Notes on Huddersfield Town’s tie with Ipswich: “The next Thierry Henry” (but not really)

“The next Thierry Henry” (but not really) – Notes on Huddersfield Town’s draw with Ipswich

Huddersfield Town had a dose of their own medicine when Ipswich came to town as the Tractor Boys leveled the scores late on and stole a point from the Terriers after coming from behind to snag a draw against Coventry on Monday night. Although the outcome was undoubtedly fair, it’s difficult to feel vindicated given Town had chances to end the game before the equalizer.

On the bright side, Ipswich finished Saturday at the top of the Championship table and we came away feeling like we did enough to beat them, so there’s something to be said about that. For all the fears I’ve had about the quality of the Town squad, we’ve come up against one of the form teams in the division and been more than a match for them. Maybe this Town team are pretty good after all and Neil Warnock’s parting remarks about playoff aspirations weren’t just his usual reputation-padding fluff.


A Warnock-type performance

Town really struggled in the first half of their game against Coventry on Monday night, and I think a large part of the problem was that Darren Moore tried to get the team playing in a very different way and it blew the players’ minds. Against Ipswich the approach was very similar to how his predecessor, Neil Warnock would have wanted his team to play.


We didn’t try to do anything overly fancy at the back, we moved the ball forward quickly and when we didn’t have the ball we kept our shape well and on the whole we limited Ipswich to speculative chances from range. There wasn’t the man-marking system that Warnock was attached to but otherwise it was remarkably similar in style, which I think is sensible to keep things relatively similar to the old system until there’s been enough time on the training pitch to bed in whatever philosophy Moore wants to bring to the team.

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In time, I think Darren Moore will move away from the “Warnockball” approach and try to play slightly more attractive football but against a team that’s had a great start to the season and is flying high, a pragmatic and effective system made sense. Maybe after the international break, we might try to build possession a bit more patiently, hold the ball better in the middle of the park and try to dominate games rather than playing mostly on the counter. That’s not an easy task though, particularly with the squad we have, so it may be a gradual transition with the style as results will suffer if we try to move too soon.


Bergzorg’s best game

I think it was completely correct that Delano Bergzorg received the Man of the Match award for this game as he was excellent up front. Obviously his goal (and celebration) was superb but he was building up to that all afternoon, as he had come close several times before and looked like he could get more after too.


Since Danny Ward’s injury leaves us seriously lacking in the attacking department, Bergzorg is obviously not a traditional lead-the-line type of striker, but I liked the way he would start in the center before drifting into wide areas with the play and forcing defenders into positions they don’t like to be in. When I consider the Dutchman’s penchant to roam into wide spaces and use his brilliance to perplex opponents, I immediately think of Thierry Henry at his prime at Arsenal. For using this analogy during yesterday’s game, I was booed.


While I’m not trying to say Bergzorg is the next Thierry Henry, the winger-converted-into-striker role that he’s playing works well when he uses those one-on-one dribbling skills and gets into areas where he can hurt defenders. This performance was very promising and makes me less concerned about Danny Ward’s extended absence from the squad.


He’s significantly improved from his early appearances for Town too, with fewer heavy touches now and more menace about the way he dribbles on the edge of the penalty area. I can imagine his colleagues might wish he passed more and shot less, but I think we need someone with a bit of arrogance and swagger at that end of the pitch, so wouldn’t try to curb his selfish side. He just needs to keep scoring and he could become a fans’ favourite and the option to buy in his loan agreement will start to look like shrewd business.


The triple substitution cost us

Town had been 1-0 up for ten minutes when they made their triple sub on the 72nd minute, taking off Hogg, Koroma and Nakayama with Jackson, Edmonds-Green and Hudlin coming on to replace them. While Town had soaked up pressure after going ahead, they had seemed to mostly be in control and not unduly threatened. After these changes the balance of the game swung away from the Terriers and Ipswich seemed able to carve us open more readily and find gaps that hadn’t previously been available to them when they probed forward.


I don’t think it’s worthwhile picking holes in the individual performances of the three subs that came on. While it would be possible to find fault with thing they did, I think the bigger issue is that they’re players of a much lower quality than the ones they replaced. Hudlin, Jackson and Edmonds-Green all have potential to be good players at this level but haven’t done enough yet to be considered of equivalent quality to the players that they replaced. That’s that not their fault either, the problem is that a lot is being expected from them.


Darren Moore made it clear in his interview with Radio Leeds that all five of his subs yesterday were forced as a result of injury concerns, so I’m not criticising him either for making these changes. But the difference in quality between the starters and the subs is quite startling and you could argue that Town would have had a significantly better chance of hanging on for three points if we’d have had a bench with similar quality to our starting eleven.


This isn’t a new or particularly surprising revelation but it’s a shame still, when we’ve gone toe-to-toe with the league leaders and probably deserved to win but that lacked that little bit of quality needed on the bench to see the game out. I think the change to five substitutes means that you can’t win the game by having the best starting XI, you also need to have a handful of players on the bench who can influence the game. Hopefully Town can being in those additions in the January window.


Ipswich – a well organised unit

I found Ipswich quite a likable team to watch. They play nice football and are clearly a well organised unit where everyone knows their role and they stick to their task well. While other teams in the Championship have better individual players, I can understand why they’ve done well because they’re one of the best collectives. The opposite of them would be teams like Watford or Stoke, who are full of talented individuals but never seem to be able to put it together.


Like most teams have done against us in recent times, Ipswich dominated possession and probably played the more attractive football but in terms of the best chances, I think Town probably edged that side of things. Nicholls did pull off a few fine saves though, so they did have a fair few opportunities to score.



Their player that caught the eye the most, for good and bad reasons, was Hutchinson. The winger was a thorn in Town’s side all afternoon with his skillful running and it was his ball into the box that ultimately led to the equaliser. However, he was the panto villain for much of the afternoon as his dramatic tumble in the penalty area sparked the incident that could have led to a red card for either Sorba Thomas or Wes Burns for the handbags at dawn that followed.


In real time, I thought Sorba had been lucky to get away with not giving away a penalty, but having now seen it back Hutchinson clearly stepped into Thomas’ run and then threw himself down and was probably more deserving of a booking for diving than Rudoni was for his similar situation at Coventry on Monday. Sorba Thomas was daft to manhandle Hutchinson back to his feet, Wes Burns was equally stupid to raise his hands to Thomas in melee that followed and I think if Lee Nicholls hadn’t detected the red mist descending on his teammate and intervened, Thomas would have likely retaliated with worse. If VAR was available and with both sets of fans baying for blood, the ref could have started dishing out red cards for this unpleasant incident but two yellows and letting the game carry on with all the players still not be pitch felt about right.


Injuries likely to impact Birmingham trip

Looking ahead to Tuesday night’s trip to Birmingham, it’s a bit of a worry that we had to withdraw so many players with injury concerns. Hogg, Nakayama, Koroma, Burgzorg, Thomas all came off with some doubts over their fitness. A couple were just precautionary because of fatigue but I suspect Hogg and Nakayama will definitely be out of contention and Sorba’s muscle spasms didn’t sound great either but could have just been cramp. I also noticed that Helik took a sizable knock that needed treatment which he just about ran off but could make him a doubt too.


I’ve already talked about how I have concerns about the backup players in the squad, so I’ll not bang on about it again. Tuesday is a chance for our fringe players to come in and prove me wrong. In fairness, there are players that could come in and do a job. Brahima Diarra was regularly starting earlier in the season and showed real promise, Kian Harratt is a bit hot and cold but there’s quite obviously potential in him, Tom Lees is first-team quality and capable of stepping right in now he’s approaching fitness. So there are options I suppose.


I only hope that some of those injured players can get better and be ready for Tuesday. The team will become unstable if there are too many changes, and this streak of draws has us in an odd place in terms of form. We can claim to be unbeaten in six games if we defeat Birmingham, which sounds fantastic. But if we lose, it would be less favorable since we wouldn’t have won in four games.

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