Nearly there….

Saturday 9th April 2016 – Huddersfield Town 2 – 2 Hull City AFC

Championship @ John Smith’s Stadium, Huddersfield

….but also seemingly some way off. Automatic promotion is way beyond the horizon. And a play-off spot not a given. But after 39 games, Hull have hit the buffers. The defeat to Boro before the international break was put right with a 4-0 defeat of Bristol City a week prior, but the reverse scoreline was inflicted mid-week at Derby.

The team look done. Bruce looks out of ideas. Results at this stage come with massive ramifications.

But of the seven games remaining prior to last Saturday, all are against sides in the bottom half. We have the easiest run-in. Get back to winning ways and secure a play-off spot. You never know, others might falter and we might sneak second.

The start of this ‘easy run’ was away to Huddersfield Town.

Unless in the event of the play-offs Hull play on a Saturday away, this was to be my last City away game of the 15/16 season, and possibly, with my first born due in August, the last for some time….

I had not been to Huddersfield before. The previous trip I could make was subject to severe restrictions on travelling fans from our friends at West Yorkshire Police. That wasn’t to be this time (though their presence was somewhat over the top).

We didn’t venture far for our watering hole that day. To the right of the exit at Huddersfield Station is the very agreeable Head of Steam pub. On tap, a wide selection of locals ales, and good grub. The door staff enforced a ‘no football shirts’ policy, but otherwise very friendly. Definitely to be included in ‘Worth a sup…‘, and one benefit of perhaps staying down is going back there next season!

We spent too long in the pub so got a cab to the ground (only a fiver) though the walk is only 10-15 minutes if you opt to go on foot from the train station.

Huddersfield is the birthplace of Rugby League (as the below pictures show), and the John Smith’s Stadium (or Galpharm) is shared between the football club and the town’s rugby league team.

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The approach is quite ‘Wycombe-esque‘ – it feels as though you are walking towards a forest of some sort as you get nearer, though it is not an out-of-town ground at all. The design is four arched tiers with gaps in each corner – it actually looks quite impressive, and the design is certainly unique. The concourse is outside, but on a sunny April Saturday wasn’t an issue.

Unsurprisingly John Smiths is sold inside alongside the usual fare. Our seats that day were in the South Stand (or Chadwick Lawrence Stand) where views were decent, and stewards allowing us all to stand.

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Strangely in the stand opposite was a mural that looked like something out of communist Cuba, but it was a good touch:

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I was expecting a decent atmosphere given this was a Yorkshire derby. The home ends were however relatively empty, with swathes of empty seats (official attendance just shy of 13,000) – that said Huddersfield have in effect nothing to play for – it may have been a factor. They won’t go down, but nor will they threaten the top places. Hull only brought a couple of thousand too, so the atmosphere was somewhat subdued, rising on 19:04 for a missed chorus of “City til I die” on the two-year anniversary of the FA putting our deluded owner back in his box.

As for the match, Hull continued with their frustrating form, against a team that looked nothing special. It was however the ‘Nothings Specials’ that went ahead five minutes before the break, leaving the travelling fans wondering whether it really could be two defeats in a row. At one point the gap with 7th placed Cardiff had shortened to just three points…..

The match continued in the same way in the second half, and was pretty unremarkable. But on 76, our Uruguayan top scorer rediscovered the ability to hit the back of the net. Cue smoke bombs and wild celebrations. It felt dirty though. Undeserved.

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A draw felt more ok as time passed. Huddersfield were not really pushing, but nor were City. Or they didn’t seem able to. One of the two. It looked all over though on the stroke of 90, when Harry Maguire bundled into his own net. 2-1.

Comments around me turned to it being time for Bruce to go. That the squad didn’t care. That we had snatched an overall season defeat from one of such promise. So it was with some half-heartedness when Norway’s very own Nick Proschwitz, Diomande, equalised. Again, it felt wrong. Undeserved.

But a point is as they say, a point. The damage morale wise that could have been done by another defeat would undoubtedly have been huge.

But the players, and management, should still be questioning how it came to this. How are we now 4th and way off automatic promotion when we looked in danger of being champions in January? How do players, some of whom on paper are better than those playing for the sides in the bottom three of the league above, play like this? How do they turn it around? Is Bruce really distracted by the Villa job?

My own view is Bruce should drop all those out of form, forget the top 2, and focus on getting back to winning ways. The play-offs is all about momentum. And we need some of that, and with some urgency!

City aside, Huddersfield was a decent trip out, albeit atmosphere a little flat. Some good boozing to be had in town, and one of the better identikit stadiums to watch a match in.

In the nicest possible way though, I hope we are not back next season. But I think we probably will be!

“…that’s why you’re staying down…”

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