Match Report: Huddersfield 3 - 2 Boro
Terriers bite back
Buoyed by the three goals scored on Wednesday evening and the clean sheet Neil Warnock took his troops to Huddersfield this afternoon to take on the Terriers. Like Boro, Huddersfield have found life in the Championship tough and bouncing back a very difficult task. Again like Boro, they chased success by chopping and changing managers. Since the sacking of Wagner, a succession of managers have failed to get so much as a tune out of the Terriers.
They tried to replicate Wagner (and Norwich’s Farke) by going back to Borussia Dortmund's B team with the appointment of Jan Siewert but after one win in 19 games, Siewert was sacked. They experimented with the Cowleys and then dumped their philosophy for former Bielsa assistant Carlos Coberan and the “Leeds lite” approach Adjusting to it is taking some getting used to, mid-table they are without a win in their last four Championship outings, losing two and drawing two including an uninspiring 0-0 with Wycombe Wanderers on Tuesday, leaving them in mid-table.
Browne and Fletcher were still ruled out for Boro. Sam Morsy was once again rated as being “close” but Grant Hall had seemingly suffered a more serious setback than first thought and would definitely be missing, perhaps even joining Fletcher and Browne on the long-term list again.
Carlos Coberan had a few injury-related headaches of his own with Terriers Captain Schindler missing from the starting list due to a midweek concussion injury. Goalkeeper Ben Hamer was reportedly available for selection after a ten day Covid enforced isolation period. Full-back Pipa Avila and midfielder Alex Pritchard were both on the long term injured list and would play no part.
With Boro’s rock solid defensive stats that word “optimism” was rearing its head again on Teesside before kick-off. Warnock had made two changes with Watmore and Roberts both benched and Johnson and Spence earning a start. Sam Morsy had also emerged from the Rockcliffe treatment room to appear on the bench. Schofield was in between the posts for Huddersfield with Hamer still absent.
Ref John Brooks whistle got a minutes applause underway for what I have no idea but anyway he eventually got the game itself underway with the Home side kicking off. The opening couple of minutes were pretty nondescript with both sides seemingly content on weighing up the playing surface until a Tav cross forced Stearman to put the ball out for a corner. McNair took the corner deep, cleared out to Bola, then to Dijksteel, recycled back to McNair ending eventually back up the pitch with Dijksteel hitting a hopeless ball straight at Schofield in the Terriers goal. Not very convincing from Boro.
Dael Fry won a through ball from Hogg then blocked to concede a corner which dropped into the Boro six-yard box where unmarked, Bacuna headed over. Very poor defending there from Boro as the game approached eight minutes. Johnson then linked up with Tav who was brought down but the ball broke in our favour managing to find Britt who not for the first time in a Boro shirt looked to panic and his shot went wide.
A few minutes later and the lively Johnson put a sizzler past Schofield towards Britt sliding in but inexplicably he missed when it was easier to score, that’s two gift-wrapped opportunities in a matter of seconds wasted from Boro’s Captain. “If you want something doing, do it yourself “and Johnson did the business himself, with Tav this time the provider to Marvin who smashed his effort low after a seemingly initial heavy touch to put Boro one up courtesy of the post on fourteen minutes.
To their credit, Huddersfield cleared their heads, kept their shape and started pressing. Boro’s defence wasn’t looking as solid and convincing as usual. A clearance from Bettinelli saw Saville break quickly finding Johnson who in turn played in Britt leaving Stearman in his wake but his shot was blocked ending in Boro’s second corner.
An injury not long after to Stearman caused more concern for Boro than it did Huddersfield as the creaking Centre Back had been having a nightmare up against Britt. Stearman hobbled off for Edmunds-Green to replace him at the heart of the Terriers defence on twenty-eight minutes. Almost immediately on the restart, Boro had to defend a fierce ball in from Mbenza which was cleared in what was a good but ominous opportunity for the home side.
Mbenza then fired in another free-kick minute later but it was dealt with by Fry and cleared with a slick Boro counter-attack involving Johnson, Britt and Tav having a shot deflected out for a corner. McNair sent it in towards Britt with Fry coming in at the back post going out for another corner off Toffolo. Tav took this one from the right-hand side with the ball dropping down invitingly under Schofield's crossbar for him to collect.
From Boro almost going two up Koroma beat Dijksteel, Howson challenged but in an uncharacteristic moment of poor defensive work from Boro, Huddersfield levelled the score via Eiting’s left boot on the edge of the box to make it 1-1 on thirty-seven minutes. That’s one that Bettinelli’s agent won’t want to see on YouTube.
Britt and Johnson immediately went at the Huddersfield defence from the restart with a foul harshly adjudged to go in the favour of the home side. Dael Fry then had to be alert to block a slick attack set up by Teessider Hogg. The resultant corner was hit wide by the sub Edmonds-Green with just three minutes remaining until half time.
Inexplicably, Saville was caught in possession in the middle of the pitch and the Terriers broke at speed with Campbell hitting a fortuitous but accurate ball which bounced over the despairing Bettnelli to put the home side 2-1 up. That’s one that both Saville and Bettinelli won’t be watching on Quest tonight. Two very poor goals conceded in open play, what on earth was going wrong with Boro’s midfield, defence and goalkeeping.
Frazier Campbell was next in the action taking Johnson out conceding a free-kick which Tavernier sent it in for Sarr to head clear and as the ball came back in McNair slipped with the ball heading out for a late Boro corner. Taken short to Spence his cross wasn’t of the quality required and the half time whistle went ending a Jekyll and Hyde performance from Boro.
After a poor start from both teams, Boro had looked comfortable when they were on top then seemed to sit back, content to counter. Because of very sloppy and poor defending and questionable goalkeeping, we paid the price not once but twice. We looked like we could have gone on and scored another two or three but instead, we allowed Huddersfield to get their noses in front purely by chasing and harrying us. No doubt Warnock will have been seething at half time and those misses from Britt will not have made his mood any brighter.
The teams came out for the second half with no changes and Boro showing false hope, getting straight into an early attack but it fizzled out, settling instead into an indifferent phase for the first five minutes. Frazier Campbell picked up on a ball sent over Dijksteel but screwed his shot wide, very worrying from a Boro perspective. Huddersfield had caused Boro more problems than most sides this season and most of it was because of our poor midfield and defensive display not helped ny Britt missing sitters.
Our midfielders were backing off and our defence now looked nervy, their confidence shaken by letting two goals in. Instead of coming out for the second half out of the blocks Boro came out nonchalantly. At this stage no doubt Warnock would have been planning changes. A ball from Saville to Tav who then found Britt was the best move in the half so far but it lacked pace and commitment. Bola then had to be alert to make a tackle to block the Terriers from stealing a third goal.
Mbenza then found O’ Brien and Boro were once again looking dysfunctional. Dijksteel seemed to be getting exposed and Spence had been fairly anonymous all game. The creative Mbenza then invited McNair into a mistimed challenge for the first yellow card of the game summing up how the afternoon was starting to pan out.
Johnson fired a low ball across Schofield’s box which was turned out for a Boro corner which the Terriers defended well and cleared upfield. This was a fairly spiritless showing from Boro since the equaliser and we didn’t show much sign of improving as Toffolo and Koroma combined needing Bettinelli to come off his line quickly.
Keeping the pressure up Huddersfield threatened again, winning a corner. Bacuna sent it in high, cleared by McNair and the follow-up cross was blocked by Howson. The game was screaming out for NW to make some changes. Howson brought Koroma down after he left Spence for dead and brought himself Boro’s second yellow card after the Terriers had countered from a Boro attacking move. Mbenza fired it across the Boro box and O’Brien connected with Bettinelli this time in the right place. Campbell was then booked for impeding Bettinelli from making a quick clearance.
NW made a change with Tavernier going off for Akpom which seemed strange to me as a few others were performing far worse in terms of their efforts. We then switched to a four four two set up with Chuba and Britt up top. Bettinelli then failed to come out and deal with a ball leaving Bola exposed who had to put the ball out for a needless throw-in. Our defence was unrecognisable.
McNair delivered another Boro corner which was met by Campbell, the ball came back into the Huddersfield box where Fry was caught offside, nothing was going our way. With twenty minutes remaining a Dijksteel block from Toffolo earned the home side another corner. It was cleared but put straight back to Toffolo from Spence and the blue and white striped shirts piled forward again pressuring Boro. Boro were really struggling with a performance that resembled something from last season. The change to a four four two formation seemed to have helped Huddersfield more than us as whatever the game plan was Boro seemingly hadn’t a clue what on earth they were supposed to be doing.
A forlorn hope that Warnock saw the same malaise and would remedy it with another change was as optimistic as it got at this stage with around fifteen minutes of the ninety remaining. A Howson cross into the Huddersfield box was cut out and immediately Huddersfield predictably broke out ending with Dijksteel now getting booked to cut out the danger. Coberan brought on Duhanay for Bacuna and Ward for Campbell. Teesside eyes glanced for some activity in the Boro technical area but none was to be seen despite the poor showing from far too many.
Our only hope was for a goal against the run of play. A free-kick thirty yards out after Akpom was brought down saw Saville poke it into the path of McNair who hit a cracker but it swerved over Schofield's crossbar who had been largely unemployed since Stearman had gone off. As Edmunds-Green was on the turf getting treatment some Red shirts were being readied by the touchline. Just as that symbolic kick up the backside was issued Howson found Britt who was brought down by Sarr who collected a yellow for what looked like a soft penalty decison.
Britt took the penalty himself hitting it into the top corner showing the sort of composure that we don’t normally associate with him. 2-2 but Huddersfield came back strong and almost immediately there was a bit of discord between Bettinelli and his defence. Inevitably Huddersfield were soon back in front after a bending shot from Koroma past Dijksteel hit the back of Bettinelli’s net. 3-2 to the home side, It was totally predictable such was the level of sub-par performance from Boro in the last hour.
The Subs who had been stood down after Britt’s penalty were now being readied once again. Watmore came on for the struggling Dijksteel with Spence moved to RB and Johnson moving to RW from where he scored against Derby. Three minutes now remained plus whatever John Brooks was adding on. Goalscorer Koroma went off as Coberan made two defensive minded subs while Saville made way for Lewis Wing. Judging from that change it looked like we were now in hit and hope territory tactically.
Six added minutes came up as Boro were awarded a free-kick which McNair launched towards Fry at the back post but the whistle had gone for a foul allowing Schofield to eat up a few seconds. McNair was immediately back in the action this time clearing the ball out after a long clearance.
Huddersfield then proceeded to take the sting out of the game. A Howson clearance to Watmore saw Hogg take him out to prevent the Boro sub from putting Britt clear. The free-kick came in to Johnson whose long-range effort was palmed away by Schofield. The following corner came in, Johnson recycled the ball to Spence then to Wing and it was out again for another Boro corner with precious seconds remaining. It was taken short between Spence and Johnson which in turn allowed a shot from Wing which was cleared but came back for Schofield to collect the ball and with it all three points.
The opening thirty minutes should have seen Boro three-nil up. Britt’s misses were costly but that solitary lead had looked comfortable until we sat back and allowed Huddersfield to play. Of course, credit has to go to Huddersfield for coming at us but other sides have tried and failed and we picked them off but today we were nothing short of lethargic.
Our defence looked all at sea at times, Bettinelli played like he believed this mornings press rumours and as a consequence is very unlikely to be going anywhere unless it is with Warnock’s blessing. Dijksteel played like he was carrying an injury. Our midfield were standing off and allowing the opposition to run through us and we didn’t take those early chances which went begging. Only two players for me stood out Howson and Johnson but Johnson’s goal was the decider for me in the MOM stakes.
NW now has a very different problem to solve, for the first game this season his side just didn’t look up for it and his usual impeccable substitutions had a negative effect if anything. The rain and pitch conditions may not have helped but it was the same for both sides and Boro just didn’t have the appetite of the belief for whatever reason. Those misses early on were maybe more punitive psychologically than we thought at the time.
Thanks RR, very good evaluation of today's proceedings with what was a very unlike Neil Warnock team display. Hopefully the games aren't catching up with some players as it came pretty soon on the back of a game on Wednesday evening - especially as this will be the pattern for the next four weeks. Maybe it's time for some squad rotation to freshen up what I suspect are some tired legs - though others perhaps needed other excuses for being off their game.
I genuinely thought we’d be out of sight by half time after I’d seen the first 20 minutes. How Britt missed the goal from 2 yards is a mystery to me. Also, I know he’s our captain and big money striker but maybe, just maybe, he could pass the ball to a teammate who’s free in the box occasionally rather than assuming he’s got a better chance of scoring.
It looked like their goal just before half time knocked the stuffing out of us psychologically - I had expected NW to have them roaring back out in the second half but their performance for the second 45 minutes was as dismal as the weather.
I suspect there may be some changes and a return for Morsy for the mid week game.
Only three days since our last all-running, all-singing effort, and under atrocious and tiring conditions today the hangover showed.
After a bright start we looked increasingly leggy and the longer the game went on the less we looked like getting back into it.
This in spite of the second half gift of a dubious penalty given when Britt threw himself to the ground.
Emblematic of this display was the performance of Saville, a dominant and tireless force recently, but here off the pace and largely anonymous.
The same could be said of Dijksteel, and the team in general gave the impression that the effects of our pressing, high tempo game in a crowded schedule had finally caught up with us on an energy sapping surface.
Yet the opening exchanges were full of promise. Tav and Johnson were particularly bright and had Britt been even an average finisher we would have been three up and cruising.
I'm sorry to say that I thought that Britt had an awful match, and I have now just about given up on him. He doesn't hold the ball up, exercise even basic control, or provide any kind of linking role. And his habit of giving away free kicks, and consistently giving the ball away have been regular features of his game for so long now that they are a standing reproach both to his own lack of self-improvement, and successive managers' and coaches' inability to deal with his limitations.
Such skill deficiency in a centre forward may be tolerable if he is weighing in with his fair share of goals. But today, Britt's failure to convert a simple chance followed by his somehow managing to put a goal-line tap-in over the bar made one wonder exactly what his purpose was.
After the success of Warnock's substitutions against Derby, I was disappointed to see Tav come off today. He had been my pick of the Boro players, playing just behind Britt, creating numerous chances and closing down defenders with tremendous energy. This is where he should be playing. Stranded wide on the right, as has been, his play had become restricted, his tendency to bring the ball inside on to his stronger foot becoming all too predictable.
Subbing him today led to a distinct falling off in our energy levels and ceded midfield dominance to the Terriers for the remainder of the game.
I thought Bettinelli might have done better with both of Huddersfield's first-half goals. Fry, McNair and Bola all played well enough, and though Howson was excellent in patches we were outnumbered and out-passed in midfield for most of the second half.
Our second half falling away from recent standards was made even harder to take after one of our brightest opening 20 minutes all season, so that this defeat felt like two steps back.
In spite of his substitution Tav remained my M-o-M.
@lenmasterman. Great summary Len and a very precise and accurate assessment of Britt's failings. He has become a liability rather than an asset but given Fletcher's injury, NW has little option but to afford him game time as Akpom cannot play every match.
Perhaps Akpom should be given more game time and Britt only employed as his replacement until Fletcher is fit again. 😎
Many thanks RR appreciated as always
I thought the team looked tired and it was a languid display from Paddy today who I put at fault for the first two conceded goals
Still we go on again Wednesday
It takes an outstanding team to put together successive unbeaten runs. Boro have rarely done that in my lifetime; only Jack Charlton’s promotion side and possibly Bruce Rioch’s team have done that. Although none of us expected Boro to concede 3 goals today, should we not be resting some players more frequently even though we haven’t a large squad? I sometimes think some fans get overexcited about such a young team. I would still be very surprised if Boro finished in the playoffs this season, and to finish with more than 65 points this season I feel is being a tad unrealistic. We’re not as good as we think we are, so enjoy the wins, but don’t be too despondent at the defeats would be my advice.
Thanks RR for a comprehensive and accurate report. Not a good day all around and one which sets the alarm bells ringing.
Has the bubble burst. Is the lack of numbers/rotation catching up with us. Are we not as good as we think we are. I think Ken is right, we are not as good as we think we are and mid table is probably the best we can look for, in the main because of our lack of quality and composure in the final third.
We definitely looked like the team from last season rather than this one and if we play like the former on Wednesday then there will be only one outcome on Wednesday and Swansea will be taking all three points.
A big test coming up not only for the team but also for NW to put this result behind them and getting back to playing as they did at the start of the season. 😎
Thanks RR - another spot on report and appreciate the effort you put into them game after game.
Fairly typical of Boro to have put in such a below par performance on the back our biggest win in forever. What really marks this game out is it that’s the first time I’ve been quite disappointed this season. That, however, is a mark of the new levels of expectation that NW has set.
There are several logical theories as to why it’s happened:complacency after the Derby win and good start to the season generally, tired legs with a hectic schedule and a small squad, not being quite as good as we might think, squandering chances that on another day would have seen us comfortably take the points, or just “one of those days”. I don’t know which of those reasons is the real answer - probably a mix of more than one or all of them, and we shouldn’t forget that there was another team on the pitch as well - but as long as NW does, we can get back to being horrible to play against and picking up points quickly.
I still believe that this a poor Boro squad, although the transformation NW has overseen in Djiksteel, Bola and probably McNair as well coupled with how he’s rebooted Dael Fry has eased my concerns significantly.
We may have dropped to tenth but remain just two points off the playoff spots and six from second - a position far beyond my pre-season expectations.
So yesterday was really disappointing, but I’m content to be disappointed in the first place.
Britt has been a liability for the team a long time, now again he scores one and his failing are forgiven but now enough is enough. If we can't get rid of him in January either sell (KP is right noboby would buy him) or can we send him out loan?
For Wednesdays game I would start with Akpom/Roberts and Watmore.
What a miss by you know who.
After 30 minutes Boro should have been 3 up. Town’s first goal changed the game and they deserved to win over the 90 minutes.
Never a penalty to Boro.
The danger now is, if the team are now finding it difficult because of all the fixtures, to play a pressing game then we may see more performances like this one.
Philip of Huddersfield
The fact is that actually Boro have only taken 5 points from their last 5 matches, when it should have been at least double that if we are a team with aspirations of reaching the playoffs. And then what? Although it’s been an improvement on last season, we’re nowhere near a Premier League side————-yet! That’s not to say we couldn’t be in 2 or 3 years time as it’s a young side who are apt to make mistakes at the moment, but with added experience and some astute signings in the next couple of years we could be. Just look at Wolves, Leeds and Brighton. The next two matches will define our season, not easy on paper.
By the way Neil Maddison didn’t think that it was a Boro penalty. Only Philip picked up on that. It’s irrelevant now but what does anyone else think?
@ken. Part of my post straight after the match @ 5.12pm "I am sorry to say that after that second half performance we got what we deserved, which was nothing. Too many players just did not turn up to day and overall it was probably one of the worst performances of the season.
I am not sure that the penalty was a penalty and having been given a gift and got back into the game it was criminal to then concede again. We looked like a team who had run out of ideas/steam. "
Having seen it again I still don't believe it was but you have to take what you are given, it was just so disappointing that we then went and conceded. 😎
@ken Didn’t look like a penalty to me either.
Btw did you watch the RL Grand Final? What a game and an unbelievable finish. I was worn out by the end and, obviously, disappointed that Wigan lost. Both teams gave it their all and the defence was awesome.
I think the penalty was fortuitous for us and one of those where I have seen them given and seen them waved away.
On the Striker conundrum, I would be tempted to play Johnson as the lone Striker. He has the energy and legs to run about and can at least hit the target (more than the rest of them currently). Heck he can even control a ball with one touch and run with it.
Crazy I know as we have a £15M Striker on the books but it is what it is as Mogga would say and Britt certainly isn't the solution to our goal scoring woes. Its run its course now and for me his contract was one season too long, about £10M too much along with £25K a week too much.
Agreed about the Super League Final, but what else would one expect when these two sides meet?