The Verdict (highlights) – Kongolo impresses as Huddersfield Town progress at expense of Bolton

GET IN: Rajiv van la Parra opened the scoring for Town against Bolton at the Macron Stadium. Pictures: Bruce Rollinson
GET IN: Rajiv van la Parra opened the scoring for Town against Bolton at the Macron Stadium. Pictures: Bruce Rollinson
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FIVE games in 15 days have left players and fans alike with little time to draw breath.

Yet Saturday’s encounter at the Macron Stadium at least gave anyone of a blue and white persuasion time to reflect.

Just two years ago these two sides were involved in a relegation scrap, Joe Lolley and Mustapha Carayol giving David Wagner his first away win as Huddersfield head coach.

Town won the battle to stay up, Bolton finished bottom of the Championship.

Since then everything has been on an upward trajectory for Premier League Town while Bolton have bounced back into the second tier through the astute managership of former Bradford chief Phil Parkinson despite a debilitating financial backdrop.

Both clubs remain looking over their shoulders, however, and beating the drop is the priority.

It was therefore little surprise that wholesale changes were the order of the day in Saturday’s third-round tie.

It is a sad indictment as to how far down the FA Cup ranks these days, but at least it gives fringe players the chance to make a mark and provides a platform for those returning from injury.

Wagner made eight changes and took the opportunity to run the rule over several players despite having pre-match planning disrupted 24 hours prior to kick-off.

The Town chief certainly did not want his two centre-backs to play a full game, but only Michael Hefele was afforded a 10-minute breather on his return from virtually six months out with Achilles trouble following a training session ankle injury that will sideline Martin Cranie for up to a fortnight.

Celebration: Danny Williams is mobbed after scoring Town's second goal.
 Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Celebration: Danny Williams is mobbed after scoring Town's second goal. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Debutant Terence Kongolo came through the full match with aplomb, standing up to the physical presence of Aaron Wilbraham ahead of an anticipated similar challenge from West Ham’s Andy Carroll on Saturday.

Dutch international Kongolo continually drifted wide to find space to take possession and knock intelligent balls forward, perhaps allowing Wagner to switch at some stage to a three centre-back formation with his loanee from Monaco playing alongside Chris Schindler and Mathias Zanka.

Joel Coleman stepped in for the rested Jonas Lossl to show that Town, with former England man Robert Green on the bench, also have adequate cover in goal.

But with Bolton at times employing six men across the back – they had been decimated by injuries and loan recalls in midfield – Town’s inability to conjure many chances against a struggling Championship side must still have given cause for concern, despite Wagner’s obvious satisfaction with the performance.

The boss wants 11 outfield players when we have the ball and I have been working hard on my distribution, which still needs a bit of work in some areas.

The first half was a virtual write-off with Abraham spurning the only chance, heading wide from seven yards.

Town monopolised possession and stepped up a gear after the break, scoring quickfire goals within a minute of each other before Bolton pulled one back without often looking capable of an equaliser.

A muscle pull had forced Collin Quaner to depart before the interval and his replacement, Rajiv van la Parra, hooked in Town’s 51st-minute opener from close range after the ball had spun off a Bolton boot from the fourth of a series of corners, sparked by Abdel Sabiri’s shot that Mark Howard parried away.

It was soon 2-0 as Parkinson fumed that a potential “leg-breaking” lunge by Sabiri on David Wheater – Wagner arguing his player had been impeded seconds earlier – had resulted in the ball breaking to Danny Williams for a long-range strike that took a big deflection off Mark Beevers to leave Howard flat-footed.

Bolton finally pressed and unmarked Derik Osede headed home from their first corner 11 minutes later.

In response, Williams let fly again and Howard tipped over his effort before Osede’s snap-shot went narrowly over at the other end.

Howard again denied Williams as Town broke late on before Coleman was booked for time-wasting against his home-town club.

Coleman, however, was just delighted to have made his first start since mid-September, having been understudy to Danny Ward last season when he was again Town’s Cup goalkeeper.

“It was good to get a run out. My last match was Crystal Palace a long time ago so it was nice to get a run out and get the win,” said the 22-year-old.

On operating behind a new centre-back pairing, he added: “At times communication was a challenge, but they (Kongolo and Hefele) are both very experienced players and it was good to see Hef back out there. He is a top quality centre-half and it was like having a new signing out there.

“Terence played very well on his debut. He is probably not used to the style of football, but he coped very well and looked very good passing out from the back.

“The boss wants 11 outfield players when we have the ball and I have been working hard on my distribution, which still needs a bit of work in some areas.

“I love keeping clean sheets, but I will take 2-1 and I am looking forward to the next round when I am hoping to be involved, though that is the boss’s decision.”

Bolton Wanderers: Howard, Little (Hall 85), Wheater, Beevers, Robinson; Ameobi (Noone 76), Vela (King 85), Osede, Morais; Le Fondre, Wilbraham. Unused substitutes: Alnwick, Taylor, Darby, Earing.

Huddersfield Town: Coleman, Smith Hefele (Whitehead 84), Kongolo, Malone; Quaner (Van la Parra 39), Williams, Hogg, Lolley (Billing 76); Sabiri; Depoitre. Unused substitutes: Green, Mounie, Hadergjonaj, O’Brien.

Referee: R East (Wiltshire).