I’d read horror stories of waits of an hour or more to get out of the car parks, and I never normally pay to park for football if I can help it. You can usually get somewhere within twenty minutes’ walk of the ground which allows a reasonably easy exit, and today’s gamble was that nobody else would be daft enough to park 200 feet above the stadium if they didn’t have to. Sure enough, there was plenty of space at twenty past two, and I was out of town by half past five. Detailed planning can pay dividends.
So, too, can hard work. I don’t speak from personal experience – I’m the laziest person I know, by some distance – but it’s evident in the efforts of Grant Leadbitter and Adam Clayton. Boro’s favoured 4-2-3-1 formation has its critics, and it can leave wide open spaces around opposition defenders, but when the two holding players work hard and work together they protect the back four to great effect. Clayton was particularly noticeable today (perhaps predictably, given the venue), time and again popping up to dispossess a Terrier and feed the ball to Tomlin or one of the wingers.
Ah yes, the wingers. They started on the “wrong” wings; Adomah left and Reach right. I can see the point of this, but it can tend against the tricky “get to the byline” width that can cause chaos in defences. The right side dominated in the first fifteen minutes, then the personnel swapped over to their “normal” sides – and the right side still dominated. I can only think this says more about the Huddersfield full backs than the Boro wide men.
This meant Adomah had the potential to be devastating. His pace and control are undoubted, but his crossing, at least today, was ineffective. One cross stood out, only just too high for Kike at the far post, but all too often the first defender proved an insurmountable obstacle.
Elsewhere, Konstantopolous provided a bit of relief from the recently-acquired Flap Anxiety (one inadvertent spill notwithstanding), and Ayala stood out for his unflustered interventions and distribution. Huddersfield huffed and puffed, and Butterfield looked to be keen to prove a point, but less able than Clayton to actually do it. Vaughan dived in and was rightly booked, Dimi rolled around a bit too much and was lucky not to join him. All in all, a pretty even, mostly non-descript game. Except nobody told Grant.
If you get a free kick in a central position, 25-30 yards out, it’s tricky to get it on target, because of the wall and the lack of angle. Except nobody told Grant. Whether he surreptitiously inserted a boomerang into the ball before thumping it with the outside of his boot, we may never know. But from behind the far goal, it was in as soon as he hit it. People were celebrating a full minute before it hit the net. Roberto Carlos might even have nodded his approval.
What always happens in these situations, of course, is that Jon Stead scores. The esteemed, self-styled rabble rouser Anthony Vickers refers to Football’s Inevitability Drive – in fact, I notice he has done so in the opening line of today’s post – and Stead is its MS-DOS boot record and its uninterruptible power supply. He always scores against us (and very rarely against anyone else), and he always costs us points.
Except nobody told Grant. Referee Kevin Wright, who had an excellent game, controlling it with calm authority, said he saw a pull on Reach, and nobody really seemed to dispute the assertion. Leadbitter, who also hadn’t been told that late penalties at 1-1 mean EYE-POPPING PRESSURE, picked the ball up, waited for the keeper to stop pretending to be a cross between Derren Brown and Bruce Grobbelaar, and rolled the ball into the empty bit of the net.
He can be a bit of a liability, old Grant. He seems to think his day hasn’t been validated unless it’s punctuated by a yellow card. But on days like today, when he’s the difference between a half-decent game sunk by predictability, and glorious last-minute victory, he’s SO worth it.