Huddersfield Town 2 Rotherham United 0: Painful contrast in confidence as Terriers snap at Millers' heels

In the desperation derby, cool Huddersfield Town heads held sway.

Duane Holmes and Jordan Rhodes kept calm to give the Terriers a 2-0 victory which gives them real cause for optimism, and Rotherham United good reason for anxiety about what 2023 holds for them.

In contrast to the two goals, Jamie Lindsay's horrible shank at the ball when Ollie Rathbone found him in an alarming amount of space in the penalty area at 2-0 summed up the Millers' malaise.

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When Cohen Bramall picked up an 81st-minute injury, Rotherham had only used four of their subs, but having done them in three batches, the defender had to limp on. So did Chiedozie Ogbene, but in his case only for the last couple of minutes.

CALM: Huddersfield Town's Duane Holmes opens the scoringCALM: Huddersfield Town's Duane Holmes opens the scoring
CALM: Huddersfield Town's Duane Holmes opens the scoring

Holmes took his chance with the serenity of a man who had forgotten he had not scored all season, and Town played with the confidence of a side whose last back-to-back wins came far more recently than April/May.

Passing the ball around crisply from the off, Huddersfield looked lifted by a history-defying victory at Preston North End, Rotherham like a team down on their luck and feeling it having yet to win since the Championship resumed after the start of the World Cup.

That feeling will only have increased in the Millers' dugout when Bramall’s calf was – accidentally, it seemed, but painfully regardless – stood on right in front of them by Jack Rudoni, and Tom Eaves went off injured inside 20 minutes.

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On the back of Ben Wiles’ potentially season-ending ankle problem, injuries are starting to mount at Roundwood.

But it was nothing compared to the sinking feeling when Holmes scored his first goal of the season.

The Terriers teased the Millers for a bit by threatening not to put their visitors out of sight, but it only raised false hope. Rhodes second goal of Christmas was a real killer for the Millers.

Huddersfield underlined their intent in the 18th minute when Eaves sat down to demand treatment as the game went on around him.

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In an era when referees can unfortunately no longer trust players' reactions, Huddersfield rightly played to the whistle, getting the ball to Kaine Kesler-Hayden. Viktor Johansson came flying out of his area and got enough on the ball to allow his team-mates to sweep up.

The right-hand side would be Huddersfield's best avenue with Kesler-Hayden lively and the excellent Rudoni pulling out wide from central midfield to put in quality crosses.

Kesler-Hayden produced a lovely centre after 21 minutes but with a lack of blue-and-white-striped shirts to aim at, Peter Kioso was able to calmly clean up. Holmes headed Rudoni's delivery over a minute later.

But the goal was coming.

It arrived in the 31st-minute, Kesler-Hayden and Rudoni ganged up on Rathbone to feed Holmes, who ignored pleas to shoot, took his time and picked his spot.

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The confidence coursing through Holmes was on show when he nutmegged Rathbone but it was a lead that ought to have been added to much sooner.

Tom Lees got too faint a header on Rudoni's free-kick. When the pair swapped roles, Rudoni directed his header off target too.

But the best chance came in first-half stoppage time, Rhodes a fraction away from stretching to Rudoni's centre.

The second half began in the same fashion, Holmes looking a little surprised when a Rudoni flick-on from Rhodes' cross fell to him.

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Holmes did well to reach a Rudoni pass which looked to have too much on it but Rhodes' slightly stretching finish lacked the power to trouble Johansson.

Having built the nerves up, it was the veteran striker who calmed them, taking his time to make sure he gave Kesler-Hayden's run down the right the finish it deserved. With only 56 minutes gone, it was game over.

Rotherham went to a 4-3-3 and battled hard but they looked a lot more like a team that cannot catch a break than one about to force one. Lindsay's miss summed it up.

Four minutes earlier Ogbene had steered a weak chance at Nicholls, and later he would have one blocked.

The score looked frozen at 2-0, and so it proved.

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Deep down most Rotherham fans are realistic enough to know that even after a great start, this season was going to be plain sailing but in the course of three Christmas days, the Terriers – finally off the bottom of the table – have got to within touching distance.

Huddersfield Town: Nicholls; Lees, Helik, Boyle; Hayden, Hogg, Kasumu (Camara 84), Ruffels, Rudoni (Thomas 61); Holmes (Mahoney 84); Rhodes (Simpson 74). Unused substitutes: Spencer, Bilokapic, Ayina.

Rotherham United: Johansson; Harding, Humphreys, McCart (Norton-Cuffy 76); Barlaser; Kioso (Ferguson 63), Lindsay (Odoffin 76), Rathbone, Bramall; Ogbene, Eaves (Washington 19). Unused substitutes: Hemfrey, Wood, Bola.

Referee: J Simpson (Lancashire).

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