THIS was far from the New Year’s Day embarrassment of five years ago for Huddersfield Town, but a familiarly flat return trip back up the M1 all the same.
At the venue where 2013 had begun for the Terriers with a 6-1 hammering in the Championship, their miserable record in Leicester continued courtesy of a second-half blitz from the hosts.
Goals from Riyad Mahrez, Islam Slimani and Marc Albrighton condemned Huddersfield to a seventh straight league defeat in the East Midlands city, a run that stretches back to the Yorkshire club’s last stint in the top flight.
Town, in fact, have to go back to 1954 for the last time a trip to either Filbert Street or its successor, the KP Stadium, yielded maximum points.
Rarely did that barren run look like ending yesterday even if Huddersfield did compete well in a tepid first half that was far from the pick-me-up required by those in the 31,748 crowd nursing hangovers.
Danny Williams wasted a couple of decent opportunities during those opening 45 minutes. But once Mahrez had put Leicester ahead early after the restart with a sumptuous volley there was an inevitability about David Wagner’s men slipping to a seventh away defeat of the season.
“The first goal was very important,” admitted the Terriers’ head coach, who is understood to be keen on bringing Monaco defender Terence Kongolo, brother of Doncaster Rovers loanee Rodney, to Huddersfield on loan.
“We had looked good and aggressive up to that point. Small margins decide games in the Premier League. We know that after 22 games in the Premier League and, to me, the first goal was avoidable. We should not have given it away.
“Against Burnley (in last Saturday’s goalless draw), I wasn’t happy with the performance, but I was with the result. At Leicester, I felt we performed very well for 60 minutes. It may look like a clear defeat, but we did well for 60 minutes.”
If there were any thick heads among the holiday crowd following New Year’s Eve over indulgence, the ideal hangover cure would have been a contest full of attacking intent and goalmouth incident.
I felt we performed very well for 60 minutes. It may look like a clear defeat, but we did well for 60 minutes.Huddersfield Town boss, David Wagner
Instead, what the hardy souls who braved the cold got was a clash that only spluttered into life in fits and starts before Leicester eventually ran out worthy winners.
Town’s best moments came during a first half in which Wagner’s men belied the tired legs that had been evident in the goalless draw at home to Burnley that had brought the curtain down on 2017.
The five changes to the starting XI made by the Terriers’ chief helped. But, if anything, the players who brought most energy to Huddersfield’s play during those opening 45 minutes were those who had looked the most heavy-legged against the Clarets just 48 hours earlier.
Aaron Mooy’s energy levels had been restored, as had those of Christopher Schindler and Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen at the back.
Typically, it was a pass from Mooy that created Williams’s big opening in the 19th minute as the United States international was played clear.
A shot on Kasper Schmeichel’s goal seemed a certainty only for Harry Maguire to pull off one of those defensive rescue jobs that became so familiar to fans of Hull City and Sheffield United during his time in Yorkshire.
Williams appealed for a free-kick after crashing to the floor, but even his manager was not swayed. “I thought he had to accelerate and go for goal,” said Wagner. “But maybe he decelerated and wanted to go for a foul, rather than a goal.”
Another opportunity was spurned by Williams a few minutes later, the midfielder shooting wide following impressive work from Steve Mounie and Tom Ince.
Town would rue these two missed chances, Mahrez breaking the deadlock eight minutes into the second half by volleying in Albrighton’s hooked cross.
Mahrez turned creator on the hour with a delightful through ball for Slimani to chase, the £30m striker then dinking the ball past Jonas Lossl to put the game effectively beyond the Terriers.
Wilfred Ndidi then fired against the crossbar as Leicester took charge before the final act came in stoppage-time as Albrighton converted from two yards following neat play by Demarai Gray to ensure Huddersfield made the trek north back up the M1 with a familiar sense of dejection.
Leicester City: Schmeichel; Amartey, Morgan (Dragovic 27), Maguire, Fuchs, Mahrez (Gray 76), Ndidi, James (Silva 85), Albrighton; Okazaki, Slimani. Unused substitutes: Hamer, Iborra, Iheanacho, Ulloa.
Huddersfield Town: Lossl; Smith (Depoitre 81), Jorgensen, Schindler, Lowe (Malone 74); Mooy, Williams; Lolley (Quaner 59), Ince, Van la Parra; Mounie. Unused substitutes: Coleman, Hogg, Cranie, Hadergjonaj.
Referee: G Scott (Oxfordshire).