Danny Ward scored a hat-trick as Huddersfield bolstered their Championship play-off hopes with a hard-earned 4-3 victory at relegation-threatened Reading.
In a frenetic first half, with five goals in the opening 25 minutes, Reading led early through Lucas Joao only for Huddersfield to reply with efforts from Danel Sinani and Ward.
George Puscas made it 2-2, Ward restored Town’s lead and then Michael Morrison pounced just before the break to equalize again.
Ward completed his hat-trick, with his 10th goal of the season, eight minutes into the second half to seal the points as Town extended their unbeaten streak to nine matches, including a 2-1 Premier win League Burnley in the FA Cup third round. .
Huddersfield, who climbed into the top six with the win, were the first to threaten with Sinani seeing a shot blocked, but Reading went ahead in the fifth minute.
A superb break from Baba Rahman freed Joao, who raced for the pass before skillfully beating Town keeper Lee Nicholls.
It was the Portuguese striker’s first goal of the season – in his first start since August after recovering from hip and shoulder problems.
Town equalized just four minutes later when Sinani’s hard-hitting shot deflected home goalkeeper Luke Southwood cruelly.
Huddersfield then took the lead in the 15th minute as the Reading defense failed to clear and top scorer Ward scored home.
Within seven minutes, however, Reading equalized.
John Swift found Puscas in acres of space and the Romanian striker beat Nicholls with an accurate crossfire.
And the goals continued to pour in in a frantic opener, with Town back in front in the 25th minute.
Sorba Thomas’ suspended free-kick from the left was caught by Southwood – only for him to fumble the ball from his grip as it fell to the ground.
Ward coolly guided in the number nine goal of the season, with home calls that Southwood had been fouled falling on deaf ears.
A period of relative calm followed – until Reading made it 3-3 at half-time.
Swift’s corner was nodded past Nicholls by home captain Morrison, using a deflection from Town defender Tom Lees.
By comparison, the second half started softly but Ward scored his hat-trick in the 53rd minute.
Reading’s defensive frailty was again on display, with Ward recovering a stray ball and driving it past Southwood from 25 yards out.
In the aftermath, Reading assistant manager Marko Mitrovic was booked for protesting by referee Robert Jones.
Thomas could have made it 5-3, only to be denied by Southwood, but Huddersfield comfortably held on for victory despite late pressure at home.
What the managers said…
Reading of Veljko Paunovic: “I think the start of the game was really good – but at the same time really bad. We were dominating the ball and we felt comfortable. We were finding free players and taking control. We had some really good moments in that first half, although we didn’t defend well. We maybe didn’t attack as well in the second half, but we defended better – and that was necessary to take the three points.”
“Overall it was a better performance from us than in the last games of his horrible run. In general I think we improved our condition. We were more aggressive early on and much more determined early on. of the game. But, unfortunately, our problems in defense – as a whole team – were still there and still persisted. We have to try to minimize these individual errors. We have to eliminate this naivety that we have, we have to stop the ‘hemorrhage.
“Again, however, the actual cohesion and improvement we saw in our squad today was good. It was mostly in attack, with Lucas Joao and George Puscas – supported by John Swift and the rest of the team. team. I think it all worked really well. And we’ll be looking to build on that. It’s been a horrible month because we’ve had to play teams [without Covid issues] who are in better shape than us.”
from Huddersfield Carlos Corberán“We have a lot of attacking mentality but we also need a bit more wickedness in defence. That’s exactly the big challenge, the balance, for us. Not just for us but for all the teams in the world. In the first half, we attacked very well. But in the second half, we attacked less well but we defended better. Yes, it was a bit chaotic in the first half. That’s because we had four defenders against their two attackers and it was too open.
“The spaces between the full-backs were also too open, allowing the forwards to find the space they needed. I thought [at half time] that we had to do something about it. We had to do something with our defense otherwise we could have had the same problems in the second half.”