Clock ticking for Danny Schofield as Huddersfield Town lose again
All of the above terminology is invariably trotted out by managers of struggling sides in early season and Danny Schofield was no different ahead of this game - as he sought to convey the message that Huddersfield Town's glass is still half full despite a fraught opening to 2022-23.
Even accounting for his status as a comparative rookie, he would also have not needed to be told twice that this week of all weeks is about deeds and not words. Points however they come; hard luck stories won't wash.
Especially when a side positioned in the bottom three of the table head into successive home games against two opponents likely to be hovering around the mid-table mark at best this season, with all due respect to Wigan and Cardiff.
Unfortunately, for under-pressure head coaches like Schofield, it never rains but pours. It did in a game you felt that he really had to get something from.
Town had a go late on, but the mood music was not convivial at the death.
The first half ended in jeers among a febrile crowd as Huddersfield trailed and the boos at the final whistle towards the ashen-faced Schofield were also damning.Football is a cruel game and so it proved here, given that it looked like one - and quite possibly three - points might arrive for the hosts as the game headed towards a rousing finale when the hosts had their mojo back following Tom Lees’s 76th minute equaliser.
Town, whose opening effort on target was on 61 minutes, were starting to stack up the chances. After Lees’s leveller, substitute Jordan Rhodes hit the woodwork and fellow replacement Pat Jones went close.
It was the cue for Wigan to go down the other end and provide the haymaker. Lees was turned by a real Latics irritant in the excellent Callum Lang. He drilled the ball home from James McClean’s cross and that was that.
Ahead of the game, Schofield spoke about the pressing need for Town to come out on the right side of some 'moments.'
Unfortunately, there was little succour here.
Two big moments went against Huddersfield in the first period and showed just why they are where they are in a half when they looked a side struggling for form and in a lowly position.
The first arrived on 18 minutes when Town worked a glorious move - comfortably their best one of the half by a distance - and somehow contrived to miss it. Form sides don’t do that.
A floated pass from Lees was won by the head of Ward who flicked the ball down the right channel for the recalled Duane Holmes.
He surged forward and his low cross was an inviting one. It found Ward on the stretch and how somehow put the ball over from a couple of yards out on the stretch when it looked easier to score. His look of anguish said it all.
That episode, of course, was compounded seven minutes later.
The second big moment saw Josh Magennis beat debutant Michal Helik to find Will Keane, whose probing pass picked out Lang who was scenting a clear run on goal.
Another home debutant in Luke Mbete tried to cover and his last-ditch challenge was an untidy one on Lang. A penalty it was and Keane blasted home in emphatic fashion.
It winded Town, with Wigan settling.
Thankfully, for the Terriers’ sakes, half-decent chances for a second goal were spurned when Thelo Aasgaard dragged a shot wide when well placed and Lang’s sharp header was straight at Lee Nicholls.
The narrative needed to change for the hosts, with the young legs of Kaine Kesler-Hayden and Jones called for at the break. Ollie Turton and Sorba Thomas, whose set-plays were very disappointing in the opening 45 minutes, made way.
It was not the precursor for change, although Town would have been relieved that the game did not totally go away from them early on the restart.
A last-gasp challenge from Kasumu stopped Keane from getting clear. From the resultant corner, the unmarked Jack Whatmough somehow planted a header against the far post instead of the net.
Lang was then incensed at not winning a second penalty after going down under the challenge of Kasumu. Huddersfield breathed again, but were running out of lives.
It became increasingly panicky, desperate and anxious from a Town perspective.
Lang rounded Nicholls, but his touch was heavy and the angle acute and his effort blocked.
It was the cue for Town to then lament those moments again.Yuta Nakayama found himself with plenty of the goal to aim at from Ward’s centre, but his effort was wild. When he did get an effort on goal, a technically striking free-kick, Jamie Jones was equal to the task in the Latics’ goal.A frenzied spell then saw Curtis Tilt clear off the line to deny Ward. The Town striker then turned supply to cushion Kaine Kesler-Hayden’s shot into Lees’s path.There was more to come and it wasn’t good for Town or Schofield.
Huddersfield Town: Nicholls; Lees, Helik, Mbete (Rhodes 65); Turton (Kesler-Hayden 45), Kasumu, Rudoni, Nakayama; Holmes (Anjorin 57), Ward, Thomas (P Jones 45). Substitutes unused: Bilokapic, Russell, Ruffels.
Wigan Athletic: J Jones; Nyambe, Whatmough, Tilt; Lang (Broadhead 85), Power, Shinnie, McClean; Keane (Naylor 76), Aasgaard (Kerr 85); Magennis (Wyke 77). Substitutes unused: Tickle, Scully, Fletcher.