Huddersfield Town 3 Blackpool 2 - Thrilling win was for the fans says apologetic Terriers chief Carlos Corberan
For the second year running, Huddersfield Town have exceeded expectations in the first half of the season but the Spaniard felt the defeat to Middlesbrough and the somehow-not-a-defeat to Coventry City (it ended 1-1) in the last two home matches had put him in the doghouse somewhat, so he was more keen than normal to deliver a Boxing Day performance and a result against Blackpool.
To be playing at all put smiles on Terrier faces on an afternoon when every other fixture except Middlesbrough v Nottingham Forest was wiped off the Championship list by Covid-19, and the two teams rose to the occasion with an intense and entertaining encounter which had goals, a pantomime villain, a worrying moment of drama and a big finale featuring some moments of real quality which had Corberan leaping around in celebration in a manner he normally reserves for his manic touchline coaching.
As Blackpool were threatening to turn their 2-1 lead into 3-1, the smiles were beginning to wear off Huddersfield faces but the coach was building up the drama to make a win secured by two Sorba Thomas goals inside three more minutes feel all the more special.
When the final whistle blew the 3-2 victory had put the team in the play-off positions. Ignore the games played column, and just enjoy it for what it is.
“I know when we are not giving to the fans what we want to and I feel so sorry when I don’t see the team performing as I want them to,” said Corberan, whose post-match lap of honour spoke volumes.
“In the last games at home I didn’t see the team I wanted to so I wanted to say sorry for these moments and to say thank you for the support on this special day. When you put families and football together on Boxing Day it’s always special.
“I wanted to say thank you for everything they do for us and sorry when we are not achieving the things we want to.”
A worrying injury to centre-back Tom Lees added to the mood swings before the not-so angelic Jordan Gabriel was shown a second yellow card for a daft challenge. It presented an opportunity Corberan and his team pounced on although in their defence, they had not waited for it before trying to force the pace.
Things had not started so well, Danel Sinani sold short by a Lees pass and on his heels anyway. Josh Bowler nipped in and fed Jerry Yates, who slid the ball into the net inside a minute.
Having struggled to win games after scoring first, in the last two matches Huddersfield seem to have figured out that giving the opposition a headstart is the way to go. Maybe the freedom it affords suits them better than the stick-or-twist dilemmas they were getting wrong before.
Again Danny Ward responded quickly but whereas he missed he penalty at Bristol City, this time he gave Harry Toffolo’s excellent cross a near-post header of similar quality to equalise in only the third minute.
But Huddersfield appeared to lose a bit of belief, especially when with Keshi Anderson chipped in a cross and former Sheffield United and Wednesday striker Gary Madine climbed over Matty Pearson to bundle a header in and restore his side’s advantage.
Anderson put a good header wide from Yates’s delivery wide, then Gabriel missed an equally good chance when Lees was lying sparked out having been caught by Madine’s right elbow, then a flailing left arm.
It took eight minutes to delicately place the concussed centre-back on a stretcher and wheel him down the tunnel.
The post-match medical bulletin sounded more positive than that looked, although concussions protocols will end his festive football programme regardless.
Already without Levi Colwill through bronchitis, Huddersfield could have been forgiven for thinking it was going to be one of those days. This is a team which fell away alarmingly after Christmas last season, unable to overcome a crippling injury list, so any signs of weakness at this time of year are particularly discomforting for the pessimists on the terraces.
Rather than be understandably distracted, Huddersfield came out for the second half firing on all cylinders and with Toffolo granted plenty of space on the left. Shortly after coming on, substitute Jordan Rhodes had a header disallowed for a marginal offside which felt like confirmation of the shift in the game.
That actually came a few minutes later when Gabriel, booked for a foul in the tenth minute added to the first half produced another on Lewis O’Brien just over the touchline.
With 10 minutes to go the 3-5-2 Rhodes had been brought on to create became an out-and-out 3-4-3, he and Josh Koroma flanking Ward as Aaron Rowe came on at wing-back and Toffolo dropped into the back three.
They were about as positive as any substitutions Corberan’s bench had on offer, and sent an important message to Huddersfield and a Blackpool side only intent on clinging on.
The magic, though, came from elsewhere, Thomas cutting inside, exchanging passes with Rhodes and producing a quality equaliser almost as soon as Rowe and Koroma came on.
The stadium celebrated like it was a winner but Thomas wanted an actual one, getting over the bouncing ball as Blackpool failed to clear a corner and smashing it into the net in the 84th minute.
Forget flowers - that is how to say sorry to a football fan.