Huddersfield Town 1 Middlesbrough FC 2: Poor Terriers second best to Duncan Watmore-inspired Boro

WHAT a difference a week makes.

Two-goal Duncan Watmore, who scored two goals for Middlesbrough at Huddersfield.
Two-goal Duncan Watmore, who scored two goals for Middlesbrough at Huddersfield.

After the highs of seven days earlier against West Brom, Huddersfield Town received a cold slap in the face as Middlesbrough secured the first win of the Chris Wilder era - and full value they were for it too.

Yes, Boro’s capacity for late goals again surfaced when Lewis O’Brien deflected off a combination of Onel Hernandez and Scott Daniels deep into stoppage-time, but the real story was what happened before.

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An outstanding first-half performance saw Duncan Watmore net twice - in an excellent collective showing full of movement, incision and quality.

Boro had opportunities to clinch it and while Town were better on the restart, they can have no complaints at the outcome as they suffered just their second home loss in nine outings.

On a decidedly chilly afternoon, Town’s opening half when they were comprehensively second best to a Boro side who looked the business did not warm up home supporters in the slightest.

Jeers greeted the hosts at the interval after a desperately poor half when they could have no argument whatsoever at being two goals down.

Granted, having a day less to prepare after being handed a Wednesday night trip to the capital may have been a mitigating factor, but not a definitive one.

Town should have been better, but weren’t at the races and had a collective off-day in the first period.

Boro, by contrast, were sharp and swift and convincing on the counter and scored two excellent goals.

The beneficiary of some eye-catching build-up on each occasion was Watmore, who showed that he can - fitness permitting - be a big player for Wilder.

Others also impressed, not least Jonny Howson in the middle, with wing-backs Marc Bola and Isaiah Jones also catching the eye, alongside ex-Town player Matt Crooks.

Howson and Jones were involved with a very tidy opener with the latter’s first-time low cross buried clinically by Watmore on 16 minutes.

Seven minutes later, an even better strike doubled Boro’s total.

Crooks dinked over a delightful chipped pass which was seized upon by Watmore, who got between Lees and Matty Pearson before lobbing the ball superbly over the stranded Lee Nicholls.

A bad half got worse when Pearson went off with a back issue after falling awkwardly.

Watmore had chances to secure the match ball before the break, skipping away from Lees before seeing his shot blocked at the near post by Nicholls, who also saved a low shot from the forward.

Town - whose only first-half chance saw Harry Toffolo fire wide after a corner was not cleared - received jeers at the break, but all was not quite lost.

First-halves have not been a problem for Boro, but second halves. Ahead of the game, Boro’s first-half record was the third best in the division. After the break, it was the 19th best. Some contrast.

Wilder himself will also have been scrinitising events, for sure.

The first opportunity fell to Boro - attacking their sell-out allocation of fans - on the restart with neat close control from Crooks finding Marcus Tavernier, whose close-range shot was blocked by Nicholls, the one Town player having a decent day.

Nicholls then gathered a header from Watmore as Town struggled to again make inroads.

Another Boro chance to seal it came and went just before the hour when excellent work by Howson and Watmore set up Sporar, whose first-time effort flew just wide.

Town did at least see more of the ball on the resumption, but struggled to do anything constructive with it.

A half-chance saw Danel Sinani seeing his low shot deflected just wide as Town finally started to hint at something after a low-key afternoon..

Naby Sarr headed over at the far post following a corner, with set-plays still looking the most likely route for Huddersfield.

At the other end, Boro were incensed when appeals for a penalty were rebuffed when Tavernier’s shot struck Lees.

Town netted at the death, but it was all too late.

Huddersfield Town: Nicholls; Pearson (Turton 37), Lees, Sarr; Thomas, High, O'Brien, Toffolo (Koroma 73); Sinani, Holmes (Campbell 60); Ward. Substitutes unused: Schofield, Colwill, Ruffels, Russell.

Middlesbrough: Daniels; Dijksteel, Bamba, McNair, Jones (Ikpeazu 90), Crooks, Howson, Tavernier, Bola; Watmore (Hernandez 77), Sporar. Substitutes unused: Stojanovic, Taylor, Olusanya, Siliki, Coburn.

Referee: T Bramall (Sheffield).

Attendance: 19,192 (2,197 Middlesbrough fans).