Huddersfield Town 2 Bolton 1: Wells winner warms up Town to deliver Powell’s ‘perfect tonic’

TALK about the clock going round in double-quick time for Huddersfield Town...

Jacob Butterfield of Huddersfield Town shoots for goal against Bolton Wanderers

Forty-eight hours on from leaving the New York Stadium with a winter chill after witnessing Rotherham United substitutes Jonson Clarke-Harris and Lee Frecklington spoil their Christmas celebrations when the Millers salvaged an unlikely 2-2 draw, Town supporters were handed a spot of welcome karma.

This time, the late replacement to play a fateful hand was bedecked in the blue and white of Town in Nahki Wells, meaning the yuletide decorations will be staying up in Huddersfield-supporting households after all.

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It may have been the coldest evening of the year last night, but there was warmth by the fireside for Town and their manager Chris Powell after witnessing arguably the most substantive victory of his tenure so far.

The 3-0 home win over Nottingham Forest on November 1 may have won top marks for artistic merit on an afternoon of sunshine and roses for Town, but yesterday’s win probably carries just as much weight, if not more.

More especially with Town heading into the game on the back of an alarming sequence of one victory in eight matches ahead of lining up against a side starting to make their move in the Championship.

There was also the not inconsequential goings-on of Boxing Day to factor in and an itinerary of two games in 48 hours which certainly would not have been of Powell’s choosing if he had his way.

Managers learn plenty about their side when the chips are down, with his Town players suffering a hefty psychological blow in the solar plexus by Rotherham’s late double-whammy in Friday’s 2-2 draw.

Bolton’s opener after 41 seconds, courtesy of Darren Pratley represented a further grievous wound, but how Town drew upon their reservoirs of character – without the leadership qualities of Grant Holt – and manned up impressively to inflict a first defeat upon in-form Bolton since October 31.

Goals from Jacob Butterfield and Wells – the latter’s goal seeing him take his seasonal tally to 10 – were just reward for a stout-hearted performance full of enthusiasm, honesty and energy. And some decent quality at times as well.

Small wonder Powell wore a contented smile shortly after the final whistle after viewing the sort of performance which enables managers to sleep soundly in their beds at night.

Powell said: “After the kick in the teeth at Rotherham, where we just didn’t see it coming and the first minute today, you are thinking this is a test, not only physically, but mentally.

“Every time you have a knock-back, you have to overcome that and I thought the players did.

“The players took the game by the scruff of the neck and said: ‘Right, we have got to get ourselves going.’ I thought some of our play in response to what happened was first-class.

“I have got to applaud all my players with how they responded.

“In the main, we have enjoyed it here.

“Our last performance was flat against Birmingham, but I thought this was a perfect tonic and response for our supporters over the Christmas period.

“It was a well-earned and really decent performance.”

After the shattering finish at Rotherham, allied to the grim home performance last time out against Birmingham, Town needed the concession of a first-minute goal like a turkey needs Christmas.

After a free-kick from Lee Chung-yong was not cleared, Pratley seized upon the loose ball in an instant before teeing himself up and thrashing a shot in off the underside of the bar past Alex Smithies, in front of the big Bolton visiting contingent.

With Eidur Gudjohnsen showing some early touches of class and Wanderers moving the ball around with ease and soon getting into a rhythm, it had all the makings of a long afternoon for Town.

But the hosts, boasting just one win in nine matches against Bolton heading into the game, gradually built up a head of steam with their tenacity and work ethic shining through as the half went on.

Town, who earned a string of corners in the opening half hour, were nothing if not persistent with Andy Lonergan denying James Vaughan and Harry Bunn before Smithies made a key save to deny Gudjohnsen after he raced clear at the other end.

The enthusiasm of Town was rewarded shortly before the interval when Hogg set up Butterfield, whose sweet shot on the right beat Lonergan all ends up.

It was Powell’s side who displayed the tempo in the second half, without creating the opportunities they craved, but at least they could not be accused of losing heart.

They got their rewards in the final 10 minutes with Jack Robinson’s long-ranger tipped over by Lonergan, but he was powerless to deny Wells from stroking home the winner with five minutes to go after being sent clear by Hogg.