Burnley v Huddersfield Town: Clean sheet provides Town with platform for success

Mark Robins.Mark Robins.
Mark Robins.
SINCE last tasting victory on the road in the Championship three- and-a-half months ago, Huddersfield Town have claimed just two points from eight outings and conceded 26 goals.

It is a damning record and one that explains why the Terriers have slumped from occupying a play-off place in mid-November to taking on Burnley tonight sweating over their Championship status.

Just three points separate Mark Robins’s men from Wolverhampton Wanderers in 22nd place and with the trip to Turf Moor representing Town’s game in hand on not only the Molineux outfit but also second-bottom Bristol City, the need for a turnaround in fortunes away from the John Smith’s Stadium is glaringly apparent.

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Steve Taylor, first-team coach to Robins, appreciates that and believes last Saturday’s clean sheet against Ipswich Town – Huddersfield’s third shutout of the opposition in as many home games in the league – can be a useful building block ahead of the game with the Clarets.

He said: “The clean sheet is a good foundation to build on going in to the Burnley game. We have got goals in our team, so if we can keep maintaining our solid defensive performance from the weekend then we will start winning games.

“Things are starting to show on the pitch that we are working on in training, which we hope continues.

“It has been difficult because we haven’t had the time on the training ground that we would have liked. We had a quick turnaround at the start, but over the last couple of days we have been able to work on shape with the lads, which has been decent.

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“The lads have responded in training and I think the clean sheet on Saturday was evidence of that. We would have liked to have won the game – and we should have done with the chances that we created.”

Huddersfield’s recent travails on the road have brought 6-1 hammerings by Leicester City and Nottingham Forest either side of a 3-0 reverse at Derby County and a 4-0 drubbing at Watford.

With Burnley and Saturday’s opponents, Brighton & Hove Albion, chasing a play-off place, the Terriers need to rediscover the kind of away form that earlier in the season brought four victories from the club’s first eight outings away from West Yorkshire.

Taylor added: “Burnley won’t launch the ball like Ipswich did on Saturday.

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“They try and pass the ball. I worked with Kieran Trippier at Barnsley and he is a good little footballer – he will try and pass his way through. He has got great delivery as well so we will have to watch out for him.

“It is going to be a very tough game, but hopefully we can bring something back to Huddersfield with us.”

Town may again opt for a 4-5-1 formation with James Vaughan playing as the lone forward and Adam Clayton tucked in just behind.

That will mean Theo Robinson having to be content with a place on the bench after coming on for the final half-hour against Ipswich.

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Taylor said: “Theo will be in the squad, but I wouldn’t like to say if he will start. He has had a couple of days with the squad and has looked sharp in training.

“We feel that the 4-5-1 formation gives the attacking midfielders freedom to break lines and get in behind the opposition’s defence.

“The wide men are important for the system to work and I think they have to be able to beat a man and get at the full-back.

“We tried to pass the ball on Saturday, but we would like our passing to be a little bit quicker. Instead of taking two or three touches can we do the pass first time to make our attacks a little sharper?”

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Danny Ward is still out injured along with Jermaine Beckford and Keith Southern for Town’s first visit to Turf Moor in more than a decade.

For the Clarets, tonight’s fixture is of similar importance as Sean Dyche tries to mastermind a late charge up the table towards the top six.

Last weekend’s defeat at Brighton not only stretched the Lancashire outfit’s winless run to five games, but also left Burnley eight points and six places adrift of the play-off spots.

Town defender Paul Dixon believes the Yorkshire side can inflict further damage tonight and, in the process, raise hopes of Robins’s men getting out of trouble.

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He said: “I think that win is on the cards as long as we keep the door shut at the back. Dropping two points against Ipswich doesn’t change our approach.

“We just need to replicate the clean sheet and keep making those chances. In terms of a points target, we can’t look at anything like that. We just need to concentrate on each game.

“In the second half against Ipswich, we went a bit back to front a bit quicker, but that was because we are trying to get that goal. We want that win to get up the table.”

Last six games: Burnley WLDLDL, Huddersfield Town LDWLLD.

Last time: Burnley 1 Huddersfield Town 0; February 24, 2001; Division One.

Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).