ALL bar Huddersfield Town and Burnley of the 20 Premier League clubs have been shown live on TV in this country over the festive season.
On Wednesday night’s evidence, BT Sport and Sky Sports may just have missed a trick after a pulsating Roses survival battle that packed in more drama than even a Christmas Day double of EastEnders and Coronation Street.
Burnley prevailed, in the end, thanks to goals from Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes. But only after a night of controversy and no little incident that will ensure Mike Dean joins Michael Oliver on the list of referees unlikely to have the ‘welcome’ mat rolled out on his next visit to the John Smith’s Stadium.
Dean sent off Christopher Schindler shortly before half-time. He also brandished a straight red card at Burnley’s Robbie Brady for an awful lunge at Isaac Mbenza that sparked a 90th-minute melee involving players from both sides.
Neither could have any complaint, even if Schindler did not seem to realise he had been booked earlier for a clumsy tackle on former Leeds United striker Wood.
But what stuck in the throat of the home fans in the 23,715 crowd was how Dean failed to dismiss Ben Mee, already on a booking, for kicking the ball away with the game barely into the second quarter.
It was a dereliction of duty by the official and one that ultimately cost Huddersfield dear on a night when Steve Mounie had become the first striker to score for the Yorkshire club this season.Richard Sutcliffe
It was a dereliction of duty by the official and one that ultimately cost Huddersfield dear on a night when Steve Mounie had become the first striker to score for the Yorkshire club this season.
No wonder Wagner was far from his usual calm and composed self on the touchline as his side slipped deeper into the relegation mire.
Eight points now separate the Terriers from safety and it is hard to see a way back, even with January just one game old.
Reinforcements are on the way with Town hoping to bring in Jason Puncheon, the Crystal Palace winger.
But this loss to Burnley, coming on the back of those seven December defeats, means the trapdoor is already opening up underneath the Terriers.
At least this showing suggests that if Wagner’s men are to go down then they will do so fighting.
A switch back to the 4-2-3-1 formation the Town head coach favoured in his first two full seasons at Huddersfield was welcome.
Not only did it mean Burnley, at least when both sides boasted a full complement of players, came under far more pressure than Newcastle, Southampton or Fulham had faced Town in recent weeks.
But it also brought an opportunity to utilise the pace of Isaac Mbenza, who is finally starting to show the promise that persuaded Wagner to bring the wideman in from Montpellier last summer.
Mbenza played a key role in the opening goal on 33 minutes. A crunching tackle by Schindler on halfway initially won possession and the ball was quickly worked to the left flank.
Terence Kongolo then exchanged passes with Mbenza, whose subsequent cross was the perfect height for Steve Mounie to power a header beyond Tom Heaton.
After the dejection of last Saturday’s stoppage time defeat at Fulham, it was the perfect fillip for the Terriers.
Then, though, it all went wrong as Chris Wood again displayed his liking for Huddersfield by converting a cross from the lively Dwight McNeil five minutes before the break.
It was the Kiwi’s seventh goal against the Terriers. Worse, still, just a minute later Schindler was on his way after recklessly diving in on McNeil.
Injured club captain Tommy Smith, while conducting the half-time draw, suggested Schindler did not know he had already been booked.
Either way, Dean got this one bang on. Earlier, however, Mee had been hugely fortunate to escape punishment for blatantly kicking the ball away as Schindler tried to take a quick free-kick.
A second yellow card to go with the one shown earlier for a cynical tug on Philip Billing just had to follow but Dean had other ideas, leaving fourth official Oliver - no stranger himself to controversy at the John Smith’s Stadium this season after dismissing Steve Mounie in the defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion - to try and placate an irate Town coaching staff.
Once a man down, Huddersfield were always likely to come under plenty of pressure.
Sure enough, Wood headed narrowly wide from a corner that had been missed by Lossl and Johann Berg Gudmundsson curled an effort just wide after a free-kick had only been half cleared.
Lossl also had to get down smartly to save from Ashley Westwood before the incessant pressure paid off 16 minutes from time when Barnes beat Lossl with a cool finish to condemn Town to a record-breaking eighth straight defeat.
Huddersfield Town: Lossl; Hadergjonaj (Lowe 71), Schindler, Jorgensen, Kongolo; Hogg, Billing; Kachunga, Pritchard (Durm 44, Depoitre 83), Mbenza; Mounie. Unused substitutes: Hamer, Bacuna, Diakhaby, Stankovic.
Burnley: Heaton; Bardsley (Lowton 58), Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor; Gudmundsson, Westwood, Cork, McNeil (Brady 63); Barnes (Hendrick 90), Wood. Unused substitutes: Hart, Vokes, Vydra, Long.
Referee: M Dean (Wirral).