I’ve no complaints, I thought this was a fair result.
The match itself was steady and unspectacular in so many ways, but quite intriguing in others and I learned a few things from what I saw.
I admired how Huddersfield played – they’re clearly in the the process of altering their philosophy and style and I was impressed how they stuck to their game plan from start to finish – and didn’t shy away from it, even in the closing stages of the game.
They didn’t quite have the quality in certain areas to execute what they were trying to do all of the time – but they had some reasonable success with their approach, especially in the first half and can go away taking lots of positives and with plenty to work on.
The key to the way they played was their routines from bringing the ball out from the back, where Alex Smithies in goal always fed the ball low to one of the defenders and they had a couple of pattern plays to get the ball further up field.
These triggers often released Adam Clayton, who found plenty of space between our defence and midfield and on occasion, picked up the ball in those pockets and caused us problems. But Huddersfield’s final ball wasn’t always there, so they couldn’t really take advantage, but we still struggled to take responsibility in terms of picking Clayton up.
To our credit we dealt with this threat a lot better in the second, but that’s mainly because we ourselves played a more intelligent possession based game that nullified their threat and time on the ball in these areas.
We didn’t seem to have as much of a game plan ourselves, but we clearly had the better quality in terms of individuals and that’s what made the leveller in the match. Had we had a plan like they did, and had we had a bit more urgency and belief about ourselves, perhaps we could have found the gears to take it up another level.
But like Huddersfield, we were a little clumsy in the final third or with our end product. We had Charlie Austin scuffing relatively routine looking shots, Junior Hoilett was busy, but often his last act in great moments just let him down, and we failed to deliver from wide areas as well as we could have despite getting in good positions to do so.
In fact, Andy Johnson looks like our best crosser of the ball. He knows when and how to play the ball into certain areas that strikers want, but it’s often the case that a striker seems to know best. Johnson put a lovely ball in for Austin’s header that hit the bar, which came from our best passing move of the match.
I thought a lot of the chances we had were quite speculative. We knocked on the door in the second with some of our approach play, but we never really opened them up and had to settle from a few efforts from distance.
In terms of performances – I wasn’t so sure I liked Joey Barton coming inside so often, and there were plenty of times that he ended up all the way on the left side of midfield, but he did cover a lot of ground. Perhaps having a player like Danny Simpson on the right side makes this acceptable, because Simpson is happy to bomb on.
Yun Suk-Young who had a hand in both goals can be pleased with his debut. He’s a bit naive at times in the sense that when he gets so far forward that he places himself in danger of not being able to get back into position when we lose the ball, especially if you have someone like Hoilett in front of you who is not really going to drop in and help out, but I did like the balance he brought to the left side. What I really liked most though was how he passed the ball, especially into the feet of Hoilett. He is technically better than Armand Traore, and having had some question marks about Suk-Young in pre-season, he’s made a good stab at answering them here.
Karl Henry on the other hand had one of those games where it didn’t really come off for him and his passing game wasn’t where it needed to be. He squandered possession too many times – and there were a lot of groans – but I just thought he had a bad game in that respect and nothing more. I suspect he’ll come good and he kept putting himself in the right position to pick up the ball, so he never hid from his responsibilities and a lot of the passes he tried were the right ones, but the execution was poor. It’s important to keep that in mind – we had a lot of passes in this match that weren’t the right ones, such as so many switch balls from Barton that went nowhere. Wrong pass and wrong execution, so there’s a difference.
The lack of Alejandro Faurlin meant that we didn’t really get the ball into the areas that Hoilett has been having success recently – just in front of the central defenders. When we did get it in there, we looked dangeorus. Johnson played a great ball in on the turn for Austin who fluffed his lines, and Hoilett looked dangerous on the rare occasions he got the ball in those positions. That was a tell tale sign for me, because had we got in that area more I fancied our chances against their defence.
I was pretty happy with the work the front two did and pleased they got a full ninety minutes working on the pitch together – Austin and Johnson are easily the best pairing we have and with them in the side and grafting – we’ll always have a chance in most of the games we play to do something.
I also thought Nedum Onouha had another solid game at the back, so he’s had a very decent start to the campaign and can be very pleased with his work to date.
We can also be pleased with Hoilett’s first goal of the season, which will do his confidence the world of good. I’d be really disappointed if I was Huddersfield to concede a goal in the manner they did, and so soon after they took the lead, but it was a tidy finish by Hoilett and that it’s our fifth different scorer of the campaign bodes well.
Overall I was satisfied with a point, especially after we went 1-0 down and even after we equalised so soon after. This was another match that could have went either way and may have been different had Martin Paterson also scored for them in the first half, and of course, Sean Scanell nearly nicked it for them at the end too.
You can see that while there is a difference between teams like Huddersfield and QPR, the gulf is not that huge. While one team may have the better quality individuals, the other may be more settled and with a game plan that can keep things relatively level.
We got sucked into playing a probability game at times, a typical Championship encounter in so many respects – but we have to be pleased at least that we’ve stood up to those tests and been able to mix it.
We dealt with it better in the second and saw plenty of possession and nice overlaps for Simpson to get onto. I like to see teams generating those two on one situations that overload an area as that often brings excitement and invites your team to really go for the jugular in those moments.
There are tougher tests to come though – it will be interesting to see how we cope with the so called bigger and better teams of the division.
I said in the previous weeks that we have this problem when we lose the ball, that we’re so vulnerable to quick counter attacks and that was the case with their opening goal here. We got hit quickly on the break and before we could react and take responsibility – the ball was in the back of the net.
The other problem is how quickly and easily teams are managing to put the ball in the area between defence and midfield from their own goal kicks, as Hudderfield did in this match. They couldn’t take advantage, but better teams can. We have to be on our guard against that and do some work on the training ground to ensure we know what we should be doing when it happens.
We also still need to work a bit on our own phases of play and how we want to build up possession from the back.
When Smithies played the ball out from a goal kick or his hands, each player on that team knew what his role and responsibility was. They had a couple of different phases of play that could get them out of jail if things got tight in terms of us pressing them.
But when we played the ball out from Robert Green, you just never knew what would happen and often would watch through the fingers of your hands. We look pedestrian, unorganised, uncomfortable and unsure of what to do in these moments. We waste so many of these opportunities to progress play up the pitch properly. There is no belief or confidence in the way Green distributes, or that the receiver has the right options and movement around him to feel he can pass it safely.
If we can work on those things – we’ll hold more possession and be in control of matches with greater authority. And it’s all doable, it just takes a bit of time and not being scared, like Huddersfield showed throughout, to give it a try and stick with it until it becomes second nature and the norm.