HEAD COACH David Wagner insists that the ‘job is not done’ for Huddersfield Town, despite his side taking a giant stride towards clinching Premier League safety with a dramatic last-gasp 1-0 home victory over Watford.
Delirious scenes followed Tom Ince’s stoppage-time strike and at the final whistle, with it inescapable to avoid the feeling that the victory will represent the definitive moment of Town’s campaign.
The win secured a sweet Saturday for Town, who had been afforded a massive fillip ahead of kick-off with news of Southampton’s 3-2 loss to visiting Chelsea, with the Saints having led 2-0.
Town’s second top-flight double since April, 1956 saw them jump up two places to seventh from bottom and they are now seven points above third-from-bottom Southampton, who do have a game in hand.
Mark Hughes’s side visit Leicester City on Thursday evening, while second-from-bottom Stoke City go to West Ham tonight.
Town’s win was the perfect development at the start of a key two-match home spell which concludes with the visit of Everton on Saturday week.
Wagner looked emotionally drained when addressing the media after the German had raced down the touchline to celebrate with his players after Ince’s goal.
It was a reprise of the scenes which followed Town’s late winner against Leeds in February, 2016, and he said: “I am happy and very proud as this was a very, very important moment for this football club and a big step in the direction of reaching our target.
“I would rank this (safety) as bigger than the promotion last year.
“A football club like us, with our size, our financial power and recent history were a team that got promoted with a negative goal difference and without scoring in the play-offs. We were three weeks later (getting promoted) so we had so many disadvantages before we even started this season. That was apart from it being 45 years out of the top flight and having just the 19th biggest budget in the Championship.
“But we accepted that and we wanted to give ourselves a goal in a different way. If last season was a fairytale, this season is a miracle because, for me, it is a higher level and a bigger success. But the job is not (yet) done, clearly it is not.”
Just as Town were indebted to a stoppage-time strike, there was also late drama at Oakwell, where relegation-haunted Barnsley rescued a point against fellow strugglers Bolton, thanks to Oli McBurnie’s goal in the third-minute of stoppage time.
It ensures that the third-from-bottom Reds still have a fighting chance of Championship survival on a day when two quickfire Bolton goals in the last 10 minutes looked like leaving the hosts five points adrift of safety.
But McBurnie’s strike ensured that Barnsley remain two points behind Wanderers, with a game in hand.
Head coach Jose Morais, whose Reds side scored a vital late home goal for the second successive Saturday after late drama against Sheffield United, commented: “Every game now is a final. Every point is important and winning games is important.
“I believe in this (Barnsley’s safety mission) and this is the way I feel and I feel the belief. My wish is this belief can spread throughout the whole team.
“We have been having less volatility in our results and we are being more constant and now the goal is to win, win and win if it is possible. This is our wish, will, desire and goal.”
A seminal Saturday programme in the Championship play-off race saw the Blades draw 1-1 with top-six rivals Millwall – on an afternoon when the big beneficiaries were Middlesbrough, who beat top-six rivals Bristol City 2-1.
Boro jumped up to fifth spot, courtesy of Derby County’s shock 3-1 loss at Burton Albion.
The Teessiders travel to Pride Park to face the Rams on Saturday and two key fixtures potentially follow on April 28 when the Blades host play-off rivals Preston North End and Boro entertain Millwall.
On his ninth-placed side’s draw against the Lions, Wilder, whose charges visit struggling Birmingham City this coming weekend, said: “This does not enhance our chances, but the picture can change in the space of a week because this division is so unpredictable.
“We are waiting and relying on other results, but the season is still alive with three games to go.”