Updated: Nov 18, 2019
Huddersfield Town lost their first game since September as they fell 3-1 to high-flying Preston at Deepdale. In this article, our chief writer John discusses the topics that stood out to him from enduring/watching the match…
“That, was perhaps the most disgusting game of football I have watched in years”, was the overriding thought in my head at full-time on Saturday. The clash between Preston and Town was so drab, so industrial and so dull that it made me actually question whether or not I liked football anymore.
There were three parties to blame for the clusterfuck of a game that we were forced to endure on Saturday. I’ll start with the man who pulled the strings, the man who by design, orchestrated a game in which the ball was very much secondary - Alex Neil.
The Preston gaffer has been known in his time for playing some excellent, attacking football, particularly when he was the manager of Norwich. However, in his post-match interview on Saturday, he admitted to favouring a slightly more ‘pragmatic approach’ to the game against Town.
Now I’m all for pragmatism and adapting to overcome situations, but Jesus wept. Preston’s approach wasn’t as much pragmatic as an airborne artillery attack. From the very first minute, the Lilywhites set their aim on the moon and directed all of their subsequent attacks via that route.
There will be those that read this and say, ‘there’s more than one way to win a game you know!!!’ To those people, I say stop being such a bloody contrarian and admit that it’s a horrific style of football to watch.
Burnley, Bolton and even peak Stoke had their merits, but what Preston did on Saturday was actually way beyond the drudgery of Pulis, Allardyce and Dyche. There was no nuance, no overriding skill, it was merely an effort to turn the game into a fight, with the result being that it made terrible viewing for the fans.
If you’re a Preston fan and you’re reading this thinking to yourself, “well I enjoyed the game”, you’re wrong. You didn’t enjoy the game, you fucking hated it just as much as I did but you enjoyed the result. The three points and the celebrations are what you enjoyed. Straining every sinew of your neck to spot the ball coming down from the clouds was not enjoyable for anyone.
The second party to blame for Saturday’ shitshow of a game were Town. Although Danny Cowley’s side made twice as many passes as Preston, they too were guilty of dragging the game through the muck and making it a fight rather than a spectacle.
Instead of standing up to Preston’s aggressive tactics, Town tried to take the sneaky way out by diving, feigning injury and surrounding the referee. The result being that barely 90 seconds went by without the peep of the officials’ whistle and that we were all forced to watch more of this ‘game’ than we actually had to.
I found myself actually willing the referee to lamp Chalobah at one point when the on-loan Chelsea midfielder screamed at him for what felt like an entire minute. In fact, how Chalobah managed not to pass out from oxygen depletion is beyond me.
It wasn’t just Chalobah that acted like a baby and screamed at the referee though, it was almost every player in a Town shirt. It was embarrassing to watch and perhaps one of the main reasons why we never gained a foothold in the game because we were too busy complaining about it rather than actually taking part in it.
(The odd bit of football was played on Saturday by both sides.)
The third figure to blame for this spectacular shitshow was the referee. Geoff Eltringham was the man in the middle with a whistle and he put in, by far, the most incompetent performance of a referee that I have witnessed in some time.
When Ryan Ledson went in studs up on Tommy Elphick, Eltringham seemed annoyed to have to show the Preston a yellow card, when in truth a red would have been better suited to the tackle.
From that point on his game went from farcical to comical. At one point it felt as though Town were officiating the game. Several players in red (sorry, coral) - most frequently Bacuna - would fall to the ground with no encouragement and win a free-kick, but only after screaming in the referee’s face.
After around ten minutes or so, the referee caught on to what was happening around him and began to take back control. Although he did this by giving more bizarre decisions, to the detriment of both teams.
The absolute pinnacle of Geoff Eltringham’s game came when he showed Preston’s Sean Maguire a yellow card for standing over the ball when Town were awarded a free-kick. It was bizarre because Maguire had stood in front of the ball for as little as two seconds.
But it was even more bizarre because minutes earlier, Maguire had been spared a card for pulling Juninho Bacuna down to the ground by his head. What was going on Geoff? Is momentarily delaying a restart now worse than performing an agricultural wrestling move?
All in all, Geoff Eltringham allowed Preston’s aggressive tackling to continue unchecked, took no notice of our play-acting and diving which made the game even harder to watch for the fans.
(Danny Cowley gives his view on the game, the performance of his players and some bizarre refereeing decisions.)
I have to move on now, because I’m at an increased risk of spontaneously combusting from rage. Have I mentioned how Saturday’s match was one of the vilest games of football I’ve ever watched? Oh, I have? Okay, I’ll move on.
The one positive to come from Saturday is that we got a glimpse of Alex Pritchard returning to his best and a positive showing from Steve Mounie to boot. Both were called on from the bench by Danny Cowley as we tried to wrestle (quite literally) our way back into the game in the second half.
Town’s diminutive midfielder looked, albeit briefly, back to his best as he drew opponents out of position, made incisive passes and had a real, positive impact on the game. Steve Mounie also looked impressive when he came off the bench.
For the first time in months, he actually looked motivated as he stepped out onto the pitch, and like Pritchard, he had a positive impact on the game. He may not have scored, which in fairness is not really his thing, but he did occupy Preston’s central defenders, making space for Karlan Grant and Elias Kachunga out wide.
He also looked confident on the ball, which I cannot remember thinking about Mounie since our 2-0 win at Molineux last season. On a day like Saturday, it was at least heartening to see two Town players performing well.
Especially when you consider the performance of Terence Kongolo, who put in the type of half-arsed showing that characterised this team under Jan Siewert. However, the less said about Kongolo the better, I don’t want to pop a blood vessel.
(Hopefully we can see a return of this Steve Mounie before too long.)
It’s fair to say that I was less than enamoured with the way that the game played out on Saturday. I despise the tactics employed by Preston, but what annoys me more is that Town responded by throwing their toys out of the pram.
Had we fought fire with fire and stood up to the questions that Preston asked of us, I would probably not be as angry as I am now. However, we didn’t and we lost and that is something I and others will have to get over.
A loss was always going to come, and the fact that it has made me so angry is a testament to how well we have played in recent months. At least there is the prospect of a home game against Birmingham to look forward to, when, after the international break the Cowley’s will have had more time to work with these players and improve them.