Huddersfield Town and the League One promotion race
With the League One promotion race now hotting up, it seems a fitting time to dip into the thoughts of a supporter of a club involved in the fight to reach the Championship. Huddersfield Town fan Charlie Johnson shares both his excitement at the task ahead and his frustration at their rivals’ irritating winning habit…
Another week goes by and Huddersfield Town have won three games on the bounce. Add to that the fact that we’re yet to lose a league game since 2010 and you’d think that Huddersfield Town would be sitting pretty in League One this year – probably at the summit, all set for a promotion party come May. Yet all is not as sunny as one would hope, due to the annoying fact that all our rivals keep on winning.
Once in a while, one will slip up, as Bournemouth did on Saturday, allowing us, at least for now, to sneak into second place. But even when one drops points, it’s usually against another of our rivals, meaning that we’re unlikely to form any kind of gap of any other teams.
Southampton beat Bournemouth, Peterborough absolutely thrashed a Carlisle side we’ve always struggled with, Brighton continued to cement their place at the summit of the table and MK Dons also had yet another comfortable win against Colchester. So out of the top six, only one team lost, which is becoming a real problem for our own aspirations.
Although we’ll probably have a fairly secure play-off place, it’s going to be a real battle to attempt to get an automatic spot. Last year, we all expected to gain promotion, but nobody was that shocked when Norwich, Leeds and Millwall ended up in the Championship as they were simply too good for the division. Looking at the participating clubs this year, it seemed as if we’d have a much better chance as it looked fairly even, with no outstanding teams unless Southampton and Charlton got their act together.
In fact, it’s turned out to be a very even league with only Brighton able to get a foothold. For these reasons, I’m no longer at all confident about promotion this year. Out of every team in the top six, we’re the ones scraping victories and struggling for goals. Where Peterborough can’t stop scoring, we barely seem capable of scoring a single goal before we hang on for dear life, hoping that the opposition don’t get a late equaliser as they so often have recently.
All hope is not lost, however. The horrific injury suffered by Anthony Pilkington seems to have galvanised spirit rather than destroying it, and holding out against a Bristol Rovers side that are fighting for their lives near the bottom for 85 minutes after an early goal shows a dogged determination that has often been missing in defence.
The return of Jordan Rhodes from injury is also a huge fillip as he is the only player we have in the team who can be relied on to score goals on a consistent basis. Benik Afobe on loan from Arsenal is quick but very raw and Lee Novak will score on occasion. Alan Lee only scores in cup ties, it would seem, where he stops being a huge, hopeless lump and turns into a reincarnation of Dixie Dean.
On the downside, we seem to be picking up an awful lot of injuries to vital players with Antony Kay out for a month, Gary Roberts coughing up his pre-match meal in Bristol and many other little niggles and flu bugs that are sidelining our players when we really need them. Add to that a needless elbow swing from Lee Peltier that meant we lost him for four games, along with long-term absentees Gary Naysmith and the much-missed Damien Johnson and we look a little light on the first team front.
Although I’ve often criticised Lee Clark in the past for bringing in players needlessly, I think now is the time to bring in a few players to give everyone a boost and hopefully add some attacking flair to a team struggling to put teams to the sword. Now is the time to grit our teeth, patch up our squad as best we can and hope that enough players stay fit for us to put out a winning side in every game.
I seriously doubt that we will stay in second from now until the end of the season. For that to happen, our biggest rivals will have to lose a few games and that simply doesn’t look likely any time soon. For the neutral, however, this league will be enthralling from now until May. The top six will battle to the end and the three prevailing teams will have fully deserved promotion when the season ends.
I just hope that one of those sides is Huddersfield Town as another year in this league might just be too much for many of us to cope with.