Huddersfield Town Huddersfield Town
Twenty months can be a long time in life let alone football.
On the club's last visit to the John Smith's Stadium, it was a sun-kissed April afternoon, the stands were packed to the rafters, the Hornets were on countdown to the FA Cup final, there were only six teams above them in the league after a 2-1 here and the Tier system wasn't even in the English lexicon.
Now, after defeat in West Yorkshire in the second tier of English football, the Hornets are down to fifth in the Championship in the depths of winter and the good folk of the town are facing further restrictions on their freedom amid the introduction of Tier 4 because of a spike in coronavirus cases. The outlook appears bleak, it always does after a defeat, but things will get better. They always do. There will be good times ahead. You have to take the rough with the smooth, put up with the rain to appreciate the rainbow.
You know it is going to be one of those bad days at the office when two players of the calibre of Ben Foster and Étienne Capoue, two former Player of the Season award winners, make mistakes like they did in the first half.
Foster was first, caught overplaying when he normally slams the ball left-footed downfield and gifted the opener to Fraizer Campbell after nine minutes. It was so uncharacteristic of a player who has barely put a glove wrong since arriving more than two years ago.
Capoue has arguably been the best midfielder in England from defensive corners for the past few seasons, often rising highest to power away header after header. Here, after 32 minutes, he shinned one into his own net from an in-swinging corner.
Those two aberrations were a big shame as the Hornets were actually quite lively and progressive at the other end. James Garner had one saved at point-blank range by Ryan Schofield; Tom Cleverley fizzed one just past the right-hand post; Schofield didn't know much about the instinctive save he made at the near post from an Andre Gray header while Garner and Capoue both let rip from range.
Things went from bad to worse when William Troost-Ekong, arguably the best player in the last two matches, limped off with injury before half-time. Francisco Sierralta's first task as his replacement was to slide, together with Garner, in to block Juninho Bacuna when he found himself in a promising position on the right-hand side of the box, It was a lively first 45 minutes of football that could have ended 3-3.
After resisting the temptation to make changes at the break, Head Coach Vladimir Ivić saw his side continue to create a healthy number of chances. There were three for Gray, including one late on that forced a stunning save from Schofield, and one Capoue flashed over before he was substituted as one of three changes in ten minutes.
Huddersfield had three shouts for a penalty, including two very plausible ones, in what was a very watchable game if you were a neutral. Sadly, not many casual observers would have watched this one. Those following the Terriers would have been jumping for joy at home while those unwaveringly following the Hornets wouldn't have found much solace from either tuning into Boris Johnson's latest update from Downing Street or the excellent Hive Live coverage of the disappointing events here. And this, remember, is supposed to be the season to be jolly. Roll on 2021.