Hull City v Huddersfield Town: Terriers braced for ‘real test’

Tom Lees says we can expect to see how tough Huddersfield Town really are as the league season enters its final phase at Hull City tonight.

The Premier League, Championship and some League One clubs have paused for the last fortnight to allow for international fixtures. It marks the period starting tonight as the last leg of the regular campaign.

For the Terriers, that means seven matches to consolidate their position in the Championship play-offs. Thirteen points clear of the relegation zone, Hull’s final seven will be less significant.

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Fourth-placed Huddersfield need a good result tonight, though, because games in hand have put Sheffield United, Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest within striking distance and since being knocked out of the FA Cup by Forest, the Terriers have picked up one point from a possible nine.

Huddersfield's Tom Lees. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

“We’ve had this really good run (17 games unbeaten in the Championship before that FA Cup defeat) and anyone in football will tell you it’s easy when you’re winning – everybody gets on, everybody’s in a good mood and when you’re flying, that momentum just keeps building and building,” said centre-back Lees.

“In November we had a little blip with a few dodgy results. This is going to be a test of that spirit, a test of that togetherness because we had the West Brom result (a 2-2 draw from 2-0 which felt like a loss), the Millwall result and the Bournemouth result (both defeats) and now we’ll see when the chips are down and it’s a bit tougher we’ll get a true gauge of that toughness and I think that’s really important. Now we’ll really see.

“It’s all right when we’re winning and everything’s going well and everyone’s patting you on the back but now hopefully we can show that togetherness in a little bit of adversity and get going again.”

Fortunately, character has been one of Huddersfield’s big strengths in a season where they have consistently punched above their weight but they are certainly going to need it. After tonight, their next three matches are against genuine play-off rivals in Luton Town, Queens Park Rangers and Middlesbrough, before hosting relegation-threatened Barnsley.

“A lot of these players had a tough second half of the last season here but they’ve responded well this season,” Lees, who only joined the club in the summer, pointed out. “Throughout the season we’ve lost games or dropped points and even in games where we’ve gone behind – we had a little phase where we used to go behind all the time – so we’ve shown in little bits we have got that toughness and grit.

“We’ve got some really tough games so it’s going to be a real test from now until the end of the season.”

Lees thinks the break has done the squad some good, although he has been struck by how quiet the Canalside training facilities have been with more players than usual away representing their countries.

“It just gives you a chance to re-evaluate, take stock and look at where you are,” said the former Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday player on Huddersfield’s online Preview Show.

“It gives you a chance to have a chat between yourself and plan for this crucial last block of games.

“I wouldn’t call it a pre-season because you’re not doing what you would then physically but it’s almost like the start of a new challenge.

“You’ve got these two weeks to really gear up for that and be fully prepared for what now is a really, really crucial set of games

“We’re back to focusing on what gave us that good run of games unbeaten and just reaffirming all that through this break.”

The Terriers will be without Tino Anjorin, whose Town career is yet to get going since joining on loan from Chelsea in January whilst still recovering from a broken metatarsal.

“He felt some pain in the injury he had before and cut short his time with England Under-20s,” revealed Corberan.

“Yesterday was the first day he was able to train but we’ve not been able to use these weeks the way we wanted.”

The hope must be that Jonathan Hogg has recovered from the knee injury which stopped him facing Bournemouth but by not saying anything on the matter, Corberan made it clear he was unhappy with the decision to move this game to Friday for the benefit of television, reducing the recovery time for returning internationals Sorba Thomas (Wales), Danel Sinani (Luxembourg), Levi Colwill (England Under-21) and Scott High (Scotland Under-21).

Rolando Aarons (knee), Ryan Schofield (shoulder) and Alex Vallejo (knee) are longer-term absentees.

Last six games: Hull City LWDLWL; Huddersfield Town LLDLWW

Referee: J Simpson (Lancashire)

Last time: Hull City 1 Huddersfield Town 2, January 28, 2020, Championship