REMEMBER, remember the fifth of November?
Huddersfield Town fans certainly will this year after their beloved club’s long, long wait for a Premier League victory this season finally came to an end at the 11th attempt.
Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s own goal – under pressure from Christopher Schindler – proved to be the winner, the first Terriers goal at the John Smith’s Stadium for almost seven months.
And as if that wasn’t enough to make Bonfire Night 2018 one to stick in the memory then this victory lifted Town off the foot of the table. No wonder the expression on David Wagner’s face at the final whistle betrayed a mixture of joy and relief.
Huddersfield had been full value for the 50th win of his reign. But this season has seen several decent performances by his side go unrewarded, a point underlined by only leaders Manchester City having struck the woodwork more times than the seven managed by the Terriers this term
Last night, though, Town got their just deserts after a display packed full of energy and no little quality proved too much for Fulham.
This victory lifted Town off the foot of the table. No wonder the expression on David Wagner’s face at the final whistle betrayed a mixture of joy and relief.Richard Sutcliffe
Midfield is where the battle was won. Jonathan Hogg, after an unusually poor afternoon in the 3-0 defeat at Watford nine days earlier, was back to his terrier-like best.
Along with the excellent Philip Billing, he hassled and harried the Londoners at every turn. Aaron Mooy, too, was a bundle of energy in a slightly more advanced role as the Australian linked well with the ever-dangerous Alex Pritchard.
Town’s defence also put in a tremendous shift, the return of record signing Terence Kongolo from injury allowing Wagner to switch to the back three he usually reserves for games against the Premier League elite.
Memories of his last two meetings with Slavisa Jokanovic’s men may have been behind the move, Huddersfield having conceded nine goals against the Cottagers in the 2016-17 season.
But this is a shadow of the Fulham side who so lit up the Championship under the Serb.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the plight of Ryan Sessegnon. Pushed to left-back from the advanced role that had seen the teenager terrorise defences in the second tier to such an extent that a call from Gareth Southgate seemed likely, last night he possessed none of that attacking zest.
Neither did Aleksandar Mitrovic nor Andre Schurrle, two of the signings last summer that were supposed to take the Londoners to the next level.
A combination of Schindler, Kongolo and Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen saw to that, ensuring that the first Town goal at the John Smith’s in 659 minutes of playing time was enough to secure all three points. Tom Ince had been the last in blue and white to score for Huddersfield on home soil, his stoppage time strike against Watford on April 14 ultimately keeping the club up.
A mammoth 80 attempts on goal had come and gone since then without anyone in blue and white finding the net by the time Fosu-Mensah finally brought the famine to an end.
After Chris Lowe’s corner had been cleared back to the German, Schindler gambled on his countryman’s delivery being spot on.
Schindler, straining every sinew of his being, challenged for the ball, but Fosu-Mensah’s header meant Sergio Rico had no chance of saving.
Cue pandemonium on all four sides of the John Smith’s Stadium, the celebrations speaking volumes as all the pent-up frustration and disappointment of those 205 days since Ince’s winner against Watford ebbed away.
Huddersfield deserved the breakthrough. Fourteen minutes earlier, Billing had rattled the crossbar with a ferocious shot from 30 yards to become the seventh Terrier to strike the woodwork this season.
Steve Mounie had also gone close with a header after being picked out by Lowe, while the corner that led to Town’s opener had come via a flying save from Rico leaving Pritchard holding his head in bewilderment that his effort had been kept out.
Once ahead, Town continued to press and Rico did well to scramble a looping header from Hogg to safety on the stroke of half-time.
Mooy should then have done better early after the restart when Mounie flicked Billing’s long throw into his path. With the goal at his mercy, the Australian fired over from eight yards out.
As the game wore on, Fulham did finally start to ask questions of the home backline. However, Schurrle fired wide when well placed and Mitrovic set off a fraction too early and was offside when beating Jonas Lossl with a neat shot.
Town’s long wait for a first victory of the season was finally over, as Wagner marked his third anniversary of taking charge in style on a Bonfire Night the locals will not forget in a hurry.
Huddersfield Town: Lossl; Jorgensen, Schindler, Kongolo (Bacuna 89); Hadergjonaj, Billing, Hogg, Lowe; Mooy, Pritchard (Mbenza 81); Mounie (Depoitre 56). Unused substitutes: Hamer, Smith, Ramadan, Van la Parra.
Fulham: Rico; Fosu-Mensah (Christie 46), Odoi, Le Marchand, Sessegnon; Seri, Anguissa, Cairney; Vietto (McDonald 46, Johansen 65). Mitrovic, Schurrle. Unused substitutes: Bettinelli, Chambers, Ream, Mawson.
Referee: A Taylor (Chester).