Big Match Verdict – Why Huddersfield Town must avoid a repeat of history

Penalty boost: Huddersfield Town's Aaron Mooy scores from the spot against Leicester to make it 2-1.
Penalty boost: Huddersfield Town's Aaron Mooy scores from the spot against Leicester to make it 2-1.
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THERE are many similarities between this relegation season and the last time Huddersfield Town fell from the top flight of English football.

One thing they must guard against, however, is what happened next.

From the start of the new year in 1972 to the end of the season Huddersfield won just three games – all in the FA Cup.

They memorably beat a West Ham United side containing World Cup winners Geoff Hurst and Bobby Moore 4-2 in the fifth round, Jimmy Lawson, Terry Dolan, David Smith and Frank Worthington scoring the goals to brighten a stark season.

Derby County, under Brian Clough, were crowned First Division champions, but were the last side Huddersfield managed to beat in that campaign, the victory coming in late November.

From the turn of the year onwards Town recorded eight draws and 10 defeats, scoring just six goals in the process as they were relegated with Nottingham Forest, finishing four points shy of safety in the days when it was two points for a win.

This calendar year Town fans have witnessed 11 Premier League defeats, one draw and a victory over Wolves – seven goals scored – with relegation being confirmed before the end of last month to set a woeful record only matched by Derby.

Worse was to follow in the 1972-73 season for Town as – shorn of top players Worthington, Trevor Cherry and Roy Ellam – they went straight back down again.

Town followers do not appear to believe lightning will strike twice with 90 per cent of season-ticket holders renewing their cards for the Championship.

There was almost a feeling of relief that their fate had been sealed at Crystal Palace as Town returned to the John Smith’s though placards reminded the players to ‘Take the challenge, never hide, wear your shirt with pride.’

The supporters also sang with gallows humour: ‘We’re on our way, we’re on our way, to the Championship, we’re on our way.’

When they rose in unison to the chant ‘stand up if you love the Town,’ the 2,000-plus Leicester fans responded with ‘stand up if you’re going down.’

Town’s early approach certainly belied the fact that they had already been relegated, but the Foxes were a far slicker side.

The visitors took a 24th-minute lead when Youri Tielemans fired home from outside the area, but they could not build on it as former Leicester goalkeeper Ben Hamer held them at bay.

A turning point came straight after the break when substitute Issac Mbenza fired a cross that Karlan Grant met at full stretch only to see Kasper Schmeichel fling up his arms to beat the ball away.

Leicester went to the other end and Jamie Vardy tucked in a delightful, curled cross from Ricardo Pereira.

Town were not finished and when Caglar Soyuncu caught Grant on the corner of the area in the 52nd minute Mooy drove the resulting disputed penalty down the middle to make it 2-1.

Steve Mounie replaced Alex Pritchard only to be denied by Schmeichel’s top save, going down to his right in the 68th minute.

It was game over, however, when Vardy caught Hogg in possession and was brought down by the Town player 24 yards out.

James Maddison expertly fired the free-kick over the five-man wall and inside a diving Hamer’s left-hand post and then Vardy went down the left channel and rounded Hamer only to be toppled by Terence Kongolo. The former England and – let us not forget – Halifax Town striker got up and fired home the penalty, although Hamer got his hands to it.

Jon Stankovic, withdrawn at half-time after a 40th-minute booking, admitted: “We need to go game to game now and stay positive.

“It’s hard, but we have to try and turn the momentum. We will try to make a challenge to return to the Premier League, but the Championship is hard and everyone can beat everyone. We will give our best and try to come back again.

“It has been difficult to keep spirits up knowing we are relegated, but we try to stay in a positive mindset.”

Huddersfield Town: Hamer, Smith, Schindler, Kongolo, Durm; Mooy, Hogg (Bachuna 80), Stankovic (Mbenza 46), Lowe; Pritchard (Mounie 59); Grant. Unused substitutes: Coleman, Kachunga, Williams, Hadergjonaj.

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Pereira, Morgan, Soyuncu, Chilwell; Gray, Tielemans, Ndidi dhury 87)(Chou, Maddison, Barnes (Ozaki 61); Vardy (Iheanacho 90). Unused substitutes: Ward, Mendy, Fuchs, Ghezzal.

Referee: D Coote (W Yorks).