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Opposition Preview - Huddersfield Town (Home)
Written by ad_wilkin on Friday, 3rd May 2024 11:18

The last game of the regular season and hopefully the last game of Ipswich’s season sees Huddersfield visit Portman Road with the Super Blues needing one point to guarantee promotion to the promised land.

It will also hopefully be the last one of these I write for the summer so before I preview the Terriers I'd like to thank Phil for giving me the opportunity to chuck my thoughts onto the Internet to share, as well as editing what I do come up with into something that’s fit for the Internet, to Gav for putting all of my images onto the blogs, everyone who gave up time to do interviews with me and share valuable insights on their teams.

And most importantly I'd like to thank all of you who read these and provide feedback and comments as those really do make it worthwhile. If you’d like extra content over the summer, then I also post bits and pieces on @itfcdata on X.

On to Huddersfield, who at one point looked like certain relegation candidates and despite a brief renaissance seem to have had the final nail put into that coffin by their 1-1 draw with Birmingham on Saturday.

They still aren’t mathematically down but need a 16-goal swing on the last day to stay in the division and fans and their manager looks to have accepted their fate. They are the league's draw specialists with 18 and turning those draws into wins looks to be what has cost them their place in the division.

Last Time Out (Huddersfield 1-1 Ipswich)

Ipswich travelled to Yorkshire in excellent form following six wins in a row, including a Carabao Cup success against Premier League Wolves. Despite dominating possession, they found a stubborn Huddersfield side in their way who sat deep and were stubborn in defence whilst threatening with pace on the counter.

They took the lead on the countera-ttack with a Delano Burgzorg goal before a diving Brandon Williams header rescued a point for the Blues.

Town had the best of the opening spell with George Hirst heading a Wes Burns cross straight into the hands of Lee Nicholls early on. Hirst then continued to cause problems running in behind from a clipped ball from goalkeeper Vaclav Hladky, but was unable to find anyone in the box before Massimo Luongo blazed over from range.

Huddersfield created their first real chance in the 14th minute. Josh Koroma was slipped in behind and Hladky had to spring to his left and make an excellent one-handed save to deny his placed effort that was heading for the corner.

It wasn’t long before Huddersfield were in down Town’s right-hand side again, this time Jack Rudoni finding good space and delivering a whipped ball into the box that Leif Davis got back just in time to defend.

With the ball still not cleared, Huddersfield kept possession and Hladky had to be on his toes to deny Koroma again, rushing out with both hands to block another goalbound effort.

Conor Chaplin slipped and scooped one over before Huddersfield tested Hladky again with an inswinging Sorba Thomas corner and a long-range Burgzorg effort that went narrowly wide as Town got caught in the Huddersfield pressing trap as they tried to play out.

The Blues should then have really had a penalty. Hirst powered forward with the ball before finding Omari Hutchinson down the left. Hutchinson nutmegged his defender and sprinted away before going down in the penalty area as the covering Sorba Thomas clipped his feet.

Town looked like they were seizing momentum at that point. A nicely worked move saw Burns find Chaplin with a trademark cutback but Chaplin was only able to shoot straight into the arms of Nicholls.

Rudoni then found space in the Town box but was shut out and Burgzorg had another sighter from range, this time testing Hladky, who had to dive down low to his right.

Hirst, who was Town’s main outlet in this one, again got into a good position down the left following a long Massimo Luongo ball and tried to do it all himself, cutting inside and firing a shot that was deflected just wide.

A dipping Koroma effort then forced Hladky to produce another wonderful save, tipping this latest effort onto his post.

Huddersfield eventually broke the deadlock with a goal that they had been threatening as Town threw bodies forward. The Terriers counter-attack looked to have broken down, but Williams inexplicably passed the ball back to them. That then saw Burgzorg slid in down the left-hand side, one-on-one against the covering Lee Evans. Burgzorg stood Evans up, knocked the ball to the right and then drilled past Hladky at his near post.

Conceding seemed to spark Town into life. Substitute Jack Taylor tested Nicholls from range before Hirst glanced a header narrowly wide.

Huddersfield could have wrapped-up all three points were it not for Hladky. Some good running from Burgzorg allowed Sorba Thomas an opportunity to cross from the right. His ball found Rudoni, who had done well to avoid defensive attention and get in at the near post, but he was unable to flick the ball into the net with Hladky covering to beat the ball away once again.

Nicholls was performing his own heroics down the other end. Hutchinson cut in from the right-hand side onto his left foot as is his trademark and whipped a ball in. Freddie Ladapo adjusted excellently to divert the cross on target, but Nicholls was in the way with an outstanding save.

It took until 86 minutes for Town to get an equaliser. Hutchinson this time went down the line and chipped a cross up to the back post. Ladapo missed his header, but Davis was there to dink the ball back into danger and onto the head of a diving Williams, who had continued his run into the box when he underlapped Hutchinson and threw himself at the ball to direct it into the net.

Looking back on this game now, this was one of the poorest defensive performances Town put in. They really missed Sam Morsy in midfield and were indebted to some excellent Hladky saves to keep them in the game.

Based on this performance and the fact that I've not seen much of Huddersfield since I’m very surprised they’ve been relegated but it could be because they struggle when they’re the dominant team.

With a massive goal difference to overturn to even stand a chance of staying up they won’t be able to execute the same gameplan this time round.

What’s Changed?

Huddersfield are now on their third manager of the season. Neil Warnock worked his magic at the end of last season to save the Terriers from relegation and started this season with the aim to continue his work with until a long-term replacement could be found. He only lasted until mid-September before being replaced by Darren Moore.

Town’s 1-1 draw at the John Smith’s Stadium was Moore’s second game in charge. Moore managed another 21 matches after that and of those Huddersfield only won three. That form saw him sacked at the end of January.

Having seen both QPR and Sheffield Wednesday have bounces with foreign managers, the Terriers switched tack and after a three-week search appointed Andre Breitenreiter.

This is Breitenreiter’s first spell in English football having accumulated a bunch of experience in his native Germany. He started his management career at TSV Havelse before spells at SC Paderborn, Schalke, Hannover 96, a brief stint in Switzerland with FC Zurich before a return to Germany with Hoffenheim.

If his career is anything to go by, he’s not a manager that will be round for long time with his longest spell at a club only lasting just over two years.

Since taking over at the Terriers he has managed two wins against Watford and Millwall and picked up a good point drawing with Leeds.

The Terriers were also quite active in the January transfer window with four signings and the recall of Brodie Spencer from his loan at Motherwell.

Spencer was getting regular football in Scotland and has continued to do so since his return to Yorkshire playing regularly all over the backline at right-back, left-back, right sided centre-back and right wing-back. His latest position is now the left side of a back three.

His form and regular football also saw him add to his Northern Ireland caps with the 19-year-old performing well at left-back in games against Romania and Scotland in the last international break.

Goals were lacking in the first half of the season, so the Terriers looked to add to their striking department with two permanent signings. Rhys Healy joined from Watford having struggled for game time with the Hornets and giant Serbian Bojan Radulovic joined from Finnish side HJK.

Of the two, Healy has had the biggest impact with two goals in nine appearances and a string of impressive performances. Most of those, including both goals, have come from the bench with him more often being used as a super-sub than a starter.

Radulovic by contrast has made four starts but doesn’t often come off the bench. He has one goal in nine total appearances. His spell in the Veikkausliiga was far more prolific with 18 goals in 24 games at a rate of a goal every 101 minutes. At 24 he’s still got room to grow, and Terriers fans will hope that he can emulate fellow countryman Alexandr Mitrovic.

Also coming in during that January window was Alex Matos, who is making his first loan spell out of the Chelsea academy. He’s played a total of four minutes for Chelsea but has impressed at U18 and Premier League 2 level. He’s made 14 starts since joining the Terriers, adding energy in the middle of the park, first alongside the ageing Jonathan Hogg and then in a midfield three.

He started brightly, although his form has dipped recently. He had a torrid time in a match against Preston North End losing all his duels, only having 19 touches and conceding a penalty.

The final signing of the window was to strengthen the defence. Radinio Balker joined following an impressive first half of the season at Dutch side Groningen. He has impressed in his five starts but recurring injuries have hampered his impact and he looks set to miss this one through injury too.

Key Players

Sorba Thomas

Sorba Thomas has been Huddersfield’s main creative threat this season, playing mainly as a right wing-back but also in a central striking role or on the other side of a back five.

Such is his creative influence that he is joint-top of the key passes per 90 metric alongside Town's Davis. This has seen him achieve nine assists and find the back of the net four times.

Therefore, it was quite a surprise to see him benched for the must-win game against Birmingham. At 25 years of age he still has room to improve and will be looking to finish his most impressive season to date with another impressive performance. He’s likely to have plenty of Championship suitors in the summer once Huddersfield’s relegation is confirmed.

Michael Helik

The fact that Huddersfield’s top goalscorer is a defender shows why the Terriers have ended up in the position they are in. Despite that, Helik’s nine goals is incredibly impressive for any defender let alone one in a relegation fight.

The fact that he has also helped his side keep clean sheets is an added bonus and he can feel a bit hard done by to have not made the Championship Team of the Season.

The towering defender will look to use all his aerial presence to keep Town quiet and try and get into double figures up the other end.

Jack Rudoni

Rudoni is an all-action midfielder who has hit good form in recent games. He is key to this Huddersfield team getting the ball up the pitch averages 2.56 progressive carries per game.

Often playing in a midfield three, he is given the freedom to float around the pitch and exert his influence where it is needed. Given that role, he ranks very low for all passing metrics but has very high numbers for touches in the final third and opposition penalty box.

Town are susceptible to aggressive dribblers of which Rudoni is one, so he will be looking to cause damage in his free role and will be one of Huddersfield's main attacking outlets.

The Teams

Despite Andre Breitenreiter stating that his team are professionals and will go all out for the win, it looks like he has accepted relegation and has confirmed back-up keeper Chris Maxwell will start in place of Nicholls. With focus on the future in mind, loan players Burgzorg and Matos could be sacrificed for players who have more of a future with the club.

The back three will likely stay the same as the Birmingham game, meaning Matthew Pearson, Helik and Spencer forming a back three.

Thomas is likely to come back in at right wing-back with Jaheim Headley possibly coming in as a left wing-back. Koroma is another option there if they do choose to go all-out attack.

The midfield three could be the same as the Birmingham game with Matos, Rudoni and David Kasumu starting there but Ben Wiles could replace Matos.

Healy is in good goalscoring form so will continue up front but Burgzorg, who caused the Town defence all sorts of problems last time out, is also an option.

However, again if Breitenreiter is looking to the future, he might also want to test the Radulovic and Healy pairing.

For Ipswich it’s again mainly the front players that have the most question marks over who will play. With Davis fit or at very least battling through his ankle issue, the backline is pretty easy to pick with Luke Woolfenden likely to come back in for George Edmundson.

The midfield is also fairly straightforward with Morsy and Luongo likely to continue for such a big game.

In front of them is where I think changes could occur. Jeremy Sarmiento is growing and growing into his loan spell and Nathan Broadhead didn’t look fully fit in terms of tracking back and pressing on Tuesday night, so I think the Ecuadorian could be given a start.

As I mentioned in the Coventry blog, Hutchinson just has to start so that only leaves the question of whether he starts on the right or in the 10 role. A lot of that will depend on Burns's fitness, but I can see the Welshman starting with Hutchinson in the 10 role once again.

Up front, it’s a toss-up between Kieffer Moore and Hirst. The more mobile Hirst gets the nod for me for this one as his ability to stretch the Huddersfield backline will be crucial to then creating chances for the players behind him.

Action Areas

Having watched highlights of Huddersfield's last three games, it doesn’t look like too much has changed since their time under Darren Moore. They’re still fairly direct, they like to use Thomas down the right-hand side to get crosses into the box and they still have pacy strong forwards who are also handy dribblers.

What has perhaps changed is the amount they press. Their wing-backs play high, so high they’re listed as right and left midfielders in some places. This combined with a pretty fluid midfield means they can quickly get men around the ball and win it back.

The weakness to that is if teams play through the press then it’s quite easy to get runners up against the back three. That back three tend to drop off so if it is Hutchinson, Burns and Hirst starting if Town play it right they could easily get some four-v-three opportunities there with Davis also overloading the left-hand side.

Moving the ball quickly from left to right through a central number 10 with either Burns or Hutchinson staying narrow is another option. Koji Miyoshi got in down the right-hand side a number of times for Birmingham in the Terriers' last game so Town could also look to exploit that, especially as the left wing-back often isn’t a natural defender.

Onto the final prediction of the regular season. To hope for a repeat of Exeter is probably too much to ask for. This Huddersfield side do have threat but if Town get an early goal the fight could drain fairly quickly.

The added factor that rivals Leeds are Town’s competition has seen lots of Huddersfield fans say they’re rooting for the Blues. I’m going to go for a 3-0 victory to round this season off in style.

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Normandyblue added 08:58 - May 5
Only 1 goal out, thanks for these detailed analyses over the season, I have enjoyed reading them and hope you will continue next season.

KiwiBlue2 added 03:11 - May 7
Thank you very much for the previews that you have posted. I have really appreciated them and hope that you can find time time to continue them next season.
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