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The Oppo: Huddersfield Town

Handbags returns to run down the history behind Reading against Huddersfield.

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After League Cup action in the week the Royals get back to the routine of the league and a what will be a real test of the Royal's mettle against table toppers Huddersfield Town.

Head-To-Head

The Biscuitmen and Terriers first met in competitive action in 1975 and have since met on 42 occasions in the league, Reading holding the upper hand with 19 victories to 14. The Royals had a particularly good record at Elm Park, winning 10 of 17 matches, losing on just the three occasions.

Both sides moved from their crumbling old stadia in the 90's, Huddersfield leading the way in 1994, and the Terrier's form against Reading since then has improved dramatically. Prior to the move Reading had lost just five matches in 14 visits to Huddersfield, but since the move to what was originally named the Alfred McAlpine Stadium the Terriers have doubled that number of victories in just a further seven meetings.

Likewise, since the Royal's move to the Madejski Stadium, Huddersfield have lost just once in the league in four visits. However, they have still only won on four occasions in Reading in the league, a record we'll undoubtedly be looking to maintain.

Played

RFC Wins

Draws

HTAFC Wins

RFC Goals Scored

HTAFC Goals Scored

Leeds Road

14

6

3

5

18

22

John Smith's Stadium

7

2

0

5

4

11

Huddersfield Overall

21

8

3

10

22

33

Elm Park

17

10

4

3

27

17

Madejski Stadium

4

1

2

1

5

5

Reading Overall

21

11

6

4

32

22

Overall

42

19

9

14

54

55

Memorable Match

Both Reading and Huddersfield were struggling at the wrong end of the Nationwide League Division One table when Huddersfield visited Elm Park on Tuesday 28 January 1997. Reading went into the match in horrible form having endured a miserable January. Jimmy Quinn and Mick Gooding had utilised a 3-5-2 formation that worked wonderfully well in the FA Cup win over Southampton, but from then on the formation and personnel were horribly exposed during a disappointing 2-2 draw with Charlton, and heavy defeats at Birmingham and Portsmouth. Supporters obviously felt in pessimistic mood as just 5.7k attended, the season's second lowest gate.

As a result of those defeats Quinn and Gooding saw sense and reverted to basics, installing a standard 4-4-2 against Huddersfield, but after a very bright opening in which the Royals hit the bar through Mick Gooding , it was Huddersfield that drew first blood in the ninth minute when, having cleared a Reading corner, a lightning quick break down the left culminated in a Simon Baldry cross and an Andy Payton header past Sal Bibbo.

The goal could have completely knocked the stuffing out of Reading, but instead captain Barry Hunter audibly rallied his players and within just three minutes Reading were level. Stuart Lovell was cleverly played in on goal by Darren Caskey and former Reading ‘keeper Steve Francis brought the striker down. The referee pointed to the spot with little hesitation, and up stepped Trevor Morley to see his penalty saved to Francis's left. Fortunately the rebound fell back to Morley who nodded into the opposite corner. 1-1.

From that moment on Reading went on to completely dominate the game and the only surprise was that Reading didn't score more. As it was, despite being excellent in open play, set pieces brought rich rewards in the first half as firstly Mick Gooding's right wing corner was met by the meat of a Keith McPherson forehead for 2-1, then another Gooding corner found Lovell whose effort was blocked. Luckily the ball flew to Barry Hunter six yards out who slammed home a crisp volley for 3-1. The Royals were so dominant in the first half that it was disappointing they had to rely on a penalty and two set pieces to score, a fact which does a huge injustice to Michael Gilkes who had a wonderful game. His pace and accurate crossing ensured the Huddersfield defence suffered a miserable night, and from one delicious centre Morley should have made it four when he placed a free header from six yards wide.

The second half saw Reading continue to dominate as the expected Yorkshire resurgence failed to materialise. Paul Bodin had a one-on-one saved, while Andy Bernal (who excelled in midfield) had a wonderful effort blocked on the line. In the end the Royals made it four as Francis charged from his area only to poorly head clear, and the clearance fell to the feet of Lovell who seized upon the chance to lob his former teammate first time from 30 yards and score the goal of the night.

The comprehensive victory was the catalyst to a run of just one defeat in nine for Reading, gaining 20 points in the process and effectively sealing their Division One status, a run that included a victory over Bolton Wanderers that season, one of only four clubs to do so. Reading ended the season in 18th. Huddersfield meanwhile, slumped, and secured three points on just three occasions after this match, ending the season in 20th, three points behind the Royals and six points ahead of the drop zone.

They Played For Both Teams

Born in Billericay, Essex, Steve Francis was just 17 years old when he made his debut for Chelsea after signing as an apprentice in 1980, and in somewhat controversial circumstances too. Manager John Neal had a major bust up with Peter Borota prior to a match at Southampton, and Borota was dropped, leaving Francis to be called in at short notice. Francis left an indelible mark on the Chelsea faithful that night, and many supporters still speak highly of the boy. Borota was re-installed for the next match but less than a month later Francis was given his first extended run in the first team and embarked on a 73 match consecutive run, including during the 1982 FA Cup run when the Chelsea team coach was ambushed at Hull. Francis suffered numerous deep cuts to his face in the attack, but just 48 hours later he was playing in Chelsea's 0-0 draw against Wrexham in the next round. The cuts, I am told, were evident. Sadly for Francis though, Chelsea's form dipped and with it went his confidence, and he was eventually replaced between the posts by Eddie Niedzwiecki after making a series of costly mistakes. Francis played little over the next three seasons and was eventually sold to Reading for £20k in February 1987. He played 88 times for Chelsea.

Over the next six years Francis made 259 appearances for Reading and became a firm favourite with the South Bank after immediately usurping Gary Westwood in goal, and he was awarded the club's Player of the Season in 1988 despite relegation. Ian Branfoot, Ian Porterfield and Mark McGhee would always call upon Francis as first choice (when not injured), and he would keep goal competently for a thoroughly mediocre Reading side until 1993, playing his part in the initial upturn in fortunes of the club in the Mark McGhee side that started to click in the later stages of 1992/93, however a £150k bid from Huddersfield that summer, managed by Neil Warnock, turned the head of the player and Francis had made his 259th and final Reading appearance at Home Park, Plymouth in May 1993.

Six further years at Huddersfield, playing as incumbent number one during the Yorkshire side's relocation a few hundred yards away, his debut ironically being a 3-0 home reverse against Reading, but Francis won player of the season in 1994 as the Terriers struggled. However, there was an instant upturn in fortunes the next season as Huddersfield beat Bristol Rovers 2-1 in the Division 2 Playoff Final at Wembley. Francis remained number one as they battled at the wrong end of the Division 1 table for two years before being ousted by Nico Vaesen in 1997/98. Francis made 227 appearances overall for Huddersfield, before his final transfer to Northampton where he would make just three appearances.

In total, Francis made 577 first team appearances for his four clubs, and he now resides in the West Midlands. He was last reported as working for the Royal Mail.

Grudge Moment

Nothing much doing in terms of grudges between Huddersfield and Reading, although the smouldering resentment from Neil Warnock towards Reading can perhaps be traced back to the opening day of 1993/94. With Reading leading at Leeds Road by 2-0, Mark McGhee was allegedly overheard by Warnock whistling his way down the Leeds Road tunnel in relaxed mood. Reading ran out 3-0 winners, Warnock made reference to it after his Huddersfield side parked the bus at Elm Park in December, and it seems a seed was sown that continues to bear particularly sour fruit to this day!

Fact, Interesting or Otherwise

Huddersfield Town are the first team to win the First Division for three successive seasons in 1924, 1925 and 1926. Only three further clubs have managed the same feat -€” Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United. Incidentally, the Terriers also finished runners up in 1927 and 1928.

The Terriers also appear to be pioneers in terms of kit sponsors, becoming the first team in England to bear different sponsors on their home and away shirts in 1993/94, with Pulse sponsoring the home shirt and Vileda the away.

On a similar sponsorship theme, the club was the first in England to utilise the selling of naming rights for what was originally known as the Kirklees Stadium. The contracted construction company, Alfred McAlpine, took up the name for the first 10 years of the stadium's existence as part of the payment contract. Upon expiry, Galpharm Healthcare, based in Dodworth near Barnsley, took up the name. Eight years later, Heineken International bought the rights for five years and subsequently bestowed the current name on the ground, the John Smith's Stadium.