Town’s loss fails to take shine off Smith’s return

Leeds United's Steve Morison battles with Huddersfield's Tommy Smith.
Leeds United's Steve Morison battles with Huddersfield's Tommy Smith.
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it may have been a sobering night for Huddersfield Town on Tuesday, but there was one welcome ray of light at least.

It came in the return to action of Tommy Smith, 10 days on from that much-chronicled sickening incident towards the end of Town’s derby with Leeds United on January 31, when the defender became the unfortunate focus of national attention.

Sports bulletins may have headlined on Chelsea’s draw with Premier League title rivals Manchester City that night, but there was also mention down the running order of Smith being airlifted to hospital following the game with Leeds after being knocked unconscious in a horror collision with goalkeeper Joe Murphy.

The Warrington-born player was treated by paramedics on the pitch for 10 minutes before being taken by Yorkshire Air Ambulance to Leeds General Infirmary, where he spent the night before receiving the all-clear and being discharged the following day.

After suffering the head injury, Smith was forced to sit out last weekend’s win at Millwall and just as January 31 was a traumatic experience, so was Saturday as he tensely awaited television updates of the New Den action.

Thankfully, it was back to the day job against Wolves on Tuesday and while the 4-1 reverse in his 50th appearance for the club was far from ideal, getting back out on the field at least afforded him a sense of normality.

He said: “The medical team advised me as best as they can and asked me whether I thought I could play and I was desperate to. That was good enough for them, so it was a case of letting me play.

“It was a difficult one, coming into the game straightaway. But I was ready to do that and told the manager I was more than ready to go and play if he needed me.

“I was desperate to be involved and he put me in straightaway, which I am grateful for.

“I was disappointed with the result, but delighted to be back in the fold and hopefully I can keep playing and push on.

“Coming back after that experience was certainly difficult. But these things happen in football and now it’s happened, it is done and I want to try and get back to normal as soon as possible.”

For Smith, Saturday may not have been nowhere near as harrowing as his experiences the previous weekend, although following events at the New Den from afar was something that he wouldn’t describe as pleasant.

Not until the final whistle at any rate after Town defied the odds of losing Nahki Wells to a second booking to claim a key 3-1 win in south-east London.

Smith said: “The frustrating thing was I felt fine in myself, but the protocol was a week (out) and it was a difficult one for me.

“I was sat at home feeling I was ready to make a contribution, but they weren’t letting me.

“It was kind of holding me back, but that is their (medics) job and that’s absolutely fine.

“But I was sat at home watching Sky Sports and it was a horrible feeling.

“We are a very close-knit bunch here and I am desperate for the lads to do well.

“I love being at this club and I want to see them do well with or without me, so there was no way I was not tuning in.”

Smith’s relief at his return was tempered somewhat by Tuesday’s humbling to Wolves, whose clinical counter-attacking floored Town, who contributed fully to the contest, but were underdone by a masterclass on the break.

Just as Huddersfield did a number on Wolves, who spurned a number of opportunities in the reverse fixture at Molineux on October 1 in a 3-1 win for the visitors, so the Black Country outfit performed something akin to a repeat show, according to Smith.

He said: “We did create a lot of chances overall, but didn’t take them and that was our downfall.

“I thought they played like we played at Molineux earlier in the season. We countered them very well and effectively and won the game and they came here and did the same. But I don’t think it was a 4-1 game at all.”

Town chief Powell acknowledged after the game that the quality of Wolves’ counter-attacking play, allied to their squad resources, effectively exposed his side’s shortcomings.

On taking the job in September, Powell was assigned with trimming down the club’s squad, but not at the cost of results and his achievements in that respect have been commendable.

But while a number of impressive results have been recorded, consistently doing that against sides with much stronger squad depth amid the relentless Championship schedule represents an ongoing challenge.

Although the last thing Powell is doing is bemoaning his lot, having done a sterling job under similar circumstances for several seasons at former club Charlton.

He said: “You are trying to bring players in on frees and use your contacts. We haven’t spent money and whether we will in the future, who knows.

“But it is about trying to get the best out of my squad and every last drop out of them, each and every game.”