SHOCK was the over-riding emotion for Chris Powell at the final whistle after Huddersfield Town had crashed to defeat against Leeds United for a second time this season.
It could not be any other way after the Town manager had only been able to watch helplessly as defender Tommy Smith was air-lifted to Leeds General Infirmary following an accidental collision that had left the defender drifting in and out of consciousness.
The Yorkshire Air Ambulance was scrambled after it became clear that a traffic-choked Leeds Road would have seriously delayed attempts to transport Smith by road, hence the relief of everyone at the John Smith’s Stadium when it later emerged that the Town man was comfortable in hospital. He was sitting up talking to visitors, including club officials on Saturday night, kept in for observation overnight and discharged yesterday morning.
Losing a game of football is, of course, trivial compared to Smith’s health and Powell’s priority after the Leeds game was making sure the defender and his family were okay.
But, when asked later about his side’s derby defeat, the Terriers manager said: “I don’t think we deserved to lose the game on the balance of play, but that is what happened.
“Just one of those days. We did have chances. Good chances, that maybe we should have taken advantage of. If we had got that final touch, maybe we could have been the victors.
“We also didn’t defend that final cross. It was a good ball in (by Mirco Antenucci), but we have got to do everything we can to stop those crosses.
“It was the 90th minute and we had to see the game out, take a point and move on with the run. We didn’t and we paid the price.”
Saturday was an unfortunate day for Town. Along with the worrying 10 minutes that saw Smith being treated on the pitch before being stretchered off to applause from both sets of fans, the Terriers lost Nahki Wells early on to a foot injury and Joel Lynch after the defender pulled up when running back towards his own goal.
Throw in Alex Smithies missing the game through illness and it was clear that fortune did not favour Huddersfield. Losing to Leeds for a second time was, of course, a blow. But, looking at the bigger picture, there can be little doubt that Town are progressing under Powell.
January has seen the squad trimmed by the departure of several fringe players, while David Edgar has come in on loan from Birmingham City and had a quietly effective home debut in midfield against United.
Powell, sticking to the mantra of ‘quality over quantity’ while attempting to recruit this month, has been keen to bring in a striker to bolster a squad that has only Wells and James Vaughan as recognised frontmen.
The Town chief admits that the flurry of injuries suffered against Leeds may bring extra impetus to the search for fresh blood.
He said: “I want us to progress and push forward. We have been doing that. Losing to Leeds was disappointing but we will go again. I am trying to slowly build a team and squad, and trying to build up confidence.
“We are on our way to doing that. Setbacks come along and that is when you have to galvanise people and keep a steady head. Our fans are disappointed but I know we are good enough to be a good and competitive side in the Championship.”
Asked about a transfer window that will slam shut at 11pm tonight, Powell added: “Maybe there is a different slant to take now (after the injuries).
“It hasn’t been easy but, hopefully, now we can see where we go and get some positive news. Maybe a couple (will need to come in). But I don’t want to make decisions where I over-react, especially as there is also the loan window.
“We have to plan and we can’t bring in players we can’t afford. I am not going to do that. But we do need at least another striker. I just hope we won’t need anything at right-back.”
On Smith, Powell added: “He is in good hands. Hopefully, he will be back fighting-fit soon.
“It doesn’t matter now (how he received the injury). We are just worried about his welfare. I was in a bit in shock, seeing it all.”