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Michael Oliver stole the show as Brighton & Hove Albion recovered from a goal down to beat Town 2-1 at the John Smith’s Stadium in a somewhat controversial clash. Zanka had put The Terriers ahead after 54 seconds when he headed home following a superb cross into his own box from Brighton full-back Bruno.
However the tie changed when Steve Mounie was dismissed after half an hour, Shane Duffy levelled the game from a deep cross. Florin Andone scored what proved to be the winner for the visitors in the 69th minute.
There were plenty of talking points to emerge from the game, with the main one being the performance of Michael Oliver. Strap yourselves in, because we’re about to kick off with an explosive look at the main moments from the game.
The Michael Oliver show
Northumberland based referee Michael Oliver took charge of his third Town game of the season and dished out his second Town red card whilst turning a blind eye to a second clear Town penalty.
Over the past two seasons Oliver has dished out a red card to a Town player in 50% of his games in charge, brandishing 6 reds in 8 games in that period. It’s often a cheap excuse to blame a referee following a bad result, but the proof is in the pudding – Michael Oliver has had a detrimental effect on Town in the games he has officiated.
Here are just a few of the things that Oliver and his team have got wrong in Town games;
- Steve Mounie’s red card
- Not awarding a penalty for the foul on Pritchard in the Brighton game
- Not dishing out a red card for the stamp on Durm
- Disallowing Pritchard’s goal against Liverpool
- Not spotting a Milner handball in the box
- Not sending off Charlie Daniels for three yellow card offences
- Allowing two offside goals
Shall we go on? I don’t think so, the point has been proven and Oliver should be nowhere near a Huddersfield Town match for the foreseeable future. In fact, a spell in the lower leagues would be refreshing to see but it’s unlikely considering the spineless decision making at the FA.
David Wagner’s disaster
Losing your striker to a red card after only half an hour is undoubtedly going to have a negative impact on your team’s chances of success. Yet there are ways and means to deal with that adversity, especially when facing a team of a similar skill level such as Brighton.
Instead Wagner chose to shut up shop and contain Brighton by dropping deeper and deeper as well as surrendering possession to the visitors. Mounie’s red card seemed to mark the beginning of the end for Town, there was no ambition to proactively win the game, rather the focus was to reactively survive the game.
At one point when Town were 2-1 down, 6 of our 9 outfield players were defenders, that’s not good enough and some would say Town got what they deserved for their negative tactics after the red card.
Michael Oliver did his best to ruin the game for Town, but Wagner didn’t react well and that is ultimately what cost us in this game. With all due respect to Brighton, we weren't playing Manchester City and holding on for grim death against the Seagulls for over an hour was foolish.
Phil Bill’s coming of age falters
Last week we waxed lyrical about Phillip Billing following his masterful performance at Molineux, this week we unfortunately have to do the opposite. Billing’s display against Brighton was the complete antithesis to his showing last week, and he seemed to become a caricature of every criticism he has ever received.
His tackling was lacklustre, at times his pressing seemed lazy and his passing was at best half-hearted. With Mooy being replaced by Tommy Smith (a baffling substitution), the onus was on Billing to take command of the midfield area.
Unfortunately he didn’t do that and in doing so, highlighted that last week was merely a glimpse of a future that still seems some way off.
Two words that could perhaps sum Town up in the last 18 months, both in front of goal and more generally. 7 points from the last 9 available made for good reading for Town fans, but 10 from 12 would have looked even better.
Despite scoring after 54 seconds and playing against an obviously rattled Brighton, Town didn’t take full advantage of their momentum to put 2 or possibly 3 past the beleaguered visitors. Even when Mounie was sent off, Town didn’t capitalise on what they had - they were winning 1-0 at that point.
Victory would have put breathing space between Town and the relegation zone, instead we are right back in amongst it. Today’s result feels similar to those from the festive period last season. When freedom from the relegation fight looked to be in sight, Town slipped and fell right back into it.
Let’s hope that we don’t come to rue that at the end of the season. Anyway that’s enough from me today, we’ll be back with our preview of the Bournemouth game in the next few days. Until then, UTT and f*ck Michael Oliver, Buffon was right about you!!!