Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Huddersfield Town 3: Beckford’s finishing powers are key to Town’s survival chances

Jermaine Beckford of Huddersfield Town scoresJermaine Beckford of Huddersfield Town scores
Jermaine Beckford of Huddersfield Town scores
it has been a far from vintage season for Jermaine Beckford.

This, let us not forget, is a striker who not so long ago found the net more than 30 times in back-to-back seasons. Beckford also has eight Premier League goals to his name from the year he spent with Everton after leaving Leeds United.

With that in mind, this term’s return of just half-a-dozen goals means 2012-13 can only be judged as a major disappointment for both Beckford and Huddersfield Town, who – even allowing for the pay cut the 29-year-old took on his reputed £37,000-per-week wages at Leicester City – made a huge financial commitment when taking the striker on loan for the season.

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What should not, though, be lost sight of amid the injury problems that have dogged Beckford is just how important those six goals have been to the Terriers’ cause.

In the FA Cup, for instance, his third round strike condemned Charlton Athletic to a 1-0 defeat.

It is in the league, however, where Beckford has proved his real worth by netting in the 1-0 wins over Birmingham City and Barnsley plus the home and away triumphs against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Take away the eight points his winning strikes have earned and Town’s Championship status would be hanging by a thread going into tomorrow night’s trip to Blackburn Rovers. As it is, Mark Robins’s men sit three places and two points above the drop zone after Beckford came off the bench at Molineux to settle a pulsating contest with a quickfire double inside 97 seconds.

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Sean Scannell, the scorer of Huddersfield’s other goal in what could prove to be a decisive victory over Dean Saunders’s Wolves side, is in no doubt as to how important team-mate Beckford has been to the Yorkshire club’s survival battle.

“Players like Jermaine are priceless in this division,” said Scannell about his team-mate, whose six goals have come from 19 appearances, five of which have been from the bench.

“He has had a frustrating time with the injuries, but he is a quality player and a happy guy round the place. Nothing gets him down and when he plays, you can see his Premier League quality.

“Jermaine has scored some really important goals. Injuries have knocked him back, but he can bounce back.”

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Beckford’s introduction to the fray at Molineux came just after the hour mark. The score was level at 1-1 after Stephen Ward’s third-minute strike had been cancelled out by Scannell’s solo effort and the contest really could have gone either way.

Within 60 seconds, Wolves wasted a golden chance to regain the initiative when the ball fell to Roger Johnson just eight yards out from the Town goal. With only Alex Smithies to beat and Johnson unmarked, a goal seemed likely only for the defender to screw his shot horribly wide.

It was a major let-off and one that, thanks to Beckford’s renowned prowess in front of goal, Huddersfield duly took advantage of to claim victory.

First, James Vaughan brought a reflex save from Dorus De Vries by meeting Oliver Norwood’s 69th-minute corner with a bullet header. As the ball bounced down inside the six-yard box, Beckford reacted quickest to fire an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.

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The goal owed everything to his predatory instinct. Beckford’s second, however, was a far more impressive effort as, after collecting a neat pass from Scannell, he left Johnson for dead with a neat turn before coolly chipping the ball beyond the advancing De Vries.

Scannell added: “It is great to have a player like Becks on the bench. He can score goals and just seeing him come on gives everyone a lift.

“We all know if we can put him away and give him opportuniteis then he is going to score. Just look at the goals he scored – they were him in a nutshell, especially the second one.”

If Beckford’s double was, as Scannell suggests, “him in a nutshell” then what can be said about Jamie O’Hara’s reaction to falling 3-1 behind?

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Madness? Brainless? Probably a mixture of both, as O’Hara inexplicably marched up to Keith Southern in the centre circle as the game got back under way and pushed the Town midfielder to the ground.

Referee Keith Stroud simply had no alternative but to brandish the red card and heap further misery on the locals, whose side are now in grave danger of suffering a second relegation in as many seasons.

The chant of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” that soon rang round Molineux was as predictable as it was understandable.

Adding to the sense of gloom among all but the 1,800 Town fans present was how well Wolves had actually started the game, with Ward’s early strike coming during an opening quarter that saw the visitors run ragged.

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It took a switch of formation by Robins to change matters, as 
4-2-3-1 gave way to a set-up that saw Adam Clayton moved to the right and Neil Danns pushed up front in support of Vaughan.

Coming midway through the first half, the switch transformed not only the game but also possibly the season for the two teams. Suddenly, the visitors had seized the initiative, thanks to a wonderful 27th-minute goal by Scannell.

Claiming possession wide on the left, the one-time Crystal Palace man showed tremendous skill, power and poise to, first, dart through two challenges before firing beyond De Vries from a tight angle.

It was a goal worthy of winning any game – even if, in the end, that accolade went to Beckford as the striker’s second-half double breathed fresh life into Town’s survival hopes.

Of the dismissal Saunders said: “Jamie has raised his hands but he (Southern) shouldn’t be proud of himself for the way that he has gone down. If you raise your hands, though, it is a red card.”