Huddersfield grab first league win in basement battle with Fulham

Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s own goal sends Fulham to the foot of the table

Huddersfield Town 1 Fulham 0

If good things are supposed to come to those who wait, few had waited longer than Huddersfield Town. They had gone 205 days without scoring a home goal, a 659-minute barren streak that threatened to make them the wrong sort of history-makers.

Instead that mantle goes to Fulham. No side has conceded more goals in the opening 11 games of a Premier League campaign as Huddersfield secured a first win to elevate them from the foot of the table. Rather than suffering the ignominy of joining the Mansfield team of 1971-72 as the only English sides ever to fail to score in the first six home games of a league season, they are level with Newcastle on six points.

So Fulham's worst start to a top-flight season deteriorated further. They have procured only two points from their last eight games in a run that imperils the position of the manager, Slavisa Jokanovic. With a trip to Liverpool next, he may approach the international break with some trepidation.

It was the third anniversary of David Wagner’s appointment and, while Huddersfield kicked off 20th in the Premier League, he had inherited a team 19th in the Championship. He was initially charged with keeping the Terriers out of League One. It is an understatement to say he delivered, even if avoiding relegation from a higher division threatens to be a stiffer test.

Newcastle’s victory over Watford on Saturday left Huddersfield with the unwanted distinction as the only side in the Premier League without a win, but it is a sign of the environment Wagner has created that there was an upbeat atmosphere as his team began at a high tempo.

They got their reward, but could have struck earlier. Philip Billing was the only midfielder or forward in Wagner's squad to enter November with a goal to his name and the Dane almost doubled his tally. He let fly from 30 yards with a shot that beat the flying Sergio Rico and clipped the bar.

Wagner had recalled Steve Mounié in his quest for more firepower in attack and the striker headed Aaron Mooy's cross over the bar. Then it was the turn of his sidekick. Alex Pritchard wriggled away from André-Frank Zambo Anguissa to unleash a shot that deflected off Maxime le Marchand. Rico did well to adjust and save but, though the resulting corner was cleared, Chris Lowe had the chance to cross again and this time his cross zeroed in on Christopher Schindler, the man whose successful penalty ended Huddersfield's 45-year absence from the top flight.

Schindler was initially awarded the honour of heading his Huddersfield’s first home goal since April, but the goal was later marked down as an own goal for Fulham’s Timothy Fosu-Mensah.

Jokanovic extended his record of naming a different rearguard every game this season but Fulham's wait for a top-flight clean sheet dates back to April 2014. Jokanovic had named three centre backs on a distinctly defensive bench. Watching those he had selected in their stead, it was tempting to wonder if he had got his choices right. When the diminutive Jonathan Hogg won a header in the Fulham box, Rico had to make another save.

It was an indication of Jokanovic's discontent that he made a double change at the break, replacing the erratic Fosu-Mensah and the ineffectual Luciano Vietto and switching formation, but Kevin McDonald lasted only 20 minutes. His side could have been two goals adrift before then, Mooy volleying over after Mounié showed his power in the air by winning a flick-on.

But a 4-2-2-2 formation gave Fulham a foothold in the game. Aleksandar Mitrovic twice met Jean Michaël Seri's corners with headers, even if he was unable to direct either on target. Wagner responded by removing the influential Mounié to bring on the workhorse Laurent Depoitre. He immediately appealed that Dennis Odoi, the last defender, had handled his touch just outside the box, though the referee, Anthony Taylor, ruled the Fulham man used his shoulder.

Then Pritchard fired over when he had the opportunity to double Huddersfield’s lead as his quest for a first goal of the season continued.

Andre Schürrle did find the Huddersfield net, though only after the offside flag had been raised, and the World Cup winner curled wide when he could have levelled after Tom Cairney released him. - Guardian