Stoke City v Huddersfield Town – Terriers urged to be brave in basement battle

Huddersfield Town manager Danny Cowley, right, with brother and assistant manager Nicky. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA
Huddersfield Town manager Danny Cowley, right, with brother and assistant manager Nicky. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA
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HUDDERSFIELD TOWN manager Danny Cowley is calling on his Terriers side to play with ‘clear heads’ in tonight’s crunch Championship six-pointer at fellow strugglers Stoke City.

The rock-bottom Potters and Town prop up the table with a paltry two points from their opening nine fixtures and are the only second-tier sides without a league victory in 2019-20.

UNDER PRESSURE: Stoke City manager Nathan Jones. Picture: Nick Potts/PA

UNDER PRESSURE: Stoke City manager Nathan Jones. Picture: Nick Potts/PA

The abject form of the pair extends well beyond this season with Stoke on a 15-match run without a Championship success stretching back to April 6, with besieged manager Nathan Jones being the subject of mounting speculation over his future.

Town’s statistics are even more desperate, with the West Yorkshire club having not picked up three points in their last 19 games since a 1-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on February 26.

All told, both clubs have played 57 league games in 2019 and picked up a combined total of just four wins.

Defeat for either this evening would intensify their plight and represent a fresh psychological blow, but ahead of the game, Cowley is urging his players to play with their heads and not their hearts in the Potteries.

Away from home, you want to play with determination and grit and I think that they are really important qualities if you want to be a team that can pick points up on the road.

Huddersfield Town manager Danny Cowley

Cowley, who could welcome back Terence Kongolo and Alex Pritchard tonight, said: “Football is such an emotional game and the emotion will be high.

“It will be my job and the teams to use the emotion positively and also play with a clear head and a clear mind.

“There are three parts to everyone’s brain. And I know which parts make the most intelligent decisions under pressure and it is not the emotional part of your brain.

“We have to play with clarity and make sure we implement the game plan and if we do that and fight really hard, then we believe we can be competitive in the game.

“We are growing in confidence every day and are able to train more regularly together and gain a better understanding. We do not expect to play nervously and actually believe the understanding and alignment is coming.”

Meanwhile, Cowley is urging his side to be brave in possession in tonight’s testing environment at the bet365 Stadium, having spied signs of hope in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with visiting Millwall.

The draw ended a run of seven successive defeats in all competitions, with the Town chief seeing reasons to believe ahead of this evening’s key fixture.

Cowley, whose side led 2-1 in their previous away game at West Brom, only to fall away in the last 20 minutes en route to a 4-2 loss, added: “Away from home, you want to play with determination and grit and I think that they are really important qualities if you want to be a team that can pick points up on the road.

“As well as that, it is having the bravery and courage to committing to the way we want to play which is equally important.

“We are really looking forward to the challenge and we know that we are moving in the right direction.

“We are in terms of the team, strategy and style of play. But we are also moving in the right direction in terms of the social dynamics of the group and the togetherness. We are now starting to create something that we can fight for. You must have a cause and know what your values are.”

Beleaguered Stoke set an unwanted club record in Friday’s 3-2 loss to Nottingham Forest when they become the first Potters side to go 10 home matches without a victory.

It has ramped up the pressure on Jones, who candidly acknowledged yesterday that he would have already been sacked if it was not for the backing of owners Peter and John Coates – with results having “not been good enough”.

Despite’s Stoke’s atrocious form and their troubled plight, Cowley is not reading too much into their recent statistics, mindful of the resources at their disposal.

The Terriers chief added: “Stoke are obviously in a difficult moment.

“But they have a fantastic squad, probably one of the most expensive in the division.

“They have the potential to be a very good team who can cause us a lot of problems offensively.

“He (Jones) is someone we know well and our teams have played his teams when he was at Luton and before that at Brighton with his development team.

“He is a very good coach and he had a team at Luton who did remarkably well.

“He had a really good team there and deservedly got his move to Stoke.

“At this stage, he would probably be the first to say that it has not worked out for him. But sometimes, this is football and not everybody knows the ins and outs and I would not want to discuss them or speak about them.

“But we respect Nathan as a coach and we look forward to pitting our wits against him.”

Last six games: Stoke DLLDDL; Huddersfield LLLLLD.

Referee: R Jones (Merseyside).

Last time: Stoke 2 Huddersfield 0, August 28, 2018; EFL Cup.