West Brom 2 Huddersfield Town 2: Terriers rue late goals as Baggies pinch draw

The sailing could barely have been plainer until Huddersfield Town were caught cold at West Bromwich Albion last night.

Two poacher’s goals from Danny Ward had got the Terriers 2-0 in front and Carlos Corberan had switched to a 5-4-1 formation to shut it down.

But a debatable penalty converted by Karlan Grant, subject to constant abuse from the fans who used to sing rather more polite things about him, followed by an Andy Carroll header a minute later, ruined the fun that was being had in the away end.

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It made a 2-2 draw feel like a defeat and might well have been had former Terrier Grant’s 90th-minute shot not smashed the crossbar.

Huddersfield Town's Danny Ward celebrates scoring their side's second goal. Picture: PA

But when the final whistle blew, Huddersfield were second in the Championship, having taken a point off a team whose Premier League parachute payment ought to have lifted them out of their orbit. Town are punching wonderfully above their weight.

They could have won it too, Sam Johnstone saving from Jon Russell in stoppage time.

Huddersfield are not the most beautiful or the best team in this season’s Championship but when it comes to gathering points, at the time of writing only Fulham are more effective.

It is not that the Terriers are ugly. Nutmegs by Sorba Thomas and Danel Sinani were as gorgeous as Russell’s reverse pass, Ollie Turton and Harry Toffolo crosses, and the build-up to what looked like it would be the winning goal.

Corberan may be a Marcelo Bielsa disciple but he is not afraid to ask his players to do the scruffy stuff too and they are more than happy to.

You can keep your nutmegs and your reverse passes when a bit of old-fashioned goal poaching does the business just as well.

Twice Ward picked the ball up off Johnstone – closing down an attempted clearance and pouncing on a save – to put his side into what looked suspiciously like a match-winning lead but turned out to be a cruel hoax.

Goals like that are every bit as satisfying for that dying breed, the out-and-out centre-forward. Ward now has 13 for the season, the best tally of his career having scored just once in 2020-21.

It was the hosts, fresh from their first win under former Huddersfield manager Steve Bruce, who started the better. Lee Nicholls was forced into a good low save as early as the fourth minute when Alex Mowatt got hold of a shot from outside the area.

At times Huddersfield made their own pressure, Lewis O’Brien caught in possession when Tom Lees played a pass he could have done without with a man at his back, and Nicholls fluffing a punch after Lees threw himself in front of a Kyle Bartley shot.

But they got themselves out of the pickles they got into, Nicholls getting back onto his line to catch as the ball bounced about and Ward winning a great header at one of a number of early corners and long throws from the right.

Huddersfield, surprisingly playing a 4-4-2 with Thomas at centre-forward and O’Brien wide on the left, grew into the game, as signalled by Sinani cutting in off the right and shooting wide.

Johnstone made a chance for them, letting Ward close him down as he went to clear. Ward’s outstretched goal diverted the ball into the net.

Bartley responded by clearing the bar with an overhead kick and headed wide from a long throw-in but the Baggies threat had been much reduced. Taylor Gardner-Hickman nearly punished Sinani for giving the ball away in the first minute of the second half, thumping a shot wide.

Johnstone made a good save from Lees when Ward’s persistence turned Russell’s beautiful pass into a corner, and another from a Turton header.

That mixture of the elegant and the prosaic was summed up in the second goal, Russell getting the ball back from Ward to release O’Brien with a lovely pass. When Johnstone saved again, Ward was alert.

That looked like that until Thomas lifted his boot on the edge of the penalty area. If there was any contact with former Barnsley captain Mowatt’s ducked head it was minimal. It would never have been a penalty in years gone by, but now just lifting your studs that high is a risk.

“From my view from the bench I didn’t see a penalty,” insisted Corberan. “Sorba touched the ball but it’s not easy of course for the referee. He has to be 100 per cent sure because these decisions can change a game.”

A minute after Grant converted his penalty substitute Carroll did what he does, getting his head on a right-wing cross.

“It was very obvious we were better than them during 80 minutes but the penalty changed the emotion of the game,” said Corberan.

“The fact they scored so quickly afterwards could have cost us all the points.”

A draw was far from a bad result. It just did not feel like a draw.

West Bromwich Albion: Johnstone; Clarke, Bartley, Ajayi; Furlong (Carroll 69), Gardner-Hickman, Livermore, Mowatt, Townsend; Robinson, Grant. Unused substitutes: O’Shea, Diangana, Molumby, Reach, Kipre, Button.

Huddersfield Town: Nicholls; Turton, Pearson, Lees, Toffolo; Sinani (Colwill 77), Russell, Hogg, O’Brien; Thomas (Anjorin 90), Ward (Rhodes 90). Unused substitutes: Pipa, Eiting, Blackman, Holmes.

Referee: M Donohue (Greater Manchester).