Huddersfield 1 Cardiff 0. Match Report.

Last updated : 27 January 2003 By NigelBlues

The first half display was woeful, the second half was more spirited but Cardiff lacked creativity, the goal conceded was another (Prior inspired - again!), defensive calamity and the fans are now very discontent with long and loud boos at final whistle but most of the venom being directed towards manager Lennie Lawrence.

Supporters have shown patience at less than entertaining performances and faults for most of this season as results have rolled in. They have shown faith in Lennie despite the majority being dissatisfied that Lennie has failed to give City real width or creativity. However poor performances and results undermining City's promotion credentials have meant his long-term honeymoon is finally over.

For the sake of the thousands of frustrated fans like myself, Lennie owes us some answers about what is gong on in his head because whether you have belief or not, I do not know any City fan who can justify City's selections, tactics and formation at McAlpine Stadium.

City fans arriving at the stadium before kick-off winced at the news of the line-up which defied belief. Graham Kavanagh was not in Huddersfield, apparently suffering with sickness so some adjustment was needed but it look as if Lennie had put the players names in the hat and drawn out who played where. You could pick fault everywhere you looked.

Let's start with the system, we went 4-3-3 which Lennie scrapped earlier in the season after going on record and admitting that it didn't work. So why the hell was it reintroduced? If you're employ 4-3-3, having the right personnel is essential, Lennie got it badly wrong with nearly half the team out of position.

Defensively, Lennie and City persevered yet again with Spencer Prior who has looked entirely to blame or mostly to blame for far too many goals conceded. When suspended recently, many fans thought Spencer would be rested but Lennie put him straight back in. Without much to do defensively, Prior still got beaten every time Booth went against him, it eventually brought Huddersfield's goal. Without Gabbi in the team, we need him back urgently, City have only kept 1 clean sheet in their last 10 games (against Huddersfield at Ninian Park).

Lennie's midfield selections were ridiculous. Bonner, the true central midfielder, pushed wide right. Lennie praised his game and he did very well but let's not forget Lennie has ignored Bonns all season. The central choices were, inexplicably, Legg and Fan Zhiyi, combined age of 72. Leggy's effectiveness is lost there, Fan selected despite poor performances including one for the reserves in midweek.

The front three were Earnie and Thorne, no qualms with that, but Leo wide left was a joke. Out of position and on his wrong foot, Leo has failed in that role since an early season hot spell, it's exactly why he and this formation was dispensed with. He got injured after 20 minutes and, this is where Lennie really lost it, he brought on Andy Campbell also out of position and on the wrong foot to do exactly the same thing.

To have totally ignored Jason Bowen, who scored 2 and destroyed Huddersfield almost single-handedly just 4 weeks ago was criminal, to use Leo and Campbell ahead of Alan Mahon who is a Premier player used to that role and who was brought in to give City bite and balance is beyond my understanding.

It was a botched formation, a botched line up, no wonder City botched it up. Lennie and his selections got exactly what they deserved. The agony was, for travelling fans, on a 450 mile trip following immediately after wasted 300 mile trips to Port Vale and part/most of the way to Northampton as their previous 2 away experiences, it was more than we could take or we deserve to tolerate.

Huddersfield are in absolute turmoil and they still looked better organised, prepared and spirited than City, that's the reality we have to face. They're bottom of the league with just 1 win in the past 15 matches since early October and 1 point from their last 18. They're financial problems are massive with some talk that they could be close to liquidation, never mind administration. Two directors resigned in the build up to this match and they sacked manager Mick Wadsworth midweek but then let him carry on when they realised they couldn't afford to pay him off. They lost their captain, Steve Jenkins, on the morning of the game.

McAlpine Stadium is good but I'm glad its not a design that will be copied by City. Built on raised ground, the stands are 4 semi-oval designs with each corner open and didn't we know it as a chilling wind ripped though those areas. The views were excellent, the in-ground bars and catering expensive but appreciated. The policing far too intrusive and excessive and which didn't help some of the problems that occurred with fans coaches arriving late and then being held up, with loads of cars, for almost 1 hour after the game finished.

If you thought the 2nd of the Cheltenham game last week was low entertainment, poor quality, it eclipsed the depths into which the first 45 minutes sunk in this game. City's players, not surprisingly, looked lost and not knowing their jobs. Huddersfield's were enthusiastic and more fired up but extremely ordinary and little better. City's fans quickly became subdued, fed up and comatosed with much of the fan action seeming to centre on a "sing off" with their Huddersfield counter-parts on either side of the pitch rather than get enthralled with events on the pitch.

Cardiff first half showing was pitiful. The lack of ability by supposed quality and well paid players to pass to each other was little short of disgraceful. There was no fluency, but how often can we say there is?, Fan and Leggy's presence was near non-existent as they were overrun or watched balls fly straight over them and looking dodgy at the back as Huddersfield showed exactly why they are the worst scoring team in the division with only 19 scored in 27 games.

Andy Booth hardly saw any service but when he did, he was able to pick off and beat Spencer Prior almost at will. One header flew wide, another clutched, just, right under the crossbar by Alexander who caused more palpitations again by running out when he didn't need to and standing on his line like a rabbit in headlights when he needed to come and collect. If Scott Young has a groin strain today, it'll be because of two occasions where he had to strain to chase and clear balls that should have been routine for "Scotland's No 1". I wonder how Martin Margetson, Huddersfield's keeper last season, felt watching that yet again from the bench?

City were also indebted to Rhys Weston coming across goal to make a heroic clearance from a Huddersfield break and Scott Young who injured himself making an outstanding last gasp challenge and tackle that he had no right to make. They should also thank Huddersfield's Jon Stead who was lively but whose shooting was appalling. How can he call himself a striker?

As for City going forward, do you really expect much to happen when your outlets and creativity are supposed to come from Leggy and Fan in centre of midfield, Bonner pushed right and Leo/Campbell on the left? If you did, you name must be Lennie Lawrence. Prepare to be disappointed as we saw hardly anything happen at all.

Our first glimmer of excitement came just after 20 minutes as Leo was subbed. He didn't look injured but must have been. We hoped Lennie had seen the light and the problems with his choices but not a chance as he straight swapped him for Campbell and ignored Mahon. A chance to redeem things and we let it go, fans shuddered.

City's first effort, a half-hearted Campbell effort which flew wide, came on half-hour. 10 minutes before half-time, we dared to get a shot on target as a Leggy cross was flicked by Thorne and Fan Zhiyi hit a low ball without power, Bevan got down to save.

And that, folks, was it! I felt sorry for Earnie and Thorne but I feel sorriest of all for our supporters who shouldn't have to put up with this and to Sam who must be wondering what benefits there are from all the financial and moral support he gives his manager and players.

H/T: Huddersfield 0 City 0

Cardiff cam back out with a lot more fire in their bellies and showing some passion at last but were stifled by the system and selections. The fans were up for it too as singing take off to new levels, City fans easily drowning the home support.

It reminded me of the Coventry F.A. Cup away game where City totally flattered to deceive and even had many of our own fans purring how well we acquitted ourselves against a (competent but nothing special) First Division side ignoring the reality that whilst we had possession and territory, we didn't have a clue how to make the most of it and show effectiveness.

The bulk of the game was now played in Huddersfield's half but we did next to nothing, the home side broke and nearly punished us every time they did. They still couldn't shoot but Alexander was forced into 2 smart saves which, in a poor game, meant he had more to do than Huddersfield's bald 6'5" keeper Bevan who also barely had to take a cross all afternoon too.

Earnie came close early on as he twisted and turned inside the area, his shot though two defenders hit the side netting. With 20 minutes to go, Earnie broke clear wide right after a defensive error but coming into the area at an angle, misfired and his shot sliced well wide. Fan Zhiyi got into the game more, he had to, and was unlucky with a 25 yard drive that the referee (yes, the ref!) blocked on the edge of the area, those directly behind the goal swear it was on the way.

Thorne worked hard but starved of adequate service had to go hunting for the ball but had a chance as he met a cross from the industrious Chris Barker, his looped header went over, he perhaps could have done better with 12 minutes to go.

Almost immediately after that, Mark Bonner was replaced by Alan Mahon was ran onto the pitch and from the other end gestured to us by doing the ayatollah which made him an instant hero but he then became instant villain too by conceding a free-kick before he touched the ball which led to the home side's winner and their first goal in more than 5 hours of football.

Cardiff's defending of set pieces has been appalling this season and it cost them yet again as a simple knocked knocked into the centre of goal saw ANDY BOOTH yet again beat Prior from close range. Total despair and you knew there was no way back for City.

Mahon showed glimpses of the good player and asset that he can be as he buzzed around the left with plenty of energy which made it more frustrating that he was ignored.

It was an afternoon with little humour but Mahon was behind one of the biggest laughs as a free-kick of his hit Thorrington full in the face to send him into semi-consciousness. As the ball broke clear, Thorrington didn't have a clue where he was as was running diagonally across the pitch like someone who had been spun around blindfolded and made to run off. A player had to stop him and the ref halted the game.

With a late start and added time, it was 5pm when the game finished. Thorne headed for goal at the far post, Bevan tipped over, and Mahon made him save with a low 18 yard effort and that was it.

Huddersfield celebrated as if they had won the FA Cup, City fans and players were gutted. Earnie and a couple of others came to acknowledge us, they were applauded but that was drowned by boos.

Yorkshire's finest police decided to make their presence show one final time as a ridiculous amount of them, hardware and horses surrounded the coaches and a stand off ensued. The police should have let the fans board in peace and get them away, it was poor officialdom, but the fans didn't help either by not turning a blind eye to it and getting on board. All in all, it meant our car was stuck at the ground for an hour after the match finished. Terrible end to a terrible day.

There will be many inquests into went wrong at Huddersfield but in my mind, and that of everyone else at McAlpine Stadium, this time it's not enough to point fingers at players and blame them. Something Lennie has done already. He now needs to take a long, calm look at himself and what he's doing.

Lennie make his experience count by selecting players and formations to get the best out of his resources, something he hasn't been doing for a while. Indeed, recent times have seen him change personnel and formations almost by the game, no wonder we have problems.

He can't show favouritism or continue standing by those who have let us down for a while, no neeed to name names is there?, he must stop using players out of position (I cannot think of an example yet where it has worked) and he seriously needs to look at more new faces. I am bewildered that we have been so complacement so far during the transfer window of such a crucial season for this club.

Many of us have seen these problems coming for a long time, now they've finally arrived and been recognised by just about everybody. It's up to you Lennie to respond.

Report from FootyMad
Brave Andy Booth threw himself into a cluster of flailing arms and legs to earn crisis club Huddersfield Town their first win in seven games.

Booth dived in to direct a pinpoint header in off the far post from Kenny Irons' left wing cross ten minutes from time and injured himself in the process.

The former Tottenham striker required several minutes of treatment and was eventually substituted, but the burly frontman's bravery was a symptomatic off a gusty Town performance full of the kind of passion, commitment and guile that has been so sadly lacking for most of the Terriers troubled season.

The home side out fought Cardiff throughout the entire match and it was only wayward shooting that prevented the Welshmen from losing by a bigger margin.

Town's lack of firepower has been one of the major talking points of their relegation haunted campaign. The Terriers have the worst scoring record in the entire football league - just 20 goals and they have lost nine of their 28 league games by a single goal.

Under fire boss Mick Wadsworth's hands are tied because while he would like to bring in a striker on loan the club's finances do not allow him any movement in the transfer market.

But the players rose above the off-field problems to win only their second league match in 13 attempts and give themselves hope of beating the drop.

The Bluebirds nearly fell behind after 11 minutes when a defensive mistake by Scott Young gifted the ball to Martin Smith down the right. Smith played Adrian Moses in behind the City defence and keeper Neil Alexander had to react swiftly to claw the defenders near post effort away for a corner.

And after the break striker Jon Stead latched on to a fine through ball from Irons, jinked past two defenders but only managed to find the corner flag with a woeful 20-yard effort.

External reports
Wales On Sunday
The Football Echo