Birmingham City 0 Huddersfield Town 3 - Danny Cowley wanting more from hungry Terriers

Terriers' Fraizer Campbell celebrates scoring the second goal. Pictures: Tony JohnsonTerriers' Fraizer Campbell celebrates scoring the second goal. Pictures: Tony Johnson
Terriers' Fraizer Campbell celebrates scoring the second goal. Pictures: Tony Johnson
HOW on earth are Huddersfield Town embroiled in a Championship relegation fight?

To see them dismantle Birmingham City 3-0 in their biggest away win of the season, solid at the back with Richard Stearman and Christopher Schindler, exciting at the business end with Karlan Grant and Emile Smith Rowe linking brilliantly, you would not believe they started the day in the relegation zone – well, not if you were lucky enough to have blanked the first couple of months of the season from your memory.

They scored three but it ought to have been more. Grant had a penalty saved and a couple of good chances went begging.

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The trouble is, it is not like this every week, or rather twice a week.

Terriers' Elias Kachunga congratulates Fraizer Campbell after the striker scored the second goal. Picture Tony JohnsonTerriers' Elias Kachunga congratulates Fraizer Campbell after the striker scored the second goal. Picture Tony Johnson
Terriers' Elias Kachunga congratulates Fraizer Campbell after the striker scored the second goal. Picture Tony Johnson

“It was a good performance but it doesn’t make you a good team,” reflected manager Danny Cowley. That’s the challenge now.

“We’re pleased to perform well because we’ve taken a lot of criticism recently as a group, much of it justified, and in those situations you learn a lot about yourself. As people you’re defined by the difficult times and how you respond to them.

“Now we have to move on quickly and try to take confidence from it.”

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It is the inconsistency of the Championship which makes it so wonderful, but at this stage of the season the bottom of the table takes it to extremes.

Terriers manager Danny Cowley.  Picture Tony JohnsonTerriers manager Danny Cowley.  Picture Tony Johnson
Terriers manager Danny Cowley. Picture Tony Johnson

On Tuesday night, Danny and Nicky Cowley were shifting uncomfortably in their Elland Road seats as they watched bottom-of-the-table Luton Town take a point off the leaders and move within two of Huddersfield. Barnsley had already won, in-form Wigan Athletic were cruising and the Terriers were in the relegation zone, without a win since February.

Twenty-four hours later, Huddersfield are 19th in the table, effectively 18th.

They had a good result even before kick-off with the news that Wigan have gone into administration, condemning them to a 12-point deduction which makes them likely to take one of the relegation spots despite their excellent start to the resumption. In the dog-eat-dog world of a relegation battle, one team’s misfortune is another’s delight – or at least relief.

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Grant moved back to the left to accommodate Fraizer Campbell’s 300th league appearance, and regularly linked well with Smith Rowe in the early stages, as they have tended to do in Town’s best performances of 2020.

Campbell’s first appearance since lockdown – Steve Mounie also returned from the bench – was the most significant element in his manager’s mind.

“It’s difficult to over-exaggerate the importance when you don’t have a No 9 (as Huddersfield did not for the previous two matches),” argued Cowley. “You need someone to play into and out to and also it allows us to get Karlan onto the left which is a super-strength of our team. We were able to get a much better balance.”

It was Grant who got the reward. He put a fourth-minute free-kick – won by a Smith Rowe dribble – over the bar, and again missed the target after running onto a lay-off a couple of minutes later. Stearman was a hugely vocal presence for the Terriers, demanding “seconds” more often than Oliver Twist, but let his boots do the talking in the 10th minute, cutting out a dangerous cross. Smith Rowe peeled wide to carry it up field, sending Harry Toffolo in on the overlap. He played the ball inside for Grant to win the penalty. Lee Camp got a boot to Grant’s spot kick, but could not keep it out.

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Crosses were Birmingham’s best route to goal. Lukas Jutkiewicz’s first header was comfortable for Jonas Lossl, but he was in an alarming amount of space for his next, sneaking between the centre-backs but again missing the target. It was not as if the Terriers had not been warned. Scott Hogan was offside for his earlier effort, but the marking was slack. Gary Gardner headed at Lossl late in the half.

Crucially, Huddersfield doubled their lead soon after the restart, just not as quickly as they ought to have. Schindler was hauled down in the area after 51 minutes but this time Camp stretched up his left hand to keep out Grant’s penalty.

“!t could have been easy for us to feel sorry for ourselves but we didn’t,” said Cowley proudly. Just 52 seconds later, Campbell made the miss less important, though his tidy finish owed much to the quality of Toffolo’s free-kick.

Birmingham are one of the few Championship teams with little to play for in the run-in – remarkably they did not use a substitute – and it was clear Town had done enough, but they wanted more.

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Another Toffolo free-kick, a very deep one, was headed back by Mounie for Elias Kachunga to convert with a diving header.

It might have been four. Camp saved from Lewis O’Brien and Alex Pritchard in the last 15 minutes.

Birmingham City: Camp; Colin, Dean, Clarke-Salter, Pedersen; Crowley, Bellingham, Gardner, Bela; Jutkiewicz, Hogan. Unused substitutes: Harding, Roberts, Kieftenbeld, Trueman, Sunjic, Boyd-Munce, Burke, Stirk, Reid.

Huddersfield Town: Lossl; Duhaney (Chalobah 83), Stearman, Schindler, Toffolo; Hogg, O’Brien (King 70); Kachunga (Quaner 83), Smith Rowe (Pritchard 70), Grant; Campbell (Mounie 60). Unused substitutes: Willock, Coleman, Stankovic, Daly.

Referee: R Jones (Merseyside).

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