So predictably typical Town

There are those of us of a certain vintage who were delighted to see a Cardiff back line with McGuinness Flint in it but, early 70s nostalgia aside, this sobering defeat in horrible weather was more than disappointing.

Town’s trips to South Wales rarely bring much reward but the circumstances of this encounter promised more than most. Cardiff’s dreadful form, which cost Mick McCarthy what may prove to be his final job in management, coupled with the Terriers’ encouraging season to date was sufficient comfort to overlook a generational propensity for Huddersfield Town to be the perfect opposition for struggling teams.

Despite having better squad depth available to him this season, Corberán went with an unchanged 11 from the physical demands of the past week. It was a decision which looked far from wise by half time, despite his charges leading 1-0 at the end of a low quality 45 minutes, as both Hogg (after less than 10 minutes) and Holmes had to be replaced with injuries. Both failed to complete the Peterborough game and Hogg, in particular, should not have been brought back so quickly.

A swirling wind carrying the type of rain which sprays and soddens with miserable intensity was weather more suited to the rugby international which made Cardiff city centre a great place to be prior to the game; a sparse football stadium seemed miserable in comparison.

Hogg’s injury immediately preceded Town’s opener. McGuinness, under no discernible pressure, under hit a back pass to Smithies which turned in to a through ball for Sinani, who finally opened his account for Town by holding off a challenge well before squeezing the ball between Smithies and post.

This was a perfect gift for the visitors. An early lead, provided by the incompetence of an opponent struggling with confidence, has the affect of deflating home support which eventually turns against their team whose anxiety levels spike and performances implode.

Town largely let Cardiff off the hook. Instead of piling on the pressure, some ridiculous decision making at the back, the main culprits being Nicholls and Colwill, managed to achieve precisely the opposite. It was fortunate that the Bluebirds were incapable of taking advantage of their opponents’ largesse, some decent recovery work by Town players should be acknowledged, but the opportunity to bury Cardiff psychologically was completely missed.

Towards the end of the half, the visitors could and probably should have doubled their lead with a couple of decent forays forward but Holmes failed to react quickly enough to a ball across by Sinani. O’Brien also created a shooting opportunity as Town finished the half strongly, but it was far too little, too late.

The second half was as frustrating an experience as you expect from Town on far too many occasions. They were clearly the better side, they were capable of some very decent football sporadically and created simple opportunities to put the game to bed which, had they been taken, would have resulted in an entirely different post match conversation.

In the first 25 minutes of the second half, Town largely controlled their struggling opponents and started to ramp up pressure with extended periods of possession which culminated in a burst of activity which should have sealed the 3 points.

Scott High had a goal bound effort blocked following good work by Koroma, as the left side of Town’s attack began to click; Toffolo, O’Brien and Koroma were causing problems with decent interchanges and movement.

It was O’Brien, whose bursts caused Cardiff problems all through the second half, who fed Sinani for another blocked shot which led to the corner which, in turn, produced the easiest chance to go 2 up and win the game.

Thomas, who looked far too leggy, delivered a quite superb corner which eluded a bunch of battling opponents to reach Colwill about 3 yards out. The youngster had little time to weigh up his options, but they weren’t particularly complex. Either head the ball down or back across from whence it came. Unfortunately, the ball rather hit his head and flew at Smithies who, nevertheless, made a very good save to push the ball on to the post.

It was a remarkable miss and a potentially deflating one but Town kept coming and forged 2 further chances to finish the contest.

Ward did very well to beat Flint to a high ball from Nicholls which left him clear on goal and one on one with his good friend, Smithies. His deft chip beat the keeper but not the upright and another glorious opportunity went begging.

More good work down the left saw Koroma deliver a sumptuous ball across the face of Cardiff’s goal but Ward was unable to apply a finishing touch.

The encouragement of a spell of play which emphasised Town’s growing superiority was quickly replaced by the dread of the knowledge that spurning opportunities would only lead to punishment, and so it came to pass.

A rather cheaply conceded corner indirectly following sloppy attempts to play out from the back (which blighted Town all afternoon) was very well delivered for Moore to get in front of Colwill and equalise.

Hugely disappointing, though ominously predictable, it was the first time the dangerous Moore looked like contributing to the afternoon and wouldn’t be the last.

Town responded reasonably well and, to their credit, didn’t simply retreat to take the point, but they were unable to carve out another chance despite some promising possession.

Thomas, while trying to set up another Town attack, under hit a pass forward, Cardiff switched it out to their left, Pearson was too easily beaten and Moore, again, beat Colwill to head home a thoroughly undeserved, but undoubtedly welcome, winner.

It is legitimate to question Corberán’s decisions for this game, particularly keeping an unchanged line up after a gruelling week. Losing Hogg and Holmes in the first half was prima facie evidence of error and one which reduced the possibility of flexibility in the second half to counter the evident tiredness towards the end.

And oh for a centre forward who can play as poorly as Keifer Moore did and score twice!

When we are all dead and gone, future Town teams will be losing away games in this manner as they have so often in the past. 

(And that’s me done for a while – finally allowed back in the US. Will return for Barnsley away)

Ooh, we’re halfway there

With two thirds of the season to go, a point at Peterborough took Town to half of the 50 point target which, usually, keeps you above relegation.

The result was disappointing following a performance which, while far from faultless, should have been enough to secure a creditable away win, and it should be said that there was some genuine bad luck with decisions and injuries.

However, it was probably a more realistic assessment of Town’s chances of sustaining a challenge at the top end of the table that they were unable to see through a victory against fairly limited opponents, lacking the ruthlessness necessary for tricky midweek fixtures away from home.

A dominant first half display, which wobbled ominously towards the back end, should’ve laid the foundations for victory and the exceptionally marginal offside decision against Ward when he converted a rebounding effort from Holmes off the bar, was particularly galling following a similar decision at Bournemouth. Neither call remotely hinted at the benefit of doubt supposedly afforded to strikers (if there is such a thing), and the much improved Ward has been desperately unlucky to be denied goals which attested to good striking instincts.

The disallowed open play goals would also have provided a little more balance to those achieved through set pieces, which seems to overly concern the more esoteric fans and commentators.

A high press which was maintained throughout a solid first half pinned the hosts back for long periods but, the disallowed goal aside, the control didn’t result in opportunities and a late flurry by Peterborough nearly, and ludicrously, could have seen Town go in one down.

Just before the break, Hogg went down injured and though he made it to half time, he didn’t reappear and was replaced by High. This was a blow; High is a good footballer but simply couldn’t hope to replicate Hogg’s experience which had been instrumental in the dominance of Posh in the first half.

Still, it was the visitors who continued to look the more likely winners and with O’Brien driving the team forward, they looked increasingly dangerous from both flanks. Thomas, who was otherwise a little flat and probably in need of a break, delivered a great cross to the back post which was headed over by Holmes, who perhaps should’ve done better.

Toffolo was brighter than he had been for much of the season and was integral to a couple of complex passing movements down the left which failed in the last action. He also brought a standard save from Posh’s otherwise too underworked keeper.

It was Toffolo who won the corner which led to Town’s goal with more good offensive work down the left and Thomas finally delivered a decent delivery on to the head of Colwill, who headed down for Ward to snaffle the opener from short range.

Ward thoroughly deserved his goal, particularly after being on the wrong side of two highly marginal decisions in the last 2 away games, and, along with Holmes who put in another strong performance before injury saw him replaced by Turton, should be highly praised for their massive improvement.

Sadly, the goal provoked a mindset which ultimately cost the team 2 points. Wether Turton would’ve been sent on to shore things up had it not been necessary to replace the injured Holmes is a little moot. Town’s approach became defensive and tentative and it is disconcerting that they were undone by an opponent simply throwing on a big fella to try to turn around a game they never looked like gaining anything from.

With just over 5 minutes to play, High and Turton conspired to miss opportunities to either clear a loose ball or block the consequent cross which exposed Colwill to Clarke-Harris in the middle. A small push by the Peterborough substitute was missed by the officials – O’Brien was furious and booked for his protests – but Town really only had themselves to blame.

Despite the disappointment of dropping 2 points, there was a fair amount to like about the performance. As mentioned, Ward and Holmes performed to high levels again, O’Brien and Toffolo put in their best displays of the season to date and, the late lapse aside, Town still looked defensively solid.

Saturday’s trip to Cardiff, likely with an injury depleted squad, will be tough despite the travails of the Welsh club, but whatever the outcome, the first third of the season has been more than satisfactory.

The breaking news about Phil Hodgkinson’s other businesses adds a layer of uncertainty and unwelcome distraction, but there is nothing Corberán, the players or the fans can do about that. If it proves to be the end of his ownership, however, his stewardship during a painful and difficult transition is clearly bearing fruit and this should be acknowledged amidst the crisis he is now facing.