Huddersfield Town pounce on Middlesbrough FC's desperation to all but book Championship play-off semi-final

Ten minutes into the second half it was obvious Middlesbrough needed to change something.

It was just not happening for the Teessiders, their football scrappy and uncertain. Chris Wilder called for young striker Josh Coburn, an obvious choice to inject some fearlessness and took off centre-back Sol Bamba after a scruffy performance.

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Huddersfield Town just kept their cool and caught them on the counter-attack, Jordan Rhodes scoring his first goal at the Riverside.

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GOAL HEROES: Naby Sarr (left) and Jordan Rhodes celebrateGOAL HEROES: Naby Sarr (left) and Jordan Rhodes celebrate
GOAL HEROES: Naby Sarr (left) and Jordan Rhodes celebrate

With it, they all but booked their place in the Championship play-offs with three games to play. Three straight defeats at the previously impregnable Riverside have left Boro looking a bit of a mess at the worst possible time.

They finished the matched very briefly level on games played with the teams they are realistically competing with, and down in eighth place.

The game was done and dusted long before Riley McGree curled a shot against a post but it just hammered home this was not going to be Boro's day. The way Pipa - far from the most defensive defender you will ever see - threw himself in the way of Marcus Tavernier's shot from the rebound summed up Huddersfield's spirit. More characteristically, Tom Lees had done similar a couple of times.

The Terriers are not prone to panic.

They had not played especially well for the first 41 minutes but they know that whether they play well or badly, they can find a way.

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A set-piece goal headed in by fourth-choice centre-back Naby Sarr and a counter-attack from back-up Rhodes did the job. It was only their third and second goals of the season respectively.

When Middlesbrough gave Huddersfield a free-kick around the penalty area they took full advantage. Former Boro striker Jordan Rhodes - into the side with Danny Ward out with a minor hamstring strain - headed a deep Sorba Thomas free-kick across the area.

On the end of it was another injury call-up, Sarr - in for Levi Colwill - to head in his second goal in 45 minutes of football.

Boro were pushing it conceding two more free-kicks around the area before the half was out but Sarr just failed to get on the end of the first and Lees could only loop his header into Luke Daniels' hands from the other.

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But they made it to half-time only 1-0 down, and Thomas made way having taken a few hefty kicks. He was on crutches and wearing a knee brace when the players celebrated with the away fans at full-time.

It was thanks to Daniels the visitors it was only one, saving well from Rhodes and Sarr in the space of a minute.

The first came about when Bamba, with Rhodes at his back, popped a hospital backpass over Daniels' head. The goalkeeper had little choice but to catch it 11 yards from goal and set up an indirect free-kick. His save when the ball was rolled to Rhodes was excellent, but not as good as his tip-over from a Sarr header quickly afterwards.

Early on both sides looked clumsy under the pressure of chasing promotion, Lees and Lee Nicholls giving the ball away unecessarily for the Terriers, Duncan Watmore horribly overhitting a pass when he tried to play in Andraz Sporar.

But the half had its moments.

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McNair played a lovely ball in after 10 minutes but it came to McGree at an awkward height and Nicholls was able to pounce on the shot, if you could call the way the ball bounced off him that.

Tavernier had a great chance but slipped as the ball skipped up off the turf and hit the ball wide.

But with their ability at set pieces, Huddersfield can find a way in even the poorest of games, and Sarr put them in front.

The half-time team talk did nothing to improve the hosts.

Shortly after the break Sporar had the ball at his feet and a goal to run at but you could feel his hesitancy as the crowd yelled "Come on!"

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He overhit a pass to McGree and when the ball went back to Bola, he underhit his attempted switch, sucking all momentum out of a potentially dangerous break.

When Rhodes played Thomas's half-time replacement Josh Koroma through one-on-one in the 53rd minute, Daniels won the duel but his team were content to wait for their moments.

When Lewis O'Brien played an excellent pass to Rhodes, he showed the coolness of a goalscorer who has been around the block, rather than the rustiness of a player with just four league starts and one goal to his name and the game was over.

Bookings for McGree and Bola a minute apart showed Boro heads had gone and the Australian's misfortune showed they could play all day and Huddersfield would still have got a clean sheet.

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Ten points above seventh before the play-off games, their season is going into extra-time. Whether Boro's is

Middlesbrough: Daniels; Dijksteel, Bamba (Coburn 56), McNair; Jones, Tavernier, Howson, McGree, Bola; Sporar (Balogun 61), Watmore (Connolly 78).

Unused substitutes: Lumley, Taylor, Peltier, Siliki.

Huddersfield Town: Nicholls; Turton, Lees, Sarr; Pipa, Russell, Hogg, O'Brien, Toffolo (Ruffels 80); Thomas (Koroma 46); Rhodes (High 90).

Unused substitutes: Anjorin, Blackman, Holmes, Sinani.

Referee: D England (Lancashire).