at last, Huddersfield Town followers have a victory on home soil to celebrate.
They had gone 11 games at the John Smith’s Stadium without seeing their team win – close to the unwanted club record of 13 set at the end of the 1999-2000 season and start of the 2000-01 campaign under former Manchester United duo Steve Bruce and then Lou Macari.
But, on Saturday, the visit of Millwall proved timely as Nahki Wells struck twice against the club he had opened his Town account with just 24 hours after a record £1.2m move from Bradford City in January.
That winning strike, watching the ball drop over his shoulder before despatching it into the far corner, was more than matched on Saturday when he swept home a left-foot volley after Harry Bunn had laid the ball back after Joel Lynch’s punt forward had initially come off his shoulder.
It proved the start of a left-right combination which floored the visitors for Wells used his other foot to despatch what proved the match-winning penalty in the 64th minute after Bunn had spun off Nicky Bailey on the left of the area only to be tripped by the midfield man.
Bunn rose to the occasion of being put under immediate pressure by the loan signing of Grant Holt from Wigan Athletic.
But when the powerful frontman did come on for injured captain Lee Peltier in the 64th minute, it proved an important moment as Millwall’s defence were sent scattering like nine pins, giving them no time to build attacks from the back in a bid for the equaliser.
Holt, who had played only once this season for Wigan in the League Cup, gave Town the physical presence they have lacked this season and played an important part in helping them move out of the bottom three – Bunn moving out wide until Wells was sacrificed for defensive cover in stoppage time.
By a quirk of fate, Holt’s introduction to the Football League came when he was signed by Mark Lillis, Town’s caretake manager until the recent arrival of Chris Powell, for Halifax Town in 1999.
Town became the one-time Sheffield Wednesday forward’s 14th club and while the 33-year-old may be out of favour at Wigan, he will be an important asset for Town during his initial one-month loan spell as James Vaughan recovers from injury.
They certainly still have plenty of work ahead to avoid becoming embroiled in another relegation scrap but Holt could provide a significant boost.
Millwall were certainly in the ascendancy when they went behind to Town’s first shot on goal in the 37th minute.
They equalised before the break when Ed Upson took advantage of static defending to rifle a half-volley into the roof of the net, having clipped the bar in the 29th minute.
What Millwall could not capitalise on, however, was the injury to right-sided centre-back Peltier, although it took a brilliant save by Alex Smithies going down to his right to keep out a close-range volley from Mark Beevers to keep the score 2-1 in the 70th minute.
But it was perhaps the performances of two players who had come under fire following the 3-0 defeat at Leeds United the previous week which proved key to Town’s victory.
Jonathan Hogg was everywhere in midfield, closing the opposition down, making blocks and producing simple but effective passes while central defender Joel Lynch won virtually everything in the air, snuffing out the threat of Ricardo Fuller.
At times, Town certainly went back to basics when it came to defending, realising the opposition were not going to score from Row Z.
Hogg was only returning from a calf injury sustained in mid-August against Reading and he was again withdrawn as a precaution on Saturday when a touch of cramp set in.
The midfield man admitted, though: “The message is definitely that the season starts here, especially with it being the first win for the new gaffer.
“We had a point to prove after last week at Leeds when everyone was left gutted in the changing room.
“We had to show the fans that we have some pride and come back here and win.”
Hogg said he had learned a lesson from playing on at Reading when he aggravated the problem which caused him to miss five games, hence his withdrawal.
But he reserved special praise for Town’s two front men.
“The two lads who got selected didn’t half do the business today but Grant Holt gives us another string to our bow, to be fair. I think it can only be a positive thing for the squad and he will be a striker Nahki can play off really well...hopefully.
“We haven’t really had anyone who can really put himself about up front unless Vaughany is playing. Our strengths really are down the sides but now we have that extra string to our bow.
“Harry has been a real positive for us since he broke into the side and has been absolutely fantastic. We knew of his potential because we see it every day in training doing what he does. He puts his head down and runs at people and commits people.
“Nahki has been frustrated but we have all told him to keep his head, stay calm and make sure you are confident in front of goal and today he got the service and put the goals away.”
Hogg says it is now important that Town take at least a point at Wolves on Wednesday but Peltier could miss out with a calf problem.