Huddersfield Town 3 Millwall 0: Huddersfield’s class partnership underlines what might have been

Jermaine Beckford celebrates his first goal with Adam Clayton.Jermaine Beckford celebrates his first goal with Adam Clayton.
Jermaine Beckford celebrates his first goal with Adam Clayton.
STRIKERS James Vaughan and Jermaine Beckford are perfect illustrations of the fragility of football stardom.

Both have been touted for great things only to be slapped down by injuries.

But when on song, there is no better finishing force outside the Premier League than Huddersfield’s front two.

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It is a major concern that Town will be unable to afford to keep the on-loan pair next season but the priority is retaining Championship status before owner Dean Hoyle decides which cheques to sign for manager Mark Robins.

The Citys of Norwich and Leicester will hold the cards when it comes to negotiations but if £1m is what the Canaries want for Vaughan and the Foxes remain keen to offload high-earner Beckford, then Hoyle, mindful of the new financial fair play rules, could decide it is a price worth paying.

Placing faith in on-loan players has been the downfall of many a manager and Robins will want his own men alongside him next season, tied to contracts which will ensure they give their all.

No-one, however, can doubt that Vaughan has given 100 per cent, often as the lone striker, and Beckford’s goal ratio combined with the importance of his strikes allays cries from the Gelderd End that ‘you’re Leeds and you know you are,’ whenever he returns.

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Both struck in the demolition of Millwall, who may have ‘headed for the beach’ a tad too early though they have the comfort of an extra two games in hand.

Former Leeds and Everton frontman Beckford’s first goal was a finish of the highest quality.

He robbed Danny Shittu as the monster of a defender attempted to shepherd the ball dead.

Then from the tightest of angles, Beckford not only chipped goalkeeper David Forde but sent it curling round him into the net in the 37th minute.

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Forde had already denied Beckford’s close-range header with a flying save and, after the opener, flung up an arm to prevent returning right-back Jack Hunt scoring from a pile-driver before seeing Peter Clarke’s header from a corner scrambled clear and Karleigh Osborne make a goalline clearance from Oliver Norwood’s whipped-in free-kick.

Having said that, Millwall could have been level, James Henry’s first free-kick clipping the bar before his second in stoppage time forced a great save from Alex Smithies down to his right.

Huddersfield had not scored three at home all season but that situation was remedied when Adam Clayton threaded the ball through for Vaughan to smash home the second before the striker turned provider, hooking the ball forward for Beckford to outpace Shittu to make it 3-0 in the 62nd minute.

It was no surprise when Robins withdrew both strikers and defender Calum Woods as they complained of ‘tight muscles’ as there remain two important battles ahead.

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In between Town’s second-half strikes, Andy Keogh escaped action for an off-the-ball stamp on Hunt, which the fourth official will report to the FA with a view to possible retrospective punishment, and then Jermaine Easter fluffed a chance for the visitors before Town finished well on top.

This polished performance only heightened the sense of frustration for Hunt, who was booked for retribution on Keogh, and second-half substitute Keith Southern.

Hunt, back to his marauding best, confessed: “We either play exceptional like today and everyone raves about us or we don’t even put in an average performance. So the thing we are going to look at is going down to Bristol to play good football in the areas we did today and, hopefully, the result will take care of itself.

“If you asked every one of the players if they have had a full season with as many good performances as they wanted, I don’t think there would be many who would say ‘yes’. We need to ensure we consistently play to today’s level at the same time.”

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Southern, who has been plagued by injury since his move from Blackpool, continued the theme. “It’s been a season of ‘what if?’ for not only me but the rest of the team. We were in contention until November but for one reason or another we fell away. But all is not lost and the aim at the start of the season was to consolidate in the league and, hopefully, we will do it.

“We are as good as most teams in the league, it’s just consistency we have struggled to produce. There certainly is no inferiority complex.

“We feel we can pick up three points on any given day. We want to win our remaining games and we have the tunnel vision to win both.”

Both Town players have been impressed by the work done by new manager Mark Robins in his 13 Championship games in charge.

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Southern said: “He deserves a lot of credit and has got us a lot more organised and does not panic under pressure and, hopefully, we will see the job through now.

“I am sure when the season has finished he will want to bring some of his own players in to make his mark – hopefully in the Championship.”

Hunt added: “It has obviously been hard for him coming in because it takes time getting players to do what he wants them to do but he has stayed calm with us and we are definitely going to stay up. Without being disrespectful to the teams we are playing, I don’t think you could have picked two better teams to play and one more win should do it.”

Hunt, also flattened by Easter, said of the challenge by Keogh which came after he had cleared the ball upfield: “I was disappointed with what happened. It should have been a red card because he did stamp on me. Unfortunately, I did react and then I did take another whack which might have been a sign of how well I was playing. But the referee came over and told me to get up and stop diving so I don’t know what I have done wrong to him!”