2023/2024 has been a peculiar season for us so far.
Expected to build on the foundations our exciting young team had laid last season, we’re yet to blossom into the ‘total footballing’ side we hoped to become. A string of well-documented injuries have hampered us but after every sign of progress, we seem to stall.
There’s an air of inconsistency and more glaringly, a lack of a ‘Plan B’ when sides sit in and invite pressure.
Whether it’s tactical naivety, a lack of experience in key areas or problems in finding the back of the net, it hasn’t quite been clicking for us. However, our league position paints a different picture: twenty seven goals, twenty six points, and sitting tenth in the table, four points off the playoffs.
It’s not all bad, and hardly representative of a side devoid of confidence, yet somehow, we’ve been playing like a team that are still trying to find its identity.
After last weekend’s defeat away at Plymouth, changes were naturally anticipated and Tony Mowbray delivered, giving Adil Aouchiche and Eliezer Mayenda their first competitive starts in place of Pierre Ekwah and Nazariy Rusyn respectively. At the back, Jenson Seelt was also given a starting berth, replacing Niall Huggins.
The less said about the first half, the better.
Although we dominated the early passages of play, we played most of our football in front of Huddersfield, who’d set themselves up to soak up pressure and nullify Jack Clarke and Patrick Roberts.
Typically, after having the lion’s share of possession, the Terriers scrambled a ball into the back of our net from a floated corner on the half hour mark.
Looking increasingly devoid of ideas following the goal, we continued as we left off, parked in Huddersfield’s half and unable to make inroads.
Fortunately, a hopeful ball into the box from a Roberts free kick and a subsequent header across goal saw Luke O’Nien smash the ball into the roof of the net to draw us level.
Despite going into the break all square after a such tedious and uninspiring first half, a lot of improvement was required against a side who’d won just once on the road all season.
The second half began more in more spritely fashion than the first, although that wasn’t difficult.
We began to get at Huddersfield and as a deft pass by O’Nien played Jobe in on goal, a mixture of initial hesitancy and brilliant goalkeeping from Chris Maxwell thwarted a rather tame effort.
Minutes later, Huddersfield’s Delano Burgzorg pounced on a loose ball after Trai Hume and O’Nien hesitated, neatly finishing past a helpless Anthony Patterson.
Mowbray was relatively swift in making changes, with Alex Pritchard, Luis Hemir, Abdoullah Ba and Bradley Dack all coming on, albeit to little avail other than more of the same.
A late penalty shout fell on deaf ears and a near miss from Pritchard forced Maxwell into another save.
The game finished in a disappointing 1-2 defeat as we succumbed to a predictable low block and were picked off on the counter.
What’s truly concerning is the fact that Mowbray has consistently failed to remedy the issues at hand and although our lack of goalscoring presence isn’t easily rectifiable, we’re perpetually playing into our opponents’ hands.