Huddersfield Town look complete package and defeat of West Brom suggests they can stay the Championship promotion course

THE General may have been absent, but Huddersfield Town’s lieutenants passed with distinction without him.

On the Championship battleground so far in 2021-22, the only thing missing before Saturday for Town – minus the presence of their eminent on-pitch leader in Jonathan Hogg – was claiming the scalp of one of the division’s high-ranking sides.

Although quite how West Brom currently reside in third place is a moot point.

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One side played like a team and it was those in blue and white and not those from the Black Country who desperately underwhelmed.

Huddersfield Town's Danel Sinani celebrates his goal with Danny Ward. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

This was Albion’s fourth successive away defeat on a day when they succumbed to a committed, intelligent and mature Huddersfield side who have learnt plenty since their previous game on home soil against a promotion favourite relegated from the Premier League, when Fulham came to Town in August.

Town conceded five times in that ghastly home opener. In eight games since, they have let in four goals and shut out the opposition six times. This was their fourth successive clean sheet at the John Smith’s Stadium.

There is plenty to admire about Huddersfield this season; a good, hearty, honest, organised, fit and unified side who share the goals around – 14 different scorers in the league so far this term – and responsibility across the pitch.

Early days it may still be in the season and it is not particularly wise to make predictions at Championship level. But it looks like Town are onto something.

Matty Person beats West Brom's Karlan Grant to the ball. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

At the very least, Terriers fans should be safe in the knowledge they have their team back after a few barren, unsatisfactory years.

A sign of a side in good health is when you win without some leading lights. Town were not just without Hogg on Saturday, but also Tom Lees.

Others stepped up. From Naby Sarr and Matty Pearson, who completely snubbed out Karlan Grant – tepid on his return to his old stomping ground – to a real captain of industry in the excellent Lewis O’Brien and a willing accomplice in Scott High.

Dewsbury-born High’s beaming smile was a sight to behold after the game.

Huddersfield Town's Danel Sinani races away from West Brom's Alex Mowatt. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

He and O’Brien could reflect on a job well done after outwitting and outworking two senior midfield operators at this level in Alex Mowatt and Jake Livermore.

Mowatt was substituted, while the agitation of Livermore culminated in a 78th-minute dismissal for a crude high boot on Fraizer Campbell.

Not a bad day for High and his mentor in the injured Hogg will have been the first to hand out the backslaps in the dressing room afterwards.

On whether he may emerge as the long-term replacement for Hogg, High said: “We will see about that! I’d never want to say I am in over Hoggy as it is always a difficult thing as Hoggy is an absolute legend. If I can put performances in to match Hoggy while he is injured, I can take positives.

West Bromwich captain Jake Livermore protests his innocence aftter his high challenge on Terriers Fraizer Campbell, but recieved a red card. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

“I have known and been with Hoggy for quite a bit now and he has helped my transition into the first-team changing room and given me a lot of praise and confidence. Even if he sometimes needs to give you a bit of oomph to get you going, he will do that.

“Hopefully, I can take influence from Hoggy’s game and build it on mine, so it is brilliant having him in the changing room and learning from him.

“You definitely don’t want to upset Hoggy. He spoke to me at half-time and after the game. At half-time, he said the game was full of second balls and to try and always get the first contact and work hard and build from there.”

Huddersfield did plenty of that and their application and defensive shape and structure without the ball was outstanding and reflected well upon meticulous head coach Carlos Corberan.

It was a day when West Brom had 64 per cent of possession and produced twenty goal attempts, but demonstrably lacked real threat.

Huddersfield were comfortable and the fact that Albion’s best opportunities came to defenders – with Kyle Bartley having a couple of sights of goals in the first half and Matt Clarke going close with a late header – was telling.

Valerien Ismael’s assertion that his side dominated was disingenuous. The dominance came from a Town side whose relentless work-rate and ferocious desire to win battles bore parallels with Ismael’s Barnsley class of 2020-21.

On Saturday’s evidence, he should be worried. The only goal when it came was a smart one with Sorba Thomas, High and Danny Ward involved in the build-up before Danel Sinani tucked the ball home from close range on six minutes. A flair player, Sinani’s graft without the ball was just as strikand emblematic of an exemplary team display.

That lead was protected dutifully. For all Albion’s possession on the restart, Town had the best chance with Ward firing off target after an searing counter-attack.

The authority came from the hosts. This may have lacked the cachet of Town’s last home victory over West Brom which secured their second-tier status, but it was a statement nevertheless.