NO two players perhaps best sum up the positive impact made by Chris Powell since he arrived at Huddersfield Town than Tommy Smith and Sean Scannell.
The latter left the John Smith’s Stadium late on Tuesday with the sponsor’s match-of-the-match award after the Championship 1-1 draw with Brighton following on from his stand-out weekend showing versus Blackpool.
As for the former? He was busy basking in the glow of providing a rare assist for Jacob Butterfield’s sweet early strike.
For the second successive home game, Smith and Scannell dovetailed to telling effect, with both having travelled a fair way since Powell’s first outing in charge against Middlesbrough just under six weeks ago.
Scannell cooled his heels on the bench in that 2-1 defeat to the Teessiders on September 13, with right-sided defender Smith’s intervention against Aitor Karanka’s side a fateful one when he rashly fouled Adam Reach inside the box in the 92nd minute, enabling Grant Leadbitter to convert and give the visitors three points.
That defeat left Town fourth from bottom in the Championship table with just four points from six matches.
In the seven games since, Powell’s side have amassed 12 points and now reside in a comparatively healthy 16th place, ample evidence to suggest that the message of the Londoner is coming across loud and clear at Town’s Canalside training complex.
Smith can certainly testify to that with Powell and his coaching staff having specifically worked with the young defender and Scannell on developing a partnership within the team, which is bearing fruit if Town’s recent renaissance is anything to go by.
Smith, 22, who made his Town debut just 13 months ago, said: “The manager has come in and put his stamp on the group and put his ideas across along with his staff and we have all taken them on board. He really has been great for the club.
“He has got the group together and there is a real togetherness now and the camaraderie is great within the group and we are playing well as a group.
“It looks as though the team are coming together now and the results are going our way. We are unbeaten now in five matches and will go to Ipswich full of confidence and see where it takes us.
“The manager has been saying recently in training that it is all about partnerships in games. For centre midfielders, the centre halves and the full-backs and wingers, it is all about building relationships and I am developing one each game I work with Sean.
“Sean has been brilliant. Since the manager has come in, it is almost as if he has been given a new lease of life.
“He is running at defenders and has been unplayable at times and been involved in the majority of goals we have scored.”
It was Scannell, who has started five of the last six matches and is finding levels of consistency largely absent in his Town career previously, who teed up Smith for his assist for the hosts’ tenth-minute goal against the Seagulls.
Given that Smith is yet to score in his career, setting up the goal gave him plenty of satisfaction.
Again, the input of former full-back Powell, who earned five England caps in his playing career, upon Smith was been telling on the attacking side of his game, which is coming along nicely.
Smith said: “For me as a full-back, an assist is as good as a goal. To lay the ball on to my mate to score is just as good a feeling.
“With the manager being a full-back, he has had some big tips for me and put his ideas across. He has certainly helped me and developed my game a lot more.
“I feel great laying the balls off for the other lads to score. It is part of my job.
“First and foremost, I am a defender, but secondly, I need to get up and join in the attacks and recently me and Scanns have been linking up really well and it was where our goal came from.
“We are defending well as a unit and scoring goals and doing everything well.
“If we continue doing that, I am sure we will push on and do really well.
“We will go into the Ipswich game with a load of confidence after the last few games we have played and we will look to take the game to them.”
A successful switch to a 4-3-3 system by Powell is reaping its rewards for Town, so much so that the form of wingers Scannell and Harry Bunn and centre forward Grant Holt has ensured that £1.3m record signing Nahki Wells has been an unused substitute in the club’s last two matches.
On his side’s renaissance, with Town heading into this weekend’s game at Ipswich boasting a five-match unbeaten streak, Powell added: “We had to change tack and move ourselves forward and get better and that is exactly what the players have done.
“Me and my staff have rallied the troops and they are enjoying each other’s company and training. We are winning matches and getting a point when it can be tough and hopefully that will stand us in good stead over the course of the season.”