CHRIS Powell calling together the Huddersfield Town players for a post-match huddle on the pitch at The Den was a very public way of hailing the solidarity that runs through his squad.
Town had just overcome having to play with 10 men for most of the second half to claim three points at one of the most intimidating arenas in English football.
Powell was, understandably, delighted. Not just with a 3-1 victory that moved Huddersfield 10 points clear of trouble, the togetherness displayed by his players in difficult circumstances pleasing the Londoner just as much.
James Vaughan, the scorer of Town’s third goal against Millwall from the penalty spot, has been the epitome of the ‘one-for-all, all-for-one’ mentality’ that Powell has worked so hard to instil at John Smith’s Stadium.
The 26-year-old put in a tireless shift against the Lions, ensuring that the dismissal of Nahki Wells on 51 minutes did not unduly disrupt Huddersfield.
For Vaughan to have done so while sporting a protective mask following the recent fractured cheekbone and eye socket he suffered against Middlesbrough midway through last month – an injury that, initially, looked like leading to a lengthy lay-off – spoke volumes for his commitment to Town’s cause.
“I am used to the mask now,” said the striker ahead of tonight’s Championship game.
“I have worn it in a few games and felt fine. It will be nice to take it off in a couple of weeks, but the mask doesn’t bother me.”
Vaughan’s injury came via an accidental kick in the face at the Riverside and capped a miserable afternoon that saw Town lose 2-0 to slump to fifth bottom.
An extended lay-off for a striker who topped the club’s goal-scoring charts in each of the last two seasons could, therefore, have seriously dented morale.
Instead, Vaughan, after securing the permission of his surgeon, decided to don a mask for the trip to Wigan just a week later.
His reward for such bravery was a 1-0 win and although Leeds triumphed in the West Yorkshire derby, both Vaughan and Town bounced back with that weekend win at The Den.
“I didn’t fear the worst, no,” replied Vaughan when asked about the moment the fracture was confirmed.
“I assumed when I found out it was broken that I would just wear a mask. That is why I wasn’t expecting to be out for long.
“It was only 48 hours after the game when I was told by others that I could be out for a while.
“But then I saw the surgeon after that and he said it was fine if I was willing to do so. That was good to hear.
“I am not a good watcher of football. I don’t feel nervous as a player, but I am when watching. It is because I know I can’t help out.
“The injury is not too bad. Over the last week or so, things have settled right down. The mask is there just as a precaution really, to see if I get another bang.
“I didn’t feel wary at first. It probably helped that I took a bang in my first game back against Wigan. It wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be so, since then, I have just got on with it.
“It is not as if the opposition can try and use it against me. You can’t target someone’s face, as if you do then you are sent off.
“They are probably more scared of it than anything else.”
Tonight, Vaughan, complete with mask, will again lead a Huddersfield front-line that will be without the suspended Wells.
The Bermuda international was red-carded for a second bookable offence against Millwall, but replays showed that the decision was harsh.
Powell, who yesterday telephoned referees’ chief David Allison to seek an explanation, is unable to appeal due to the dismissal being for two yellow cards.
Ishmael Miller, who came off the bench late on at Millwall, could step in to make his full debut, while Tommy Smith is also available again after recovering from the concussion he suffered at the end of the derby defeat to Leeds.
Less good news for Powell is that Joe Murphy, Joel Lynch and Jonathan Hogg are all still out for a fixture that offers Town the opportunity to claim a second successive league double, the Yorkshire club having triumphed 3-1 at Molineux earlier in the season.
For Vaughan, tonight is an opportunity to make up for lost time in a campaign that saw the striker miss a big chunk with a lingering calf problem.
“The season has been quite frustrating,” he said. “Over the years when injured, I have managed to get back up to a reasonable level quite quickly.
“This year it has been a lot harder and taken a lot longer. But, in the past couple of weeks, I have started to feel more like my old self.
“I am still some way off, but I am building back towards it. One of my early youth team coaches said to me, ‘Because of how you play, expect to be injured quite a bit’. Unfortunately, he turned out to be right. Hopefully, now things can change. I won’t change my game.”
Last six games: Huddersfield Town LWLWLW, Wolverhampton Wanderers WDWDDL.
Referee: D Webb (County Durham).
Last time: Huddersfield 2 Wolves 1; October 20, 2012; Championship.