Back In Town

Paul Traill 25/08/2021 15comments  |  Jump to last

“See you in a few weeks” my phone beeped. I wasn’t aware of the Carabao Cup draw at the time but knew instantly what this meant - we had drawn Huddersfield Town in the cup.

The WhatsApp message was from Sean, an old university friend and big Huddersfield Town supporter. As Gaz and I went to university in Huddersfield many, many years ago, we were very keen to revisit the town, see some old haunts and relive some of our youth, so we decided we would make a bit of a day/night of it, and booked a few days off work. Dan joined us.

Gaz drove and it was plain sailing up the M62. We arrived in Huddersfield at around 2.30pm and having checked into the hotel we headed out for a few beers, first visiting The Crown until some of the clientèle forced us into a bit of a change of plan, a shame as the ale was flowing nicely in there. We then moved on to The Lord Wilson Weatherspoons where we met Sean and then onto The Warehouse, where I spent a lot of my time as a student as its good for food, drink and live sports. Nice to see it still standing strong.

As happens, time caught up with us and in the blink of an eye it was about 7.15pm and so time to head towards the John Smith’s stadium. On route we chatted to a few Huddersfield Town supporters and we got to our seats well in time for kick off in what was a much changed line up for Everton with only Alex Iwobi and Michael Keane retained from Saturday’s draw at Leeds United. The atmosphere created by both sets of supporters was vibrant, Everton wearing their black and orange kit were attacking the goal at the far end in the first half.

I felt we began confidently enough. It was good to get a first hand look at Jarrad Branthwaite who seems to be a very composed player. Huddersfield Town too played their part in what was quite a fiery encounter. Everton took the lead on 26 minutes when Tom Davies surged forward brilliantly after a quick give and go with Andros Townsend before placing a delicate through ball to Alex Iwobi. The Nigerian international finished well past Lee Nicholls to give Everton the advantage. The most impressive thing about the goal however was the delicious chest pass by Tom to Andros which triggered the move. If you haven’t yet seen it try and watch it back, it’s quite something.

We almost doubled our money only two minutes later when Niels Nkounkou rampaged forward and slipped the ball in for Moise Kean who finished emphatically, though the flag had unfortunately, and perhaps unfairly, gone up for offside.

Gaz went down early to get the half time beers in and with a few minutes remaining in the half and seemingly no danger of Huddersfield Town levelling matters, Dan, Ben (another university friend who joined us for the match) and I headed up to join him. At the Huddersfield Town away end there isn’t a concourse as such, its more of an outdoor area where fans can mingle, but there are very few, if any, places to rest your drinks or perch. So the sight of Gaz holding three beers together while gripping three packaged hot dogs with his teeth will live long in the memory.

And of course we missed the goal. A routine corner routinely headed in by Tom Lees who escaped the attentions of his marker Michael Keane far too easily. That’s mistake number three in three games for Michael. The knives are being sharpened.

Huddersfield Town made quite the fist of it in the second half, aided of course by a red card for Moise Kean. I’m still unclear exactly what Moise did. Some of the lads around us seemed to think he had grabbed Sorba Thomas by the throat. I’ve seen a brief replay where he stops and squares up to the Huddersfield Town midfielder, but I haven’t seen anything else. That’s all we need with trying to get him off our books.

The Terriers kept on knocking on the door, the closest perhaps being when Duane Holmes let fly from range and Asmir did ever so well to tip it over the crossbar. Like ourselves earlier, Huddersfield Town also had the ball in the net but it was mysteriously chalked out for offside, much to our relief.

So with Everton a man down and on the back foot, it is credit to Rafa Benitez who substituted pro-actively and carved out the opportunity which put us into the hat for Round 3. It was an excellent and patient build up with two of our substitutes, Andre Gomes and Lucas Digne both heavily involved, culminating in Andre Gomes getting free into the penalty area, playing a great one-two with Alex Iwobi and pulling the ball back smartly to Andros Townsend who netted well. Delight amongst the Evertonians.

We managed to see the game out comfortably enough from here forth, with Huddersfield Town’s spirit broken, provoking party time in the away end.

At full time we walked back into the centre and met Sean at The Vulcan, a very popular pub for Huddersfield Town supporters. It was great to chat to some of their fans and get an idea of their outlook on the game. Most of them felt they were a bit unlucky, probably with some justification. As we edged towards midnight we moved on to another bar called Showtime where there were a few other Evertonians enjoying a drink. It turns out we weren’t the only Evertonians making a night of it.

It was great to be back in Huddersfield, a place I’m very fond of. And better still to get into the hat for the next round where a trip to Loftus Road awaits.

Player ratings

Asmir Begovic: He made some good saves though most of them I would say he would be expected to make. He worried me with the ball at his feet as he made some poor decisions. My early opinion is that he’s a downgrade on Robin Olsen, though given financial restrictions its a sensible enough signing. 5

Neils Nkounkou: He made some good bursts forward though I wasn’t convinced by him defensively. 5

Mason Holgate: Mason captained the side and put in a reasonable performance. 6

Michael Keane: In his previous two games this season I feel he has played well though made two big mistakes. In this one he made a mistake and didn’t play particularly well. I think he will do well to remain in the team for Saturday. 5

Jarrad Branthwaite: Jarrad is certainly a very confident player and has a bit of John Stones body language about him. I’m keen to see how he progresses. 6

Jonjo Kenny: I thought Jonjo had a very good game at right back. We are all aware right back is a problem position and the feeling amongst Evertonians is that Jonjo is up to the job. He probably isn’t. Though I would say that if come deadline day we still haven’t addressed the right back position, we could do worse than have Jonjo as back up to Seamus. 7

Jean-Phillippe Gbamin: He did quite well in the middle in his first 90 minutes for over two years. 6

Tom Davies: He was busy as ever and I am still marvelling at that brilliant chest pass he made to get out opening goal up and running. 6

Andros Townsend: He had a good game with a hand in our opener and then scoring the winner of course. A good effort. 7

Alex Iwobi: A very good performance again from Alex who has started the season very impressively. LIke Andros, he scored one and had a hand in the other. An unlikely star this season perhaps. My man of the match. 8

Moise Kean: Disappointing. Disappointing that he managed to get himself sent off, but over and above that I’m disappointed in his performance and general movement. There were times when it looked like there were opportunities for him to make a run and stretch the defence but I found he was incredibly static a lot of the time. We will do well to get him off our books permanently in the next week or so and I suspect another loan move beckons. 4

Substitutes:

Andre Gomes (for Jarrad Branthwaite): He had a poor first five minutes or so but once he got to grips with the game he was excellent and made a key contribution to assist our winning goal. 7

Lucas Digne (for Tom Davies): The performance and professionalism on display from Lucas really highlights his quality and suggests Niels has quite a way to go. 6

Demarai Gray (for Neils Nkounkou): He did well, was busy and lively from the moment he crossed the white line. 7


Reader Comments (15)

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Mike Gaynes
1 Posted 26/08/2021 at 05:17:18
Always enjoy your reports, Paul, and I get to vicariously live just a bit of the traveling Blue experience. Cheers.

Would contest two of your ratings. Begovic may be poor with the ball at his feet, but that save on the Yank was world class. And aside from his goal and the layoff to Davies, Townsend was awful -- four careless giveaways in his own half, three of which produced possible scoring chances for Huds. He's supposed to be a wizard on the ball, but he was frequently poor at taking care of it in crucial locations.

And full credit to Gomes, whom I have sharply criticized... that was the best move I've ever seen from him.

Jamal Paktongko
2 Posted 26/08/2021 at 05:35:04
I think Nkounkou was brilliant. His going forward is better than Digne. It's only his defensive awareness that needs to be worked on a bit.

I believe he will be a natural replacement for Digne.

Mark my words.

He will cause all sorts of hell for the opposition defence

Allen Rodgers
3 Posted 26/08/2021 at 09:50:35
Great write up Paul. Went to Huddersfield a few years ago on a very slow train from Lime St., mainly to see the magnificent station and its surroundings.
Dale Rose
4 Posted 26/08/2021 at 14:19:45
What a spot on article. A very enjoyable read. Takes me back to the days when journalism meant something.
Tony Abrahams
5 Posted 26/08/2021 at 14:35:46
As you become older it’s always nice to take a trip down memory lane, and it sounds like you had a great time Paul. One word stood out, the professionalism of Luca Digne, who really settled us down with his calmness imo!
Niall McIlhone
6 Posted 26/08/2021 at 14:48:29
Thanks Paul, I enjoyed the write up, but I am a little surprised you omitted a visit to pubs such as The Sportsman, The Grove, and the Rat and Ratchet, fine watering houses all. Hudd is a great town for a pub tour and a curry, and there is also the Magic Rock brewery a short walk from the city centre that’s worth a visit for been and street food.
As for the match itself, I attribute the result to good game management by the manager, a bit of luck going our way, and some encouraging individual performances. I do think the QPR away tie will be a real challenge though, and by then, we will know the shape of the squad, at least until the next transfer window opens,.
If Moise Kean does depart this coming week, it’s clearly a case of our being a “ bad fit” for him at this stage of his career. That said, his general demeanour and his often poor application hasn’t helped, but he is young, and if he does return to Juve, hopefully for him, he will find his mojo again. I think questions also need to be asked of The DoF prioritising this signing when more experienced forwards more suited to the Premier League were available at the time of the Kean acquisition. It seems to me there was an element of risk here that, in hindsight, Mr Brands might have misjudged.
David Cooper
7 Posted 26/08/2021 at 15:15:35
Agree with Mike #1 about Begovic's save in the top corner. Pickford has often missed those and given up a goal.

Begovic is 6ft-5in and got a much better reach than Pickford. Might not be as good in other areas but I don't think Pickford will ever get those top corner shots and most of our opponents know that.

Apart from that, it was an enjoyable game to watch. Nice of DAZN to show it in full here in Canada! Don't think Nkounkou is a backup to Digne. Okay, he looks good going forward and ended up pushed further up when Digne came on but as a left-back he leaves a lot of defensive skills to learn.

Kean getting sent off was stupid but maybe the ref, who was poor, over-reacted. The only positive thing about his performance was his offside goal struck cleanly with his left foot. Did not look offside.

It is worrying that we seem to have gone backwards in defending at corners. Lucky not to have given away 2 goals. Like many, I didn't see much wrong with their 2nd unless it was for player standing in the eyeline of Begovic.

I still think Kenny is not the successor to Seamus long-term. But I think this is the group of players that we will be seeing until the end of the season.

So, on to the seaside and a challenge against Brighton who are 2 for 2 and always likely to score from corners. Would be nice to think we go into the break with 7 from 9 but hopefully it will be at least 5 from 9!

Jay Harris
8 Posted 26/08/2021 at 15:28:24
Paul, always a pleasure to read your report but I'm with Mike G on the ratings.

I thought Begovic was pretty solid and thought Kean was our best forward until his goal was disallowed then the petulance showed.

Also thought that was the worst game I have ever seen Townsend play with consistently over or underhit passes and atrocious corners.

Enough has already been said about Michael Keane so I won't say any more.

I may be being harsh seeing as we won but I thought the overall display was really poor and highlighted the deficiencies in our squad.

John Raftery
9 Posted 26/08/2021 at 16:14:53
It was interesting to see Gomes in his half hour cameo. His contribution to the winning goal was almost from the Barcelona school of play in the final third. Perhaps that is the best way to use him, late in the game to unlock a deep lying defence. Credit to all the players involved in the goal. Around me some were crying for the ball to be lumped into the penalty area although what they thought Townsend would make of a high cross was left unsaid.

We actually looked a more effective team with ten men. That was partly owing to the injection of experience from the substitutes and partly because with eleven men Kean was ineffective retaining possession and linking up with his team mates.

One feature of our play in need of improvement is the delivery of corner kicks. Digne no longer seems able to apply enough force to a dead ball and Townsend’s efforts on Tuesday reached the sky rather than the goalmouth. It is about the only aspect in which we miss Sigurdsson.

David Pearl
10 Posted 26/08/2021 at 16:58:44
Always enjoy your reports Paul.

I think Gomes is better played centrally and not covering for our full backs as Ancelotti played him. Same as Doucouré really.

I like how Benitez has set us up in the league, and his subs... not that keen on his choice of signings though. We need players to improve us not retain our position. Gray and Townsend are good squad players but we should be aiming higher...

Brighton can be a tough game but l still want all 3 points.

Andy Crooks
11 Posted 26/08/2021 at 21:37:00
I enjoyed that as usual, Paul. I have never been to Huddersfield but that was a good substitute. I don't like the sound of The Crown, though.
Paul Traill
13 Posted 27/08/2021 at 03:43:39
Thank you for all the nice comments.

Niall #6 - yes I'm familiar with most of the places you describe. Though unfortunately when I was a scholar that disgusting ale stuff was the last thing I wanted, oh how misguided I was.

A great place though, Huddersfield, it was great to go back.

Danny O’Neill
14 Posted 27/08/2021 at 07:20:00
I thought I'd left something. Great read of your experiences as always, Paul.

On the match report thread, I forgot to mention the play between Iwobi and Gomes for the second goal. Quick, direct and forward. Now who would have said that in a paragraph about those two last season?!

My only experience of Huddersfield was an engagement party for a friend way back in 1990. Vague memories and I have no clue where I went, but it was a good night out!

Niall McIlhone
15 Posted 27/08/2021 at 09:30:42
Bad beer was a "given" in my own formative years, Paul, and I guess one of the nice things of the last 30 years or so has been the resurgence of small independent beer brewing in England, in which there are now many choices. I recall drinking rubbish like Tartan Ale and Harp Lager in the '70s and having a permanent hangover from all the MSG and chemical content!

I hope Everton offer something more varied than ice-cold Chang when we move to Bramley-Moore Dock? I'm glad you enjoyed your return to Huddersfield, and that our lads were able to deliver on the night. Bring on Brighton (and QPR)!

Neville Wellings
16 Posted 27/08/2021 at 14:24:49
Absolutely right, Mike Gaynes, Townsend losing the ball four times – three of which set up Huddersfield with goalscoring opportunities – was unforgivable. Warming the bench is the only place for him tomorrow.

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