HUDDERSFIELD Town will be happy if they continue to be written off until it is too late for anyone to stop them securing a play-off place.
They have won 10 of their 20 Championship games and are back in fourth place ahead of big-city Yorkshire clubs Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday.
A similar points return from their next 20 league games would leave them requiring another eight from six to match the Owls’ points haul of last season when they grabbed the final play-off place.
Town went into Saturday’s encounter having dropped out of the top six and having garnered just four points from their last four home games.
The sense among the crowd that this was a make or break game in terms of keeping ambitions alive was palpable – hence the almost fervent support from the first whistle as the game was beamed live to 44 countries.
Belief among the players has never wavered, however, asserts Rajiv Van La Parra, in buoyant mood after goals from Elias Kachunga and the predatory Nahki Wells sandwiched an equaliser from Bristol’s prolific Chelsea loanee striker Tammy Abraham.
“We have played really well in the last couple of games but the only thing missing was the result,” claimed the Dutch winger claimed ahead of trips to Burton tomorrow and Norwich on Friday.
“We played well again today but this time we are happy because we have the three points.
“We have stuck together during the past few games and have kept up the good performances. At some point, it had to change and I think getting the three points here could be the turning point.
“There was nothing different than in other games. We have continued to stick to the plan and we got our reward and everyone is happy.”
Van La Parra is relishing Town being seen as underdogs and states: “I think we can maintain our position in the top six. It’s more of a surprise to people outside because at the start of the season we sat down as a team and spoke among ourselves about how we wanted to play our football and get results.
“We believed in ourselves and the hard work that we are putting in on the training pitch is getting us results. We have to maintain our focus now as every game is difficult in this division.
“For Huddersfield, this is a really big thing for us to be in the top six but we are not getting the respect of a top-six side just yet.
“It’s a big challenge for us to try to change that – to show people outside that we are no longer a surprise. I think this is a nice challenge to have as players. We have worked hard to get into the top six but the challenge now is to stay there.
“You can look at people saying we are a surprise as a good thing. You could argue that it is good for us that people think we are a surprise because in that way they don’t put pressure on us.
“If we continue in the top six, that pressure will eventually come and that will then be our next challenge for us to see how we handle that.”
Van La Parra was a constant threat to the visitors on Saturday before running out of steam. A rarity in the modern game, a genuine ball-dribbling winger, he is largely happy with his current form but states: “I had a good start to the season but I then had a difficult time after that and was out of the team. I trust my ability and if you do that you can get back to that level of performance. The only thing missing at the minute is an assist or a goal which is what I am looking for now.”
It was from Town’s other flank that the opening goal came in the 10th minute, right-back Tommy Smith, taking the captain’s armband on his return from suspension, finding space to produce a cross which German striker Kachunga converted with a diving header as Wells occupied the attention of defenders with his run to the near post.
Wells could have made it 2-0 when Smith crossed low and the Town striker had his first attempt blocked before seeing the second saved by the game’s central character, Frank Fielding.
Central defender Aden Flint knocked a 33rd-minute free-kick across goal for Aaron Wilbraham to set up a simple tap-in equaliser for strike partner Abraham.
Fielding made a great save from Van La Parra to ensure it was 1-1 at the break when Bristol should have been down to 10 men after Luke Freeman – first in the book for hacking down the Town winger – escaped with a lecture for dissent.
The visitors should again have been down to 10 straight after the break when Fielding was only booked for handling inches outside his area as Flint failed to get proper contact with a back-header and Wells closed in.
However, the Bristol goalkeeper probably wished he had not stayed on as Town went back in front in the 58th minute. Korey Smith hit a fierce back-pass, Wells chased what seemed a lost cause but Fielding failed to control and the Town striker gleefully pounced to knock the ball into an empty net. Town generally remained on the front foot and Fielding made another top-class save from Aaron Mooy.
Huddersfield Town: Ward, Smith, Hefele, Schindler, Lowe; Hogg, Mooy; Kachunga, Palmer (Billing 69), Van La Parra (Cranie 83); Wells (Payne 90). Unused substitutes: Coleman, Bunn, Holmes-Dennis, Stankovic.
Bristol City: Fielding, Matthews (Reid 68), Flint, Magnusson, Golbourne; Freeman (Bryan 60), Smith, Pack (O’Neil 68), Tomlin; Wilbraham, Abraham. Unused substitutes: Lucic, Bryan, O’Neill, Brownhill, Reid, Engvall, Moore.
Referee: K Stroud (Hampshire).