Huddersfield Town 3 Preston North End 2: Terriers show both style and substance and grab late lifeline

Huddersfield Town's Elias Kachunga celebrates making it 1-1.
 Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Huddersfield Town's Elias Kachunga celebrates making it 1-1. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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GOOD Friday turned into a great Friday for Huddersfield Town as they sealed all three points.

Granted, the victory was owed in some part to the controversial award of a stoppage-time penalty.

But the mentality of Town was there for all to see as they continue to breathe down the necks of automatic promotion favourites Brighton and Newcastle.

A ‘96th-minute’ spot-kick was given following an off-the-ball incident in the Preston box between Jordan Hugill and Elias Kachunga.

Despite plenty of appeals from those of a Preston persuasion, Lee Probert awarded the spot-kick and although Aaron Mooy’s effort was saved, Collin Quaner was on hand to steer home the winner.

Town’s head coach David Wagner only had to glance across his technical area to be inspired.

Huddersfield Towns Aaron Mooy had a late penalty saved but Collin Quaner slotted home the rebound, above, to give his side a 3-2 win over Preston North End (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).

Huddersfield Towns Aaron Mooy had a late penalty saved but Collin Quaner slotted home the rebound, above, to give his side a 3-2 win over Preston North End (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).

Preston manager Simon Grayson was the last man to lead the Terriers to a promotion.

Five years ago Town triumphed in the League One play-offs following success against Sheffield United.

But it is fair to say that feat would be surpassed considerably should Wagner achieve another elevation in this part of West Yorkshire.

In this performance his side showed their style and substance, and was another response to those who continue to mock the Terriers’ chances of possibly gracing the Premier League next season.

There are five games left for us now, and we must focus on ourselves.

Huddersfield Town manager, David Wagner

It came after a poor start that saw the visitors surge into the lead thanks to a player who has played in English football’s top flight.

Aiden McGeady is enjoying something of a renaissance this term after his ill-fated stint at Sheffield Wednesday last season.

His performances since joining the Lilywhites on loan from Everton have been eye-catching to say the least and he continued in that manner upon a return to the Broad Acres. The Irishman notched his eighth goal of the campaign when he lashed a shot past Danny Ward after cutting in from the right.

Following the goal, Town struggled to impose themselves on the game, with misplaced passes a regular occurrence amid a real lack of drive.

Huddersfield's Jack Payne celebrates making it 2-1 with Nahki Wells. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Huddersfield's Jack Payne celebrates making it 2-1 with Nahki Wells. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

You suspect that in the past Huddersfield might have wilted in such scenarios, but not this team. Wagner has put his stamp on the club and these days Town are made of sterner stuff.

It was not long before parity was restored, Kachunga making it 1-1 as he powered home a header from Mooy’s corner.

Kachunga has now notched 12 for the season and this was his second strike since rubber-stamping his permanent move to West Yorkshire.

The mood had completely changed inside the stadium for the second half, and it was Town who looked the sharper.

Kachunga rippled the side netting having again been put through by Mooy, whose stranglehold on proceedings was increasing as the game wore on.

Town evenetually went ahead, the goal coming from substitute Jack Payne on 70 minutes.

The youngster, who had replaced the injured Philip Billing in the first half, headed in a deflected cross from Tommy Smith.

The goal should have given the hosts ample breathing space.

But Preston were eager to avoid a second successive defeat in West Yorkshire, following their 3-0 reverse recently at Leeds.

Hugill duly levelled proceedings when he headed past Ward following Tom Barkhuizen’s pinpoint cross from the right.

As the game reached the latter stages, neither side looked likely to steal a winner.

Then came Probert’s penalty decision.

Following plenty of deliberations and Preston appeals, Mooy eventually stepped up to take it.

But his effort drew a fine save from Chris Maxwell only for the ball to fall invitingly to substitute Quaner.

The January signing, who had barely been on the pitch for 10 minutes, made no mistake and slid home his maiden Town league goal to seal a hugely memorable victory.

The penalty decision baffled Grayson.

He said: “I spoke to the referee afterwards and also looked at the footage, and there’s nothing in it.

“In the end we were undone by a really poor refereeing decision

“Ultimately it’s cost us the game.”

But Huddersfield fans who once adored Grayson could be forgiven for not feeling any sympathy for their former manager.

Town are probably two wins away from securing their place in the play-offs and Wagner is looking forward to another clash hot on the heels of this, his side travelling to Derby on Monday.

He added: “There are five games left for us now, and we must focus on ourselves.

“All the focus is on Derby County now and what a great place to go.”

Huddersfield Town: Ward, Smith, Schindler, Hefele, Lowe, Hogg, Billing (Payne 36 (Hudson 90)), Mooy, Van La Parra, Kachunga, Wells (Quaner 86). Unused substitutes: Coleman, Whitehead, Hudson, Scannell, Cranie

Preston North End: Maxwell, Vermijl, (Browne 88), Huntington, Clarke (Spurr 17), Cunningham, Pearson, Johnson, McGeady, Gallagher (Horgan 74), Barkhuizen, Hugill. Unused substitutes: Lindergaard, Makienok, Beckford, Robinson.

Referee: L Probert (Wiltshire).