Yuta Nakayama lifts Huddersfield Town out of the early-season doldrums

ON A day of scorching temperatures, drinks breaks and wet towels for players, the main talk afterwards was about a man from the land of the rising sun.

Japanese international Yuta Nakayama scored his first goal for Huddersfield Town and what a goal it was.

But it was his heart, desire and intensity that was truly warming.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The rest of his team-mates were with him and at the end of the game, there were scenes of celebration in front of the Cowshed Loyal which seemed a million miles away ahead of kick-off.

Yuta Nakayama scoring Town's opening goal against Stoke City. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)Yuta Nakayama scoring Town's opening goal against Stoke City. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)
Yuta Nakayama scoring Town's opening goal against Stoke City. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

Town had their soul back and fans had their team back once again, four days on from a dark night against Preston which ended with unreserved apologies.

Nakayama’s thumping header before the break sent Town on their way against Stoke. But this was an occasion when the bouquets were plentiful and shared among a group of players who clearly care and had taken their hard start to the season to heart.

Sorba Thomas was the winger of last season, Jonathan Hogg patrolled midfield with the authority of a general, Ollie Turton was wonderfully fastidious at the back and at the top end, Danny Ward was the leader of the pack.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Sweet cameos also arrived from two senior players in Duane Holmes – who set up Town’s two late goals – and Jordan Rhodes.

Yuta Nakayama heads in Town's opening goal. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)Yuta Nakayama heads in Town's opening goal. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)
Yuta Nakayama heads in Town's opening goal. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

As for the new boy? Well, Kaine Kesler-Hayden sparkled. Another recent arrival in Jack Rudoni looked the part and if that wasn’t enough, there was also the reassuring presence of Lee Nicholls.

The main raps went to Nakayama, but without the input of Nicholls, it could have been a whole lot different.

Little had hitherto gone right this term for Town and Danny Schofield. He and around 16,500 others will have looked up to the clear blue skies ruefully on 20 minutes when the hosts’ encouraging start disintegrated when Stoke were awarded a penalty.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It came after Josh Ruffels caught Josh Laurent with a high boot. The Stoke midfielder’s reaction was theatrical, but it was a needless challenge and a rightful spot-kick.

Danny Ward celebrates scoring Town's second goal with Duane Holmes in the win over Stoke City (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)Danny Ward celebrates scoring Town's second goal with Duane Holmes in the win over Stoke City (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)
Danny Ward celebrates scoring Town's second goal with Duane Holmes in the win over Stoke City (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

Nicholls provided the balm when he guessed right to fling himself to his left to keep out Lewis Baker’s penalty.

The Stoke captain was the first to the rebound and the ball was eventually diverted into the path of Halifax-born Jacob Brown, whose low drive hit the far post.

As for the importance of that penalty save, Schofield was in no doubt afterwards. A pivotal moment in the game and key moment in the season, he opined. Not too many would disagree.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The fact it arrived on just the third weekend of 2022-23 conveyed everything about its importance. How Town needed that.

Baker – who celebrated becoming a dad recently – would atone for his penalty miss by blasting in a rasping leveller on 56 minutes.

But this was Town’s day, and Schofield’s. His decision to switch back to a 5-4-1 system without the ball and a 3-4-3 with it bore fruit.

His players looked happier and his team far more structured in the process and the Schofield era can now officially begin.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A relieved Schofield said: “It is massive. I said to the lads in the changing room that I have got two kids and nearly said the feeling there was better than when they were born. But I held myself back and said it was equal because it would have upset the missus.

“But the reason why I am in the game – and everybody else – is because it is emotional and you are passionate about it. And the emotions when you lose are tough.

“This was a good day for all of us and the emotions are different from the last three games.”

Specifically on the input of Nakayama on his full league debut, the Town head coach continued: “Yuta has come in and adapted really quickly.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It is a credit to him as a person that he has come to England to improve and develop and play for Huddersfield Town and he showed good English qualities.

“We identified the player and his qualities and found out about him as a person and decided he was the right suit for this club.

“The goal he scored was an outstanding moment and defensively as well with the physical duels and competitive actions – the Championship is full of these – he was excellent.”

Nakayama’s moment came when he gave Stoke defender Connor Taylor the slip before planting a thumping header from Thomas’s corner to put Town ahead on 40 minutes in a first half which was as good as the previous three this season had been bad.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

To their credit, Stoke upped the ante in the second half and fully tested the hosts. Their leveller came and they threatened to take over. It made Town’s victory all the more important.

This was no stroll and they had to overcome adversity, an important facet in any team’s evolution.

The mistakes would later come from Stoke and not Town.

A loose pass from Ben Wilmot was seized upon by Holmes, whose low centre was gobbled up by Ward.

It was the cue for Stoke to capitulate and Rudoni’s clever pass would then send Holmes clear with the substitute unselfishly setting up his fellow replacement Rhodes to seal the deal and score his second goal in successive home games. Crisis? What crisis.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Huddersfield Town: Nicholls; Turton, Lees, Nakayama; Kesler-Hayden (Boyle 89), Hogg, Rudoni, Ruffels; Anjorin (Holmes 64), Ward (Rhodes 83), Thomas (Camara 83). Unused substitutes: Chapman, Russell, Koroma.

Stoke City: Bursik; Taylor, Flint, Wilmot; Sparrow (Campbell 79), Baker, Laurent (Clucas 80), Smallbone, Tymon; Brown, Gayle. Unused substitutes: Bonham, Jagielka, Clarke, Thompson, Kilkenny, Wright-Phillips.

Referee: M Donohue (Greater Manchester).

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.