Huddersfield Town 1 Norwich City 3: We switched off, says Clark

WHAT a difference a week makes.

From refusing to concede an automatic promotion place, three successive defeats have left Huddersfield Town struggling to even make the play-offs.

They are five points adrift of fourth and fifth-placed Colchester and Swindon, who both have a game in hand, and the stark fact is that Lee Clark's side have failed to beat any of the top six this season.

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Clark, suffering the first hat-trick of reverses in his fledgling management career, claimed it was disrespectful to question the character of his players after defeat against the club he left as assistant manager in December, 2008 to take charge at Town.

But he hit the nail on the head as to why Norwich are looking set for the title and Town are only seventh when he said: "That's what teams at the top do. They go for the jugular and are ruthless. They pounced on my players having lapses of concentration at vital times."

Some of the football Huddersfield played in the first half had the Canaries rocking but they were not incisive enough where it mattered, in front of goal.

Former Ipswich winger Gary Roberts revelled in the inevitable barracking he got from the 3,000 Canaries fans but front pair Jordan Rhodes and Lee Novak failed to capitalise on him carving open the visitors' defence.

Roberts confessed after Town had surrendered the last unbeaten home record in the division: "That defeat really hurt the lads. In the first half, we deserved to be two or three up with the football we played but it was only 1-0 and that is a scary score because you know they are going to come out and have a good go.

"We can definitely bounce back but it's not been the best of weeks. We didn't see it coming three defeats on the spin but there are 10 games to go and they are 10 cup finals.

"We are still a young, hungry team who want to get in the play-offs without a shadow of a doubt and we probably need seven wins out of 10, starting at Leyton Orient on Saturday."

Perplexed by the lack of success against the top clubs, Roberts added: "We have shown we can match the best and we feel we should be right up there. We haven't taken many points off the top sides yet you saw today that we brushed Norwich aside in the first half. We also battered them at their place for 60 minutes but a silly goal changed the game like it did today. We respect all teams the same but we can't really put our finger on it and it's very frustrating. We are going to have to change that because if we get in the play-offs we will be facing one of those top six.

"The lads are very down but the gaffer will get us back up for it and these last 10 games are massive for the club."

Town got off to a flying start as they set out to avenge a 3-0 defeat at Carrow Road.

Central defender Neal Trotman, who won over some doubters with a commanding first half display only to suffer lapses after the break, headed home at the near post from Anthony Pilkington's third-minute corner.

Town, with Michael Collins preferred to Anthony Kay as Danny Drinkwater's central midfield partner, had Norwich chasing shadows as they pinged the ball around and the visitors' back four looked ponderous and vulnerable.

The second goal would not come, however, and Norwich gave notice of their intent when captain Grant Holt nodded narrowly wide from their one menacing attack of the half.

Still Town could have made it 2-0 shortly after the break but Fraser Forster beat away a fine first-time effort from Novak and the momentum of the game swung Norwich's way.

Both restored full-backs, Lee Peltier and Dean Heffernan, were the Town culprits and it was Stephen Elliott, like Trotman a loanee from Preston, who took advantage.

Norwich's latest signing came off the bench in the 62nd-minute and struck at the double after Holt's 69th-minute equaliser from a near-post knock-in from Wes Hoolahan's cutback.

That goal came from a move down the left, the next came from down the right as Holt outmuscled Heffernan and squared for Elliott to tap home.

There was a glimmer of hope for Town when Novak intercepted a back pass from Michael Rose but was driven wide by Forster and the chance was lost.

And there was no way back when Elliott struck again in the 85th minute, turning in another cutback, this time from Simon Lappin out on the left.

Huddersfield Town: Smithies, Peltier, Trotman, P Clarke, Heffernan; Pilkington, Drinkwater, Collins, Roberts; Rhodes (Robinson 72), Novak (Berrett 87). Unused substitutes: Eastwood, N Clarke, Kay, T Clarke, Williams.

Norwich City: Forster, Martin, Doherty, Nelson, Rose; Smith, Russell, Hoolahan, Lappin; Martin (Elliott 62), Holt. Unused substitutes: Rudd, Drury, Hughes, McVeigh, McNamee, Johnson.

Referee: N Miller (County Durham).

MATCH FOCUS

Hero: Gary Roberts

Probably the one Town outfield player Norwich would like in their side. As long as the winger can continue carving out opportunities like he did against the top team in the division, there is still hope for Lee Clark's side of making the play-offs.

Villain: Grant Holt

The Norwich captain led by example especially when things were going against his side and his rugged approach up front, though certainly not appreciated by the home fans, brought him just reward.

Key moment

80th minute: Town's Lee Novak intercepts a back pass but fails to take the opportunity to make it 2-2.

Ref watch

Nigel Miller: Mirrored Town's performance – great in the first half but fell away in the second.

Verdict

It's going to be tough but at least Town still have the opportunity to take points off three of the other top six clubs in their quest for the play-offs.

Next game

Leyton Orient v Huddersfield Town, League One, Saturday, 3.00pm.

Quote of the day

There is quite a bit of negativity around the place... I have to cocoon myself out of that along with the players.

– Huddersfield Town

manager Lee Clark.

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