Huddersfield’s ifs have long since turned into whens and this was one step closer to the Championship for them as Bournemouth scored twice to send Jan Siewert’s side to their 22nd defeat of the season.
Bournemouth were well worth their victory and displayed a killer instinct in front of goal, a characteristic that Huddersfield have longed for this season. Goals from the returning Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser were too much for the hosts to come back from, in more ways than one.
Given that this was the first match of a seven-game run in which Bournemouth face six of the bottom seven, they will feel that their safety can be wrapped up sooner rather than later.
Story of the game
Both sides came into this match with fairly lengthy injury lists which is in part expected at this time of the season. But Eddie Howe was able to give Wilson his first start since the win against West Ham in mid-January. Wilson’s return is a huge boost for Bournemouth and their aim of sealing survival as early as possible.
There was one other change from Bournemouth’s last match, a one-goal defeat against Manchester City, and that was Jefferson Lerma coming in for Josh Simpson and thus a change of setup from Howe, electing for four at the back.
Huddersfield made three changes from their win against Brighton last week with Mathias Jorgensen, Jon Gorenc Stankovic and Aaron Mooy all returning to the starting XI. Gareth Southgate was in attendance for this match and he had five English starters to cast his eye over before naming his latest squad for the upcoming qualifiers on Thursday.
And it was the hosts who were the first to impress the on-looking England manager as Huddersfield found their rhythm the quickest; their possession was neat and controlled albeit not overly threatening. Alex Pritchard saw plenty of the ball in central areas, receiving with ease on either foot, and drove the hosts forward in the early stages.
Huddersfield though struggled to create any clear chances, the story of their season one should point out to the surprise of nobody. Mooy curled a free-kick at goal from the left but Artur Boruc was able to get two strong fists and punch away. Barring a quick effort from Pritchard from a fair distance out which sailed over the bar, the home supporters had little reason to believe that today would be the day that their side found their shooting boots.
Bournemouth though grew into the match, Wilson fired a ferocious shot straight at Jonas Lossl and the Huddersfield goalkeeper could only collapse and save with his trailing legs. Howe’s side began to accrue possession through the impressive David Brooks, who deployed quick feet and an inventive mind to set the visitors on their way.
With 20 minutes on the clock, the Welshman charged forward through the inside left channel with his head down and legs driving. A short prodded pass further out wide set Fraser into space, he controlled with a neat touch and sent a fine pull back into the area where Wilson was waiting at the back post to take the ball into the net with whichever part of his body he preferred.
It was the perfect return for the striker who will certainly be in contention when Southgate names his squad in the coming week. Fraser’s assist was his tenth of the season, only Eden Hazard has as many as the Bournemouth midfielder.
Considering that Huddersfield have only scored two goals in a match twice since these sides met last February, the task facing Siewert’s side was a challenging one and, in truth, one which even the home supporters didn’t believe they could achieve.
But irrespective of Bournemouth taking the lead, Huddersfield did still try and play their game – which, as usual, involved nice build-up play but no end product. There is no instinct inside the final third from this Huddersfield team and ultimately is the reason why they will be in the Championship next season.
When Mooy, creative and economical in midfield, sent a cross from the left, there was no player in blue and white stripes anticipating the delivery. It was a chance that never came, an opportunity that Huddersfield failed to take advantage of. With the hosts’ inability to conjure any meaningful chances, the home crowd began to grow frustrated.
The spattering of boos that sent the teams in at half time came after Philip Billing over-hit a forward pass straight out for a goal-kick and another pull-back being easily dealt with by the Bournemouth back line. It was desperate play from a team in a desperate position.
The second half only saw Bournemouth improve; Adam Smith was forced off just before the break with a hamstring injury and the introduction of Nathaniel Clyne at right-back made Siewert shuffle his pack at the break. Eric Durm who had linked up well with Mooy and Pritchard on the left switched flanks to allow the more defensive Christopher Schindler go up against the pacey Clyne.
Siewert urged his side to play with more pace, something which they don’t manage despite often rushing when in promising areas. But Siewert’s changes only gave Huddersfield more possession and little else. Bournemouth were happy defending against this Huddersfield side and playing on the counter.
Nathan Ake and Chris Mepham more or less just had to stand still to disrupt Huddersfield. They were easily able to deal with everything that the hosts threw at them. And it was on the break that Bournemouth thrived. King drove forward down the left but couldn’t find Wilson in the area, if another goal was coming that it looked likely to be a Cherry one.
Midway through the second period, the visitors poured forward once again – time and again in the second half the visitors were able to achieve numerical advantage when breaking forward – and it proved deadly. King played to Wilson in an advanced position on the far side and he, in turn, squared the ball back to Fraser who shot back across goal to beat Lossl and double Bournemouth’s lead.
All Huddersfield could offer their supporters was enthusiasm as goals looked unlikely, a heavy challenge by Stankovic on Brooks brought some fans to their feet in applause; it was the fight that they wanted to see, but ultimately their fight for survival grows weaker by the match as on this occasion the gulf in quality was apparent for all to see.
Wilson back with a goal
It only took Wilson 20 minutes to score on his return following a layoff with injury. A sliding finish took the ball in at the back post and signalled a perfect start. It is anticipated that this could be just the start of a good week for the Bournemouth striker as Southgate is likely to choose him in his squad for the upcoming European qualifiers.
Not only did he get on the scoresheet himself but he also assisted in Bournemouth’s second when he reversed roles with Fraser. It capped off an impressive performance from Wilson which surprisingly lasted the full 90 minutes.
Huddersfield looking increasingly doomed
In many ways, Bournemouth today were everything that Huddersfield weren’t; clinical and inventive in attack. Siewert’s side will go down with goalscoring being the overarching reason; they could not, and never looked likely, to add to their poultry tally of 15 goals scored in the league this season.
Huddersfield were at their best in midfield where Mooy and Pritchard played with precision and attack-mindedness but often their efforts of progressing upfield petered out with a lack of composure in the final third.