Preston North End v Huddersfield Town: Quick turnaround is chance for Terriers to bounce back

LAYING a few demons has certainly not proved a problem for all-conquering Huddersfield Town so far in a stand-out 2016-17 campaign.
Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner consoles his players after defeat to Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA.Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner consoles his players after defeat to Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA.
Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner consoles his players after defeat to Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA.

Hurdles have been overcome and milestones recorded on a number of noteworthy occasions already, with the latest challenge arriving this evening at Deepdale.

Town’s headline start to the season and the best in their history may have been their major feat so far this term, but within that, several eye-catching matchday accomplishments have arrived along the way.

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A first win in 11 matches at St James’ Park has been recorded, with their first victory in eight matches at Portman Road representing another welcome statistic with Town getting the better of both Newcastle United and Ipswich Town.

A triumph tonight against Preston, managed by ex-Town manager Simon Grayson, would also represent a bit of a landmark with the West Yorkshire outfit having not emerged victorious from that quarter of Lancashire in 14 matches.

Indeed, you have to go back to a fateful 1969-70 promotion season for the previous occasion that Town prevailed at Preston, with goals from cult hero Frank Worthington (2) and Jimmy Lawson handing Ian Greaves’s side a 3-1 victory.

The here and now and not history is the sole concern of David Wagner, although the Town head coach is minded to feel comforted by one pertinent statistic.

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Prior to Sunday, on the previous two occasions in which Town had seen their colours lowered in the Championship this season, they have bounced back at the first attempt with victory – and that is the aim this evening following the narrow derby reverse to Sheffield Wednesday.

Wagner, who welcomes back winger Sean Scannell into his plans tonight, said: “In the past, we have always won after defeats.

“But this is different in that after a defeat, we are playing away as in the past, we have played at home.

“I have no doubt about the character of my group and now after more than three months together, there cannot be any doubt. They look so hungry and greedy and in the dressing room after Sunday’s defeat, we could see that.

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“We have to make sure we perform and bring our identity to the grass. Nobody can know the result against Preston. But if we can perform and bring our basics again on the grass with our Terriers identity, we can win this game.”

In terms of style, Wagner accepts that Preston brings its own challenges, with the German expecting an aerial onslaught from the hosts, who are unbeaten in their past five games and possess a bit of a secret weapon in their ranks in giant 6ft 7in striker Simon Makienok.

Wagner is aware of those threats and more besides and says he is interested to see how his side handle the next examination in their development.

And he is also glad upon another thing. Namely that his side are back in action relatively quickly after Sunday’s defeat.

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Wagner, whose side are set to be roared on by around 2,500 fans tonight, said: “What is important is that we put every result in this busy period behind us and focus on the new opponent and we face a side with such a difficult style from three days ago and that is very interesting for us.

“It is interesting for me in how we react and we have played against teams, whose style is comparable to Preston in the past and we were competitive and I am totally sure we will find the right idea and game plan this time.

“It is a completely different style which we have to expect from Preston. They are very direct and physical and strong from set-pieces and I think the ball will be in the air much more than Sunday.

“We have to prepare for this and leave behind what happened on Sunday.”

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After doing a highly professional, well-drilled job on a number of rival sides, Town received a dose of their own medicine in front of the Sky cameras on Sunday, with the Owls doing their homework in highly competent fashion to get the better of Wagner’s high-fliers.

The notion of Huddersfield now being a scalp, given their outstanding start to the season, is increasingly being mooted by several observers, but Wagner remains unconcerned with how his side are being perceived after their high-class opening to 2016-17.

Wagner said: “We would like to earn some other scalps too and it is irrelevant what our opponents are thinking about us.

“We have our targets in our head and our target is to make it uncomfortable for Preston, while being aware about their style.

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“We need to keep the game tight and even and then be there in the right moments.”

Last six games: Preston LWWDWD; Huddersfield LWLWWL.

Referee: J Simpson (Lancashire).

Last time: Preston 2 Huddersfield 1, February 6, 2016; Championship.