Please excuse the amusingly Edvard Munch-esque expression on my face, but I believe I just experienced deja vu. Almost a year to the day, Latics returned to the site of their spectacular FA Cup victory over the very same opponents… and lost. But is this seasonal fixture synchronicity simply coincidence, or does destiny hold a greater share of the luck/fate pie chart than one might expect?
If I were a lottery player, I’d suggest that expensive fixture generation software is as fixed as those midweek balls are weighted towards the ‘less popular’ selections. According to conspiracist legend, Douglas Adams’ estate paid good money to have the ball marked ’42’ appear with increased frequency. But that is, of course, as nonsensical as the average JWAW Tweet.
Calm down, it’s just a spot of turbulence
Even the weather has a bizarre habit of repeating itself, it would seem. The two sides’ last encounter back in November was blighted by sudden and unexpected downpours of Owlerton Regatta proportions, while today’s conditions were definitely more suited to a high speed yacht race. Scientific evidence for this can be found in the fact the children’s toy boats reached the other end of the pitch-long puddle before any footballer –even George Best– physically could.
Until stadiums grow roofs, however, soccerists must persevere with multi-directional gusts. Visitors to Wallpaper Supplies this week were disappointed to find that every remaining desktop fan had already been purchased by a Dr U Rosler, who strategically placed them around Christopher Park to simulate the expected blustery conditions.
These extreme measures seemed to have some positive effect in the match itself, especially in the case of Martyn Waghorn, who formed a solid partnership with goal machine Marc-Antoine Fortune in his first half of football for the club. The on-loan Leicester frontman had the visitors’ first shot on target, firing Jean Beausejour’s cross right at Terriers ‘keeper Alex Smithies inside the opening 20 minutes.
Cue windy sound effects to denote the passage of time
The next save from either goalie came some 22 minutes later, when Ali Al Habsi repelled Oliver Norwood’s effort with considerable expertise. The Omani has been living in the north west of England for long enough to be comfortable with the force 10 gales that constitute an everyday occurrence in this part of the world.
Using the Middlesbrough game as a marker for wind-affected contests, it had been a decent enough half to suggest the dreaded No Score Bore Draw (copyright Motty) would be avoided.
Conditions were worsening, however. At half time, a man wrapped in three coats trudged out to replace the ailing corner flags, only to give up the moment he was unceremoniously blown back down the tunnel.
Grateful of a piping hot mug of half time cocoa, Latics emerged a team revitalised, like one of those rabbits defeating the gorilla drummers in that TV advert for batteries. The visitors’ forward play was growing stronger than that company’s marketing strategy, as Perch, Fortune, Watson and Waghorn lined up attempts of varying quality. None ultimately succeeded, but a familiar second half strengthening offered great hope for more.
Not such a coincidence after all?
The visiting contingent’s calls for Callum McManaman were soon heeded, as the FA Cup Hero of ’13 entered the fray for an exciting final 20 minutes. Huddersfield clawed their way back into proceedings and nearly took control when Oliver Norwood’s picturesque effort almost hoodwinked Al Habsi… but not quite. Since the ball was ultimately smothered, the crossbar (and Al Habsi’s back) proved a useful ally on this occasion.
But the crucial breakthrough was mere moments away. Adam Clayton’s pleasing long-range, wind-assisted attempt came to rest inside the netting, sparking a frantic final five minutes – oh, for a repeat of last week‘s last-gasp heroics. They were not to transpire, however, and vital Championship points sailed away on a ‘gentle’ Yorkshire breeze.
As if you hadn’t already guessed, I was being melodramatic in those opening paragraphs, and the similarities between today and last year are minimal. That’s the true nature of synchronicity, which in reality is mostly chance. As a wise footballing sage might have said, one has to discard the playbook and dictate one’s own future with attempts on goal and educated gambles. It is not simply serendipity that Huddersfield took note of this.