The Verdict: How Aaron Mooy fittingly marked historic occasion for Huddersfield Town

Terriers Rajiv Van La Parra takes on Newcastles Javier Manquillo. (Picture: Tony Johnson)
Terriers Rajiv Van La Parra takes on Newcastles Javier Manquillo. (Picture: Tony Johnson)
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THE picture framers of Huddersfield should stand by their ‘phones this morning and expect a call.

Aaron Mooy netting Town’s first Premier League goal at their 23-year-old home is surely destined to be captured for posterity at a stadium not shy about showcasing its big moments.

Town fans on the first day of Premier League football. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

Town fans on the first day of Premier League football. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

Images of Jon Bon Jovi and REM’s Michael Stipe playing what is now called the John Smith’s Stadium adorn the walls along with an England rugby league shirt from the 2013 World Cup signed by then manager Steve McNamara.

Other heroes from the town’s football and rugby league past – most notably, Christopher Schindler converting ‘that’ penalty at Wembley – also vye for wallspace but surely pride of place will soon be going to Mooy.

His curled effort five minutes into the second half was a thing of beauty. It was also a truly historic strike, being not only enough to beat a lacklustre Newcastle United but also clinch a first top- flight win on home soil since Brian Clough’s Derby County were beaten on the final Saturday of November, 1971.

That proved to be Huddersfield’s final win of a sorry campaign that ended in relegation, a fate that – on early evidence –David Wagner’s men have every chance of avoiding come May.

But the confidence and belief such an unexpected start has engendered in a squad written off by all manner of experts and pundits before a ball had been kicked could yet prove priceless.

Richard Sutcliffe

Of course, winning the first two games of a Premier League season is no guarantee of a happy ending – as Hull City proved by crashing out of the top flight despite starting the 2016-17 campaign with back-to-back victories over Leicester City and Swansea City.

But the confidence and belief such an unexpected start has engendered in a squad written off by all manner of experts and pundits before a ball had been kicked could yet prove priceless.

Huddersfield a year ago are living proof of that, the win over highly-fancied Newcastle on the second weekend of the season –this time at St James’ Park – being the prelude to arguably the most unexpected promotion in the Premier League era.

Mooy was integral to that triumph in the North East over Rafael Benitez’s men, just as he was yesterday as the Australian – the standout player in last season’s Championship – netted the only goal.

Picture perfect: 
Aaron Mooy scores his goal. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

Picture perfect: Aaron Mooy scores his goal. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

His big moment came five minutes into the second half. Collecting the ball wide on the left, Mooy took a couple of touches to buy some time as all options were quickly assessed.

Then, after spotting Elias Kachunga unmarked a yard or so inside the penalty area, a quick exchange of passes set up an opportunity that the £8m summer signing from Manchester City took in sublime fashion with a curled finish beyond Rob Elliot.

Cue bedlam all around the stadium as a town that had waited 45 long, long years to test themselves among the elite celebrated.

Up to that point, the meeting of two teams promoted just a few months earlier had been something of a nip and tuck affair.

This had much to do with the contrasting approaches of the two managers, the pressing game so integral to Huddersfield’s rise under Wagner going up against a Newcastle side happy to sit deep and try to hit their hosts on the break.

Chances were at a premium for much of the afternoon as a result, making it seem more and more likely as proceedings unfolded that something special would be needed to break the deadlock.

Mooy, of course, delivered just that with his stunning strike. But that was far from the only threat that the Terriers posed with Tom Ince twice unable to capitalise on decent first-half opportunities after Newcastle had been harried into a mistake.

Elliot flapping at a Mooy corner in the 20th minute also provided a chance but, like the Magpies goalkeeper, Steve Mounie was unable to get a touch despite straining every sinew.

If Elliot was guilty of questionable goalkeeping in that instance then the same could not have been said about counterpart Jonas Lossl four minutes earlier.

His one-handed save to flick a curling Matt Ritchie shot just past the post was of the highest order. As, it must be said, was the last ditch tackle that Schindler executed on Dwight Gayle as the Toon striker shaped to shoot 10 minutes before the interval.

Schindler, in fact, epitomised all that was good about Huddersfield on their home bow. His awareness and positioning meant many promising Newcastle attacks were snuffed out as soon as the Terriers’ goal came within sight.

Fellow countryman Chris Lowe also pulled off a couple of vital tackles, not least when whipping the ball off the toe of Jacob Murphy just as the substitute was preparing to pull the trigger.

That came with 10 minutes remaining and was the last time the home crowd had cause for concern, Mohamed Diame looking up and mistaking referee Craig Pawson for a team-mate and passing the ball straight to the official perhaps best epitomising the misfiring and laboured efforts of Newcastle when trying to rescue a point.

Pawson blowing the final whistle was the cue for huge celebrations in the stand as supporters hailed back-to-back wins in a top- flight season for the first time since 1970-71 when Blackpool and Southampton were beaten by Ian Greaves’s men en route to finishing 15th.

A similar standing this time around would do nicely.

Whether that happens or not remains to be seen but Mooy’s historic winner surely means his image is a shoo-in to soon be adorning the walls of the Terriers’ home.