Huddersfield 1 Wigan 2: Town feel icy blast from fifth loss in seven games

Disappointment for Huddersfield Town's Philip Billing after his header was saved by Bolton's Jussi Jaskelainen (Picture Bruce Rollinson).
Disappointment for Huddersfield Town's Philip Billing after his header was saved by Bolton's Jussi Jaskelainen (Picture Bruce Rollinson).
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WARREN JOYCE raised a few eyebrows on a night when the temperature plunged way below zero by sporting a pair of shorts in the dugout.

By full-time, however, it was Huddersfield Town and not the Wigan Athletic manager who had caught a chill.

The Terriers, so susceptible to set-pieces in recent weeks but last night undone by an inability to cope with the Latics’ lightning quick breaks, slumped to a fifth defeat in seven outings.

David Wagner’s men still occupy a play-off place, but the optimism of autumn has given way to a nagging suspicion that Town’s season has already peaked.

Certainly, the swagger of those early couple of months has gone while basic mistakes are creeping into the West Yorkshire side’s game with alarming regularity.

In recent weeks, this has mainly revolved around a tendency to concede soft goals from free-kicks and corners. This, though, was not the problem against a Latics side who made light of the freezing temperatures to claim all three points.

Unusually for Wigan, Will Grigg was not the man on fire but Yanic Wildschut. The Dutchman, usually a winger but employed as a lone frontman, cut Huddersfield apart with ease to score one goal and set up the other for former Bradford City loanee Reece Burke.

These two forays forward were far from the only time Wildschut’s pace exposed the home side’s failings, either, and Wagner’s men could have few complaints at slipping to a second defeat of the season as the boos rang out at the final whistle.

Maybe such a response was harsh. Going forward, Town caused plenty of problems for the Wigan defence.

Aaron Mooy was a constant irritant to the visitors, and Elias Kachunga twice went close to breaking the deadlock in a first half that the Terriers dominated only to fall behind courtesy of that inability to cope with Wildschut’s pace.

After the break, the hosts had a couple of strong penalty appeals ignored, most notably when Nahki Wells went down having been clipped by Luke Garbutt.

Wigan also pulled off some wonderful blocks to deny the hosts, never more so than six minutes from time when Stephen Warnock somehow diverted Kasey Palmer’s shot to safety when the net seemed certain to bulge.

But, come the final whistle, the bottom line was that Town had lost a game they had been expected to win – hence the frustrated reaction of many in the 18,943 crowd.

The first half had seen Huddersfield dominate possession and create the lion’s share of chances only to fall to the sucker punch of a swift counter-attack.

It came five minutes before the break when Wildschut broke swiftly down the right flank. Jon Stankovic failed to react quickly enough and the Latics striker was away.

Aaron Mooy raced across to try to avert the danger, but Wildschut drilled a low cross that evaded Chris Schindler to find Reece Burke.

The West Ham defender, Bradford City’s Player of the Year in 2015-16, displayed an assured touch before firing beyond Danny Ward.

Falling behind was harsh on Town, who up to that point had looked far more likely to break the deadlock.

Jussi Jaaskelainen, at 41 years and 223 days the oldest player to appear in the Football League this season, had been forced to get down smartly to deny Chris Lowe and Kasey Palmer.

Kachunga also came within a whisker of applying the final touch when stretching to reach a drilled Tommy Smith cross following excellent link-play involving Palmer and Sean Scannell.

Earlier, Kachunga had headed narrowly over following neat work by Rajiv van La Parra.

This profligacy came back to haunt the Terriers when Burke broke the deadlock, but parity was restored five minutes into the second half.

Wells showed great skill and awareness to create an opening that Mooy simply could not miss when arriving unmarked at the back post.

This should have been the prelude to a home onslaught but, instead, the Terriers’ leaden-footed attempts at defending proved their undoing.

Max Power created what proved to be the winner with a deft flick over the top and Wildschut, afforded the freedom of Huddersfield by the home defence, took advantage.

He broke from inside his own half and no one in blue and white got within five yards as he raced into the area before rounding Danny Ward with ease to score.

Huddersfield Town: Ward; Smith, Stankovic, Hudson (Schindler 7), Lowe; Hogg (Billing 66), Mooy, Scannell (Wells 44), Palmer, Van La Parra; Kachunga. Unused substitutes: Murphy, Whitehead, Bunn, Holmes-Dennis.

Wigan Athletic: Jaaskelainen; Burke (Burn 74), Buxton, Warnock, Garbutt; MacDonald; Byrne ( Powell 79), Perkins, Power, Jacobs; Wildschut (Davies 84).Unused substitutes: Lavercombe, Le Fondre, Gomez, Woolery.

Referee: T Harrington (Cleveland).