SUCH has been the upwards trajectory of Huddersfield Town under David Wagner that few clubs have consistently got the better of the Yorkshire outfit since his arrival from Germany.
Famous old names such as Newcastle United, Norwich City, Derby County and Wolverhampton Wanderers have all been beaten by the Terriers during his 15 months at the helm.
So, too, have Leeds United, the back-to-back triumphs at Elland Road in March and September last year being a particular highlight for supporters who quickly bought into Wagner’s methodology after he swapped Dortmund for West Yorkshire.
One club, though, bucks this trend. Sheffield Wednesday have faced Wagner’s Town four times and won on every occasion. It is a remarkable record considering how far Huddersfield have come since the German’s first game – a 3-1 loss at Hillsborough in November, 2015 – but the man himself refuses to be downhearted.
“It was a good game,” he said. “We lost the contest but we were able to go home to Huddersfield with our heads held high. We are on the right tracks, I totally believe that.
“I have trust and belief in this team. When we are at our best – and we were nearly at that level at Hillsborough – we are a very strong competitor. I can leave this result behind us because of that. We now go forward, hoping that the referee’s decisions are more neutral or in our favour – and that we are more clinical.”
Town’s control of proceedings in the first half was total. As has become customary when Huddersfield are on the road, Aaron Mooy dictated proceedings from midfield. The Australian was everywhere, taking the ball off the defence and then acting as the bridge to an attacking quartet that, while not quite at their fluent best in those opening 45 minutes, still posed plenty of problems.
All that was lacking from the first half for Huddersfield was a goal. Had it come, things could have worked out very differently. Instead, Wednesday regrouped during the interval, Carlos Carvalhal brought on Sam Winnall and, by full-time, Town’s eight-game unbeaten run in all competitions was over.
“We performed and played well,” added Wagner, who was again linked with a possible move for RB Leipzig striker – and US international – Terrence Boyd over the weekend.
“We should not forget that this was Hillsborough away and everyone knows how difficult it can be to play there. So, I was proud of our performance.
“But, at the end, three refereeing decisions decided the game – and all of the decisions were not in our favour. Before the first goal, there was a one-on-one battle when, in my opinion, Nahki Wells was fouled. The referee decided no foul and (Ross) Wallace scored a great goal.
“Then, the red card. Jack Payne lost the ball, wanted to immediately win it back and was too late. It was a yellow card but he got a red card. Everyone knows that Jack Payne is one of the nicest people on this planet. He hasn’t the gene for a red card, not from his personality.
“Finally, the second goal was tight in terms of offside. There was only one man on the line. I have watched a replay and the angle was not good but the decision was very, very tight – but probably offside.
“All of those decisions went against us and that meant we were unable to win a game where we competed well. It was a great football match and I was totally happy with what the players did. We had enough great opportunities to score one goal.”
Town’s fourth straight loss to the Owls means the two clubs are separated by just one point in the table. Crucially, though, the gap between Huddersfield and seventh-placed Derby stands at six points, one more than the advantage Wednesday hold over Steve McClaren’s men. This hugely promising position is why defender Michael Hefele insists the squad is ready to move on from the Owls loss.
“We will bounce back next Saturday,” said the German. “You can’t win every game and it is how you react to a defeat that matters. We performed very well against Sheffield Wednesday but now it is about our next game against Ipswich. Our heads are up and now we are ready to push forward for our supporters.”