AT the top of the road that leads behind Everton’s main stand can be found a billboard proclaiming Goodison Park to be ‘The Home of Firsts’.
All manner of ground-breaking achievements are reeled off underneath the boast, ranging from a ground that began life in 1892 being the first to stage 4,000 top-flight games and 100 seasons through to Everton being the first and only British club to host a World Cup semi-final. Visitors are also informed of the first undersoil heating system in the country being installed on the blue side of Stanley Park.
Quite a list, but, sadly for Huddersfield Town, not one that can be extended with the entry, ‘Witnessed a first away Premier League goal for David Wagner’s Terriers in almost four months’.
The firing of yet another blank on the road means Town’s goal drought away from the John Smith’s Stadium has now reached epic proportions.
A mammoth 642 playing minutes have elapsed since Steve Mounie completed a 3-0 win at Crystal Palace all the way back on August 12, meaning Wagner’s men now share an unwanted club record with their predecessors from 1988.
Back then, Huddersfield’s barren run spanned two seasons, the first of which culminated in relegation from the old Second Division, and more than six months before ending with Junior Bent’s goal in a 3-1 win at Northampton Town.
The current crop have some way to go before threatening that time frame, but this latest shot-shy effort – so reminiscent of those other fruitless trips to fellow strugglers such as West Ham, Swansea and Bournemouth – hardly points to a team ready to end their scoring duck on the road any time soon.
Rarely can Jordan Pickford, arguably the busiest goalkeeper in the Premier League over the past 15 months after having the misfortune of being Sunderland’s last line of defence under David Moyes, have had an easier 90 minutes.
Sure, Tom Ince did fire into the side-netting at the end of a swift counter-attack early in the second half, and, yes, Pickford had to throw himself into a melee inside the Everton six-yard box during a stoppage-time scramble at the end of the first half that saw Laurent Depoitre try in vain to shepherd the ball back to a team-mate while on the floor.
But, in terms of bona-fide saves, Pickford had precious little to do with a long-range effort from Tommy Smith barely capable of warming his hands.
At home it is totally different. The feeling is different. I cannot explain why, but it is like that. With our fans and our pitch, we seem to play better. But away, the same does not happen.Huddersfield Town’s Laurent Depoitre
For Depoitre, the striker who has started five of these seven away games and come off the bench in the other two, it was another frustrating afternoon.
“Every time we end an away game feeling frustrated,” said the Belgian striker, Town’s joint top scorer with two goals, to The Yorkshire Post. “We want to take points away, but it is not happening.
“At home it is totally different. The feeling is different. I cannot explain why, but it is like that. With our fans and our pitch, we seem to play better. But away, the same does not happen.”
Town’s goalscoring travails were punished by two clinical finishes at the other end. Gylfi Sigurdsson, a peripheral figure in the first half, struck just 101 seconds after the restart following a delightful move involving Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Aaron Lennon.
Everton’s second may have had an element of good fortune due to Calvert-Lewin’s shot taking a deflection off Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen en route to bouncing over Jonas Lossl.
But the wonderful pass from Wayne Rooney that released Calvert-Lewin deserved to kill off effectively any hopes of a fightback from a side who, when September’s Carabao Cup defeat at Selhurst Park is factored in, have now failed to score in eight away outings.
Depoitre added: “As a striker, you want to score in every game. But when we cannot create chances, for me it is frustrating. If I can have only one chance or two, my job is to score.
“But, sometimes away, I do not have any chance to score. We have to do better as a team. Maybe one result will change everything for us away.”
Depoitre, as has been the case for much of this barren run, cut an isolated figure up front for Huddersfield at Goodison Park.
Even when joined by Mounie for the final 19 minutes in a reshuffled line-up featuring two strikers, the £3.5m summer signing from Porto lacked the service to worry an Everton backline well marshalled by Ashley Williams.
It was not for the want of trying. Depoitre having long ago proved willing to chase even the most hopeless of lost causes in an attempt to sniff out a chance.
But the necessary attacking swagger just is not there at the moment behind Depoitre, a lack of confidence among all in midfield bar Aaron Mooy meaning a ‘safety-first’ attitude to passing the ball is stifling Town’s play.
The return of Kasey Palmer from a three-month absence through injury should help. He may have been every bit as toothless as his team-mates after coming off the bench at half-time, but he is the one ‘No 10’, the role that makes Wagner’s 4-2-3-1 formation tick, on Huddersfield’s books who seems capable of thriving in the Premier League.
It is to be hoped Palmer can get up to speed quickly or those Town devotees who have now travelled 2,410 miles since last seeing their side score away from home are in for even more frustration on the road before the end of 2017 and possibly beyond.