Huddersfield Town 1 Birmingham City 1 - Little romance in Terriers stalemate

The pragmatist has replaced the puritan in the Huddersfield Town dugout.

Fraizer Campbell celebrates scoring Huddersfield's opening goal with Juninho Bacuna and Duane Holmes.  Picture Bruce Rollinson
Fraizer Campbell celebrates scoring Huddersfield's opening goal with Juninho Bacuna and Duane Holmes. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Last night’s 1-1 draw with Birmingham City was a long way removed from what was advertised in the brochure, but reality has struck.

Last summer the Terriers sacked Danny Cowley as manager because they aspired to more than just getting the job done, replacing him with high-pressing, possession-based coach Carlos Corberan.

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On a cold night in West Yorkshire, the fancy stuff went out of the window and the long ball was back. It might be more than a fleeting appearance.

One win in 12 matches has changed the mindset completely. Injuries to key players have not helped but these things tend to follow you when you rely on a shallow squad. The Spaniard awarded a new contract on Christmas Eve after putting his team on the fringe of the play-off picture with beautiful football has been replaced with a man happy to win ugly.

“I could feel they were not the team they were at the beginning of the season,” commented Birmingham manager Aitor Karanka, whose side beat Town 2-0 at St Andrew’s in October.

Even with a 4-1 win over Swansea City fresh in the memory, Town’s confidence looks shot. Too often only the safest passing options were considered, leaving goalkeeper Ryan Schofield to spend too much time on the ball. Seldom seeing options in front of him and unable to find them when he did, centre-back Naby Sarr regularly hoofed the ball aimlessly forward.

“Sometimes we need to know how to manage the moment because if you attack more you are going to take risks and you are going to suffer counter-attacks and we had to stop that,” argued Corberan. “The three goals we conceded against Preston (on Saturday) were from counter-attacking situations. Sometimes you need to find a balance.

“We wanted to play short but if playing out is going to create a problem, we are going to play long.

“I think it’s important for us to learn how to create chances without losing control and maybe be a little bit more solid. It’s important for the players to understand the moment we are in and to do things they feel comfortable with but also do the things that are going to help us to win.
We don’t want to be a very predictable team.”

Asked if we could expect more of this, he replied: “Yes. I think so. We need the players to be focused to increase the competitive level of the team.”
Then he rowed back a bit: “We’re not going to change a lot of things, it’s just the game and the situation.

“For me it’s finding where we are stronger than the opponent because if we have more of the ball but we are not creating many chances and the opponent feels they can use our playing out to create more chances, it is not going to work, so we need to adapt to different situations and adapt to the game.”

Fraizer Campbell’s beautifully-struck 63rd-minute left-footed volley could scarcely have been more out of keeping with a poor-quality game between Championship relegation rivals. Birmingham’s response, four minutes later, definitely was, a very scrambled goalmouth scramble presenting a tap-in for Marc Roberts.

The least said about the rest of the game, the better. It would have felt wrong had either side gone home with three points, much as the Terriers in particular needed them. A 1-1 result was a fair one, a point more than each team’s football deserved, but it doubled the Terriers’ cushion to Coventry City.

It was not what was promised in the summer and certainly was not great to watch, but we might have to get used to it now realism rules over romanticism again.

Huddersfield Town: Schofield; Edmonds-Green, Stearman, Sarr, Pipa; Bacuna, Vallejo (High 73), O’Brien; Mbenza (Rowe 62), Campbell (Sanogo 84), Homes. Unused substitutes: Keogh, Duhaney, Thomas, Crichlow, Phillips, Pereira.

Birmingham City: Etheridge; Colin, Dean, Roberts, Pedersen; Sunjic; Sanchez (Valery 90), Halilovic (Gardner 84), Harper, Bela; Jutkiewicz (Hogan 84). Unused substitutes: Andres, Friend, Clayton, Leko, Clarke-Salter, McGree.

Referee: M Donohue (Greater Manchester).

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