THE WORDS were clear, defiant and heartfelt from Danny Cowley.
When it comes to 2020, it ‘is going to see the resurgence of Huddersfield Town,” he said.
The Town chief emphatically continued: “As a football club, we will find ourselves again, what we stand for, what we want to be.”
Cowley’s New Year message in his programme notes, after a 2019 which has been testing in the extreme for everyone connected with the club, conveyed hope from an individual whose drive and passion is worn as a badge of honour.
Every bit as much as the Terriers crest emblazoned on his training jacket which he wears as he patrols the touchline with animation.
In the here and now, Cowley and Town were concerned with ending the old year and decade by filling their boots with the precious currency of victory, given their delicate league position.
How those in blue and white achieved it was not up for question. Yet in the event, the Terriers signed off 2019 with a special match-winning strike from Steve Mounie, whose sumptuous and technically perfect curler from 25 yards was a fitting way to win a landmark occasion.
The Benin international’s brawn may have harassed Blackburn’s defenders for most of the game. Yet his 71st-minute strike was a thing of sheer beauty.
It was a day when Mounie and top-scorer Karlan Grant, paired together in a traditional 4-4-2 formation after Cowley made an astute early tactical switch, showed their potential to do damage and be game-breakers in the ultra-competitive Championship.
But with the January transfer window nigh, it remains to be seen if both, one – or none, perish the thought – remain in Huddersfield colours by the end of it.
Town are bracing themselves not just for inward transfer activity to boost a ‘ridiculously fragile’ squad in the words of Cowley, but also outward movement.
Mounie’s popularity remains high with his name was sung by supporters at the end and team-mates alike in the changing room after showing just what he brings to the party when he is fit and firing.
Whether his goal represents a farewell gift remains to be seen.
For once, Grant did not score, but his menace was constant, with his value to the cause inestimable. Expect plenty of sides with deep-lined pockets to be taking note.
Both proved the difference as Town ended Blackburn’s eight-match unbeaten run, with the game also notable for a first home goal for Jon-Gorenc Stankovic, with both he and Mounie making up for poor misses in the Boxing Day loss at Middlesbrough.
Town’s initial response to the bitter disappointment of events on Teesside had been worrying.
After labelling his side as ‘young and naive’ in some aspects at the Riverside, watching Huddersfield concede the softest of seventh-minute openers would have irked Cowley even more.
A dereliction of duty in the heart of their backline showed charity in the extreme to a seasoned goal poacher in Danny Graham, allowed the freedom of the box to steer in Lewis Travis’s centre with aplomb and ease.
Fortunately, Town – assigned with finding some direction and character in the absence of a bonafide leader Jonathan Hogg – did just that, albeit with a little help from a smart tactical change, with Grant and Mounie changing the narrative of the game.
In the event, it was an unlikely source in Stankovic who restored parity on 25 minutes, getting the run on Bradley Johnson to head in a fine inswinging free-kick from the left by Juninho Bacuna.
It was a goal that had been coming with Grant having seen a goalbound shot blocked and clipping the bar with a cross-shot before huge appeals for a penalty were rebuffed after a clumsy challenge from Darragh Lenihan on the ever-dangerous Town top-scorer.
Huddersfield’s sense of injustice did not last for long, thanks to Stankovic’s leveller, and they kept their foot on the pedal for most of the remainder of the half.
A key full-stretch save low down from Christian Walton to turn away Grant’s angled drive almost forged a breakthrough ahead of the break after Mounie outmuscled Rovers in the air.
The game was set up nicely for the hosts, but unfortunately the interval whistle seemed to stymie their momentum, with Rovers regrouping in the second period.
An early hint of danger saw John Buckley fire over after an intricate move, with Huddersfield struggling to enforce themselves on the resumption, despite the threat of their front two.
A header which drifted wide from Grant was a rare moment of alarm for Rovers, but when the hosts required something special, it duly arrived from Mounie.
The closest that Blackburn came to an equaliser arrived when Kamil Grabara made a key late save to keep out Tosin Adarabioyo’s downward header.
A slaloming run from Grant almost ended in him deservedly getting on the scoresheet during nine minutes of added time, which Town negotiated before the relieving shrill of the final whistle.