RAMBLE: Huddersfield Town v Wednesday – Play-Off Semi Final First Leg

5:40am. That’s what time I woke up after a pretty sleepless night. A combination of nerves, excitement, last night’s beer and loud music in the student flats next door, meant I decided it was time to stop fooling myself I would be heading back to sleep.

I had gone to my brother’s flat in Huddersfield on Saturday evening for a night of beer and FIFA as his flat is within walking distance of the ground. I lay in bed for a couple of hours checking twitter before James woke up and started cooking me bacon – perfect.

The sun was shining down and so after a breakfast of bacon and beer we set off down to the ground at around 10:30. Let me tell you that the morning dragged and  when we were inside the ground with a beer in hand, taking in the team news I was just fed up of waiting. Kickoff couldn’t come soon enough, the nerves were building.

Our starting lineup was what you’d have expected as we reverted back to the 6-wins-in-a-row team, with the exception being Forestieri coming in for the injured Hooper. We’d been hoping Hooper might have been on the bench but it was probably just Carlos trying to keep Huddersfield guessing when he’d said he could be available. It was surprising to see Hutch not in the squad at all and we figured he must have picked up another injury – he is desperately unlucky with those.

Despite Huddersfield not selling out for their biggest game in a long, long time, I was shocked by how much noise they were making. If you’ve never made the trip to the John Smith’s Stadium then let me tell you it’s usually the most lifeless, drab place in Yorkshire. Today though they had clearly rented out a crowd (although they can’t have had the funds to fill every seat) that wanted to make a bit of noise and the stadium staff were doing their best to create a bit of an atmosphere by supplying every supporter with one of those awful clappers. What a terrible noise they make and are a poor effort at trying to wake up the crowd. This season they’ve even started putting a “singing zone” with home fans in what has normally been the away stand in an effort to keep some of the other fans from falling asleep! There was everything there that there could be in an effort to create an atmosphere – flags, clappers, drums and to be fair to them it’s the loudest I’ve ever known it there. We were quieter than normal too, you could feel the nerves and tension amongst our travelling support.

Within the first 5 minutes there was a scuffle in the Huddersfield stand to the left of us, a Wednesday fan had obviously been identified in the home end and there were soon fists being swung at him. He was escorted out by a few policemen, much to the delight of the Town fans near him who were all allowed to remain in the ground despite their roles in the fist swinging.

The first half essentially followed the pattern of Huddersfield having the ball, getting into threatening areas and putting on the pressure but never really creating anything. Our only real opportunity was when Bannan played a clever ball over the Huddersfield defence for Hunt to run onto but our right-back couldn’t decide quickly enough what to do with it and ended up just knocking it behind for a goal kick. Hunt had a really good game and could have probably caused them a few problems had we attacked more.

Westwood wasn’t letting anything past him

The referee made some really strange decisions, letting Huddersfield get away without bookings for bad fouls on Forestieri and Fletcher yet booking Wallace for nothing. This continued throughout the match with him very quick to give Wednesday players cards for making fouls – David Jones got a yellow for the first foul he made when he came on in the second half.

Huddersfield’s best chance in the first half came from a failed clearance from our defence and Izzy Brown hitting the ball against Westwood’s crossbar. I was constantly looking towards the clock to see how long was left and I was hoping we’d hang on to half-time with the score at 0-0 and improve in the second half.

We hung on to our clean sheet until half-time but the second half was much of the same…

Carlos had a plan

We’d clearly come here with a game-plan and it was to not concede. If we could grab a goal then that’d be brilliant but we weren’t going to go for it and leave ourselves open. Carlos obviously believes we can get the job done at Hillsborough and why wouldn’t he given our record in the big games at home? Still, having followed Wednesday all my life I’m still not comfortable with us sitting back and trying to defend, it makes me a nervous wreck! Watching this match wasn’t enjoyable, we didn’t create much or play pretty football but we got what we wanted. Westwood made a fantastic save in the second half to ensure that all of the effort defending hadn’t gone to waste and the full-time whistle went with the score 0-0. I can only remember two shots – Reach and Bannan in the second half – but according to the BBC Sport stats we had three, none of which were on target. I won’t be watching the match back on my Sky box at home!

And yet, none of that matters now. In the words of Carlos we only look at the next match. We’ve got one game at Hillsborough on Wednesday night which takes us to Wembley if we get a win. A sell-out crowd and an evening which promises to have an amazing atmosphere, you’ve got to fancy our chances. I can’t help but still feel a bag of nerves and these next few days are going to drag but I’m sure we’ve got the players to get the job done.

Another night like this…

Let’s make an absolute racket on Wednesday night and sing our hearts out for our team. Remember that there will be people who couldn’t get a ticket to this match watching at home so make the most of the atmosphere, we can be the difference. Just 7 years ago our club was on the brink, what could have happened to us is like something out of a nightmare  and doesn’t bare thinking about but thanks to Milan we were saved. At that point I never imagined that we could be two games away from a return to the top flight, but thanks to Chansiri, Carlos and this bunch of players we’re almost there. Whatever happens on Wednesday night I’m proud of this group but let’s go one step further than last year. Our fans deserve it.

To get us here again?

OWLS ALIVE circliar yeller SPACE

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