Huddersfield Town v Newcastle United: Resilience is key as Terriers count cost of injuries

AS IN life, timing can be everything in football.

What might have been: Midfielder Alex Pritchard rues a missed opportunity for Huddersfield Town earlier this season
What might have been: Midfielder Alex Pritchard rues a missed opportunity for Huddersfield Town earlier this season

So, for Huddersfield Town to head into a potentially season-defining four weeks on the back of recently losing several players until well into the New Year is unfortunate.

Danny Williams this week became the latest to be struck down by an injury crisis that since the start of December had already claimed talisman Aaron Mooy, club captain Tommy Smith and Abdelhamid Sabiri.

Mooy is the most serious loss, as underlined by Australia coach Graham Arnold insisting the national team’s physio flies to England to provide a second opinion on whether the midfielder will be available for the latter stages of the Asia Cup despite Huddersfield’s own medical staff saying he is out until February.

But Williams’s absence is a blow, not least as he was seen as a worthy stand-in for Mooy after making his first league start since March in last weekend’s defeat at Arsenal.

Wagner is today expected to turn to Juninho Bacuna – the summer signing from Holland who has just 51 minutes of Premier League action to his name – alongside Jonathan Hogg and Phillip Billing, the latter being back from suspension.

It is far from ideal going into a run of half a dozen games that includes meetings with five of the top-flight’s bottom seven clubs. Nevertheless, Alex Pritchard is adamant that Huddersfield can give their survival hopes a major boost despite being without the quartet of injured players.

“It is a massive period,” said the 25-year-old to The Yorkshire Post. “Newcastle, everyone says it is a six pointer. Same with Cardiff. Southampton, Burnley and Fulham.

Referee Paul Tierney shows a yellow card to Huddersfield Town's Alex Pritchard during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London. (Picture: Isabel Infantes/PA Wire)

“This is a run in the winter period when we need to be up. We have to be resilient and we have to defend for our lives, create as much as we can, score goals. Especially in these games.”

Pritchard knew all about Mooy long before moving to the John Smith’s Stadium earlier this year after being in the Norwich City side beaten 3-0 by Huddersfield during the ultimately successful 2017 promotion run-in for the Yorkshire club.

“It is a long time I first came up against Aaron but I could see he was a good player,” he said about an April night that saw Mooy score. “Then, when you train with him week in and week out, you see he is a fantastic player.

“The injury is a blow but we have to move on from it. You have to keep going and we all know he will be back soon.

“Newcastle is a massive game. We have to forget about what has happened and instead focus on the now. We have to pick up points.”

As Wagner tries to plot a path through his injury travails, Socceroos chief Arnold is attempting to do the same ahead of next month’s Asia Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

He wants a second opinion on the tear to the medial collateral ligament in Mooy’s right knee, something Wagner is more than happy to accommodate.

“I totally understand and we will support them if they like to have a second opinion,” added the Terriers chief. “That is their right.

“We have already given them our images from his scans and the reports from the specialist as well. We have no secrets about it.”

Huddersfield’s task in the absence of Mooy is to improve the Premier League’s worst goalscoring record. Town have found the net just 10 times in 16 outings, Mooy being top scorer thanks to the double he scored in last month’s 2-0 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Performances have warranted more, as Pritchard is right to acknowledge.

But the midfielder also recognises that the goals must soon start to flow if Town are to get out of trouble.

“Everything is about goals,” he said wearily. “We are trying our hardest. It is difficult. But it does need to happen this weekend.

“We are definitely a better team (this season compared to last).

“You look at the teams we have played against. Tottenham at home, we had near enough 50 per cent possession.

“At Bournemouth, we had 70 per cent, something no-one would think would happen with Huddersfield Town.

“That is all well and good, of course. The business we are in is getting points. You can have possession stats but we lost.

“We need points but the thing that keeps the belief up is we are playing well.”

Even Town’s harshest critics would surely agree with Pritchard in his belief that performances this time around have been a big improvement on 2017-18, even though Wagner’s men host Newcastle sitting third bottom of the table.

What needs addressing, however, is a tendency not to capitalise when on top.

Pritchard added: “These three defeats are difficult to take after a game like Wolves, when how we played was like putting out a statement to the other teams.

“We needed to back it up but unfortunately we were not able to do that. We need to get back to being hard to beat and play good football.

“When we played at Wolves, they gave up for the final 20 minutes and that is hard to do in the Premier League. That is what we need to get back to.

“The difference probably is we scored when we had to. We had to get a second against West Ham and kill them off. That would have given us a cushion, which is what we managed against Wolves thanks to Aaron.

“We all said at half-time, ‘We need a second’. If we get that, the game is done. Bournemouth was similar. They were quick out of the blocks but we should have come back from 2-0 down and could have won it. That was hard to take.”