• James Barker

Huddersfield Town vs Middlesbrough: The Breakdown build-up

Chris Wilder will take his Middlesbrough side to West Yorkshire this Saturday, as he calls for his players to put individuality aside and play as a team.


Chris Wilder will have been aware that he was not inheriting a squad that was the finished article, he will not however have envisioned the need for him to publicly call into question the attitude of his players after two matches.



Alas, that was exactly what he did, and he’ll be determined to see a reaction from his side as they head down the A1 this weekend to take on eighth placed Huddersfield Town.


Both teams head into this weekend’s clash on the back of defeats in midweek, but the form book makes for bleaker reading for Boro, as they are now winless in five league games.


Middlesbrough will be hoping they can put The Terriers on a leash this weekend, and here’s everything you need to know ahead of it.


The Opposition


Huddersfield Town


Nickname: The Terriers

Founded: 1908

Stadium: John Smith’s Stadium

Current league position: 8th

Last season finish: 20th

Manager: Carlos Corberan

Current Top Scorer: Danny Ward (4)

Fun fact: Huddersfield Town were the first club to win the English League title three times in a row in 1924, 1925, and 1926. Only three other teams have ever achieved this since, these being: Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool.


To find out more on Huddersfield Town, I spoke to Matt Shaw (@TTCMatt on Twitter) from the And He Takes That Chance podcast (@takesthatchance on Twitter). Here’s what he had to say on his beloved Terriers. “It’s been an odd yet interesting start to the campaign.


“After a tumultuous first half to 2021, Town fans were less than enamoured with our business in the summer window. However as we say down here, ‘where there’s muck, there’s brass’. Tipped by many to struggle, Town’s ragtag band of freebies and young loanee’s led by an under fire head coach has knitted together into quite the solid outfit.


“Miserly at the back and deadly from set pieces we've found ourselves bobbing in and around the top 6, yet excitement and crowds haven't really flocked back to the John Smith's stadium after the covid break. It's difficult to put a finger on why the excitement hasn't returned especially after bucking the trend of the last 4 seasons and shirking from the shackles of a relegation battle. Despite the difficulty of clearing a malaise caused by a four-year game of 'Roshambo', our owner's business going into administration causing board level uncertainty and a real paucity in front of goal (we've only scored more than once in five games out of 21 this season) the fans in the stand have genuine reasons to be excited and many are.”


Matt continued: “As previously mentioned, we've not had it this good in the league since The great KFC chicken shortage and David Wagner was charging up and down the touchline. Gone are the days of Mooy, Schindler and Hefele but there are new stars emerging from the clouds of dust and Lewis O'Brien in particular is catching the eye. Not letting rejected summer bids from Leeds Utd effect him, Lewis has been excellent in Town's engine room and has had a great support act in Sorba Thomas who's pinpoint delivery has created eight goals so far this season. That's two more goals created than both of our wingers combined during the entire 2016/17 season when we last found ourselves around the playoffs.


“The real success though has been at the back. Carlos Corberan rather stumbled into a back three due to a covid outbreak in August which necessitated a switch from his trusty 4-3-3. Goalkeeper Lee Nicholls and centre backs Matty Pearson, Tom Lees and Levi Colwill have been phenomenally solid. Having this resolute base has allowed Town to stay in games for longer than we were last season and nick several results. Testament to this is that Town have won five of their eight victories by a single goal. This Town side is industrious, it fights, it works hard and lets EVERY side know that they've been in a game, all qualities that the working class public of Huddersfield feel an affiliation to. Should the Terriers add some extra attacking prowess in January, well then those who have stayed away may decide to just take that walk back down Leeds Road...


Prediction - a hard fought game full of endeavour with a rejuvenated Boro side earning a point. 1-1.



The Form Book


Middlesbrough (Last six: LDDLLW)


Middlesbrough 1-2 Preston North End

Middlesbrough 1-1 Millwall

West Brom 1-1 Middlesbrough

Luton Town 3-1 Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough 0-2 Birmingham City

Cardiff City 0-2 Middlesbrough


Huddersfield Town (Last six: LWLDWL)


QPR 1-0 Huddersfield Town

Huddersfield Town 1-0 West Brom

Cardiff City 2-1 Huddersfield Town

Peterborough United 1-1 Huddersfield Town

Huddersfield Town 1-0 Millwall

Bournemouth 3-0 Huddersfield Town


Head-to-head record


Matches played - 58

Wins - Middlesbrough 31-18 Huddersfield Town

Draws - 9

Goals - Middlesbrough 105-66 Huddersfield Town

Points - Middlesbrough 102-63 Huddersfield Town


Last Meeting


https://youtu.be/WJ7fZWDw2Ao


Last six:


Middlesbrough 2-1 Huddersfield Town - February 16, 2021

Huddersfield Town 3-2 Middlesbrough - November 28, 2020

Middlesbrough 1-0 Huddersfield Town - December 26, 2019

Huddersfield Town 0-0 Middlesbrough - October 23, 2019

Middlesbrough 3-0 Huddersfield Town - April 5, 2016

Huddersfield Town 0-2 Middlesbrough - November 28, 2015



League Statistics


Middlesbrough:

15th, won 6, drawn 5, lost 8

Goals scored 21, goals conceded 22

Clean sheets 6

Points 23


Huddersfield Town:

8th, won 8, drawn 4, lost 7

Goals scored 22, goals conceded 21

Clean sheets 8

Points 28


Team News


Boro boss Chris Wilder has been without some of his key players since his arrival on Teesside, however, recent injury updates would suggest that he’s as close to having a clean bill of health currently than Boro have had at any point this season.


Forwards Duncan Watmore and Andraz Sporar both passed late fitness tests in order to play against Preston. Speaking on Andraz Sporar and Duncan Watmore, Wilder said: “He’d not trained since the game (Watmore - against Millwall) so that was touch and go.


“He passed a late fitness test on the afternoon. So did Andy (Andraz Sporar). He looked as if he was just a little bit off the pace as well, Duncan.”


A surprise absentee ahead of the Preston game was goalkeeper Joe Lumley, with Wilder later revealing the shot-stopper had rolled his ankle during the warm-up prior to last Saturday’s match against Millwall.


The Boro boss also revealed that Dael Fry and Martin Payero were expected to be back in training this week, Saturday, however, will come to soon for them both, with Wilder confirming that both will be back involved from next week onwards. I expect this to be the same with defender Grant Hall too.


As for Huddersfield, manager Carlos Corberan provided an injury update prior to The Terriers’ midweek match against QPR.


Midfielder Alex Vallejo suffered an injury setback that will keep him sidelined for a further two to three weeks, after initially injuring his knee back in September. Similarly, Terriers captain Jonathan Hogg has also suffered a setback during his rehab on a knee injury, and is now expected to miss a further six to eight weeks.


Spanish full back Pipa, as well as former promotion winner with Middlesbrough - and the man who caused carnage in a Bolton Wanderers away end - Jordan Rhodes are both expected to be sidelined for a further few weeks, and will not play a part on Saturday.


One Huddersfield player who Carlos Corberan suggested that Saturday’s game against Middlesbrough will likely see him return to the squad is winger Duane Holmes. The forward has missed Huddersfield’s previous two matches, but is now expected to make his return this weekend.





Managers Thoughts


Following his sides infuriating defeat on Tuesday, a heated Middlesbrough boss Chris Wilder voiced his frustrations, stating: “I’ll say it honestly, I believed before the game the result would be decided in our changing room.


“I thought they were the better side for 10 minutes and started the brighter but we got a grip and for half an hour dominated the game and got ourselves up in the game. Possibly for the amount of play we had we should have increased our lead.


Wilder did not hold back when discussing how his side lost the game, as the Boro boss called into question the attitudes of his players, saying: “The period where we lost the game, we played like we were three or four nil up, but we weren’t, we were 1-0 up.


“When you’re 1-0 up, that’s not enough because how quickly things can turn around. Even if we were three or four up, I don’t want to play like that. I thought we went individual and tried to force it. I thought too many of the players were looking to be the star of the show, looking for the killer ball, it was about me.


“We had them where we wanted them and the result was lost in the changing room because of our attitude in the second half.”


Wilder continued: “This club has been renowned for some magicians at the top end of the pitch, but they are team players and I just though we went individual and we played as if we were three or four nil up. The way the play and the way they approach games is hugely important and we didn’t put them to bed.”


Wilder did however come to the defence of Boro defender Sol Bamba, who’s botched pass/clearance gifted Preston the winning goal, stating: “I can accept the individual mistake, it will happen for us and everybody.”


Speaking after a late goal condemned his side to a 1-0 defeat to QPR on Wednesday, a disappointed Huddersfield Town boss Carlos Corberan stated: “We were defending the box very well for me, but in the action of the goal we didn’t do well enough and allowed them the possibility to create the ball that in the end gave them three points in a very competitive game that demanded a lot (from us).


“When we had the ball we didn’t find the possibilities to dominate the game more, but it’s true that we had some good opportunities to counter-attack and some good chances, especially one of Campbell (Fraizer) that I remember, where we had a numerical advantage that we didn’t use well enough to unbalance the game.


"The key was to have the ball in the offensive half, they had the ball more than us in the offensive half, and that’s why I think they got the three points.”


Looking ahead to how his side can improve going forward, Corberan suggested that: “We want to spend more time attacking than defending, and it’s true for me we spent more time today defending than attacking.


“Sometimes it’s not easy to make this transition but for me the effort we had to do against this team in defence didn’t allow us after, maybe, to have enough skill to attack better.”


Predicted Line-ups


Middlesbrough (3-5-2): GK: Luke Daniels DEF: Paddy McNair, Sol Bamba, Lee Peltier

MID: Isaiah Jones, Jonny Howson (C), Marcus Tavernier, Matt Crooks, Marc Bola ATT: Duncan Watmore, Andraz Sporar


Preston (3-4-3): GK: Lee Nichols DEF: Matt Pearson, Naby Sarr, Levi Colwill MID: Harry Toffolo, Lewis O’Brien (C), Scott High, Oliver Turton ATT: Josh Koroma, Sorba Thomas, Danny Ward


Officials


Referee: Keith Stroud

Assistants: James Wilson & Nik Barnard

Fourth Official: Leigh Doughty





Match Prediction


Ahead of Tuesday night’s game against Preston North End, I suggested that Middlesbrough are running a competition to find the most inventive way to drop points. Well if indeed they are, Sol Bamba may as well receive his prize already, as that is going to take some beating.


The Boro had me looking like a genius too, as in my Preston preview, not only had I gone for a 1-0 Boro win, I also pointed out that Preston had conceded five times in their last two games, with four of them coming from set-pieces, thus being Boro’s best chance at hurting Preston. So when Paddy walloped that header in from Jonny Howson’s corner, I was well chuffed with myself.


Cut to about an hour later and dog toys were being booted across the living room as I was quickly reminded that this is Middlesbrough Football Club and we just can’t have nice things. Long live the banter era.


Middlesbrough have problems at both ends of the pitch. Up top, the wingers appear to be obliged to do 10 pirouettes on the ball before being allowed to put a cross into the box, with a complete lack of service in the penalty area for Andraz Sporar, forcing him to drop deeper and play in a similar fashion to that of Harry Kane.


At the other end, Boro’s defenders just can’t help but shoot themselves in the foot with head-scratching decision making and complete lapses in concentration. And at this level, you simply don’t get away with it.


So can they take some positive steps towards fixing these issues this weekend? In Huddersfield, they’ll find a somewhat of an enigma of an opponent. They’ve beaten won 4-0 and lost 5-1 already this season, but they are eighth in the Championship and three points off the play-offs, yet Terriers fans have been critical at times of Corberan’s tendency to play overly-defensive against teams. So what can we expect?

Huddersfield Town have one of the best home records in the Championship, only losing twice out of nine home games this season. So make no mistake, The Terriers are turning their home into a real fortress.


As well as that, they have the Championship’s joint-top assister in the form of 22 year-old Welsh international winger Sorba Thomas with eight assists. On the opposite flank is Josh Koroma, who whilst not enjoying a particularly productive start to the season in terms of goals and assists (two goals, one assist), the wideman netted eight times for Huddersfield last season, and has proven himself as a good player at this level.


At the back, they’re not too shabby either. Only three teams outside of the top three (Fulham, Bournemouth and West Brom) have conceded less goals than The Terriers’ 21 this season, these being: Stoke City (20), Millwall (19), and perhaps unexpectedly Derby (18).


In-between the sticks you’ll find Lee Nicholls, who has kept eight clean sheets in 17 Championship games, and teams have found it hard to get past the 29 year-old shot-stopper.


However, Huddersfield can be got at. They like to play on the counter-attack, which has been effective at times for them. But as seen in their 1-0 defeat on Wednesday night, Corberan has come in for criticism for sitting back too deep and allowing teams to assert too much attacking dominance in the game.


A key to a Middlesbrough victory is to not allow Huddersfield opportunities from set-pieces, as no team in the Championship has scored more goals from set-pieces than Huddersfield Town’s 10 in the Championship this season.


On the flip side however, only Cardiff City (10), Derby County (10) and Barnsley (nine) have scored less goals in open play than The Terriers’ 11 this season. Therefore, it’s clear that Boro should go into this one with nothing to fear and a pretty clear game-plan, and that is to not allow Huddersfield any cheap opportunities from set-pieces, and to not be afraid to get at them and attempt to take control of the game.


This has the feeling of being a really close, low scoring affair, in which just one goal for either side will likely be the winner. And you can call me crazy, but if the players can come out with fire in their bellies, and with some stern words of advice from Chris Wilder still ringing in their ears, I have a sneaky feeling that Middlesbrough will snap Huddersfield Town’s five game unbeaten home run this weekend in a scrappy, snatch and grab win.


Prediction: Huddersfield Town 0-1 Middlesbrough


Be sure to tune in to the latest Boro Breakdown podcast for all your matchday chatter in a pod, which you can find here.

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