Huddersfield Town 2 Nottingham Forest 1: David Wagner in festive mood as Terriers triumph

Forest keeper Vladimir Stojkovic fails to save a kick from Huddersfield's Kasey Palmer.
Forest keeper Vladimir Stojkovic fails to save a kick from Huddersfield's Kasey Palmer.
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IN CASE you are wondering, the German for Merry Christmas is Frohliche Weihnachten.

For the second season running, David Wagner was able to savour the rich and sweet taste of a Boxing Day victory – and while playing over the festive season remains a relatively new concept to Huddersfield Town’s German-born head coach, it is clearly to his liking.

For Wagner’s compatriots who took the field and had professed a sense of profound excitement at sampling Yuletide football for the first time after foregoing their traditional winter break in Germany, that magical feeling associated with the festive season will have been reinforced by events in front of a record Boxing Day crowd at the John Smith’s Stadium.

Truth be told, it has felt like Christmas for much of a marquee 2016-17 season for Town, with events against a labouring Forest side applying gloss as the fourth-placed hosts claimed a fourth successive Championship victory for the first time since promotion in 2012.

These are certainly heady days for Town supporters, with Wagner’s typically exuberant post-match celebrations and those of his ecstatic players saying everything about the special season which is transpiring at Huddersfield.

Every good and aspiring side needs a spot of luck on occasions, which the hosts were afforded, courtesy of Michael Mancienne’s 59th-minute own goal, which proved the key moment of a blustery afternoon in West Yorkshire.

But it would have been churlish to deny that Town were worthy of victory, with Forest’s French-born manager Phillipe Montanier’s first experience of festive football not being a particularly memorable one.

As has been their wont this season, Huddersfield were persistent, hearty, resolute and proactive.

A side who find a way – which Town did after trailing at half-time – and possess a strong collective core. A side clearly not to be toyed with...

Even accounting for the pre-match disruption which ensured that Danny Ward missed the game through sickness – prompting Wagner to hand a club debut to second-choice goalkeeper Joel Coleman – and regular left-back Chris Lowe started from the bench after also struggling with illness, Huddersfield took it in their stride. Good sides do.

Wagner said: “I like Boxing Day if we win.

“Even when I do not understand the British culture not to spend time with your family at Christmas to go to the stadium. But I love it if we win, to be fair!

“We performed very well and we stuck to our identity. I felt we totally deserved to win this game and we dominated over parts and I am totally happy with the result and how we performed.

“To be fair, we are a little bit experienced to get tight results and get over the line, especially at home.”

Wagner’s sense of well-being was not quite as obvious at half-time after an opening half of frustration – compounded by the sight of a Forest side taking the lead in the 25th minute.

It may have owed a fair bit to a fortuitous ricochet when Niklas Bendtner’s crossfield pass took a deflection off Aaron Mooy to send Hildeberto Pereira clear.

But there was nothing lucky about the strength and poise shown by the Portuguese, who held off the challenge of Michael Hefele before delightfully chipping the ball over the advancing Coleman for the deftest of finishes.

It ensured that Town were forced to do things the hard way and despite gorging on possession, they struggled to prise open Forest, who defended in numbers. The closest that the hosts came was when Nahki Wells agonisingly just failed to turn home Elias Kachunga’s cross, with Matty Cash clearing close to the goalline.

Patience ultimately proved a virtue for Town in a one-sided second half with pressure yielding a 53th-minute leveller – with Kasey Palmer’s header going in off the crossbar and Forest keeper Vladimir Stojkovic.

An increasingly sullen second half for Forest, whose defence failed to cope in the face of a strong wind blowing directly at them, was exacerbated six minutes later when Mancienne diverted Rajiv Van La Parra’s centre past the helpless Stojkovic.

Town’s game management for the final hour proved astute and they saw out the game with more comfort than the scoreline suggested, with Mancienne’s afternoon going from bad to worse when he was dismissed for a second bookable offence late on.

Huddersfield – a side who most definitely are not going away.

Huddersfield Town: Coleman; Smith, Hefele, Schindler, Holmes-Dennis (Lowe 60); Hogg, Mooy; Kachunga, Palmer (Payne 61), Van La Parra (Cranie 88); Wells. Unused substitutes: Coddington, Billing, Bunn, Stankovic.

Nottingham Forest: Stojkovic; Mills, Hobbs, Worrall (Carayol 81); Cash, Osborn (Lam 78), Mancienne, Vaughan, Lichaj; Pereira (Assombalonga 63); Bendtner. Unused substitutes: Henderson, Dumitru-Cardoso, Grant, Vellios.

Referee: C Kavanagh (Lancashire).