickly and I was soon back in Manchester and on the way home.
In summary then, it was a decent day in Yorkshire, with the worst of the weather missing us for the most part. A few decent pubs were visited, a good ground was ticked and a great game was seen. Can’t ask for much more than that. So, next up is the third of four games over the Easter break, with a visit to the home of red squirrels and a nice beach. They may no longer have a team carrying the Formby name, but the ground still plays host to someone. Who? Well, you’ll have to find that out…what do you mean you’re not interested….
Value For Money: 7