Goodwill is a vital currency for the manager of a football club. It is used to see them through inevitable slumps in form and gives them breathing space to instigate change and regain momentum.
Sadly for Carlos Corberán, the frustrated booing at full time last week at Oakwell and again following a desperately unconvincing draw with Mark Robins’ impressive Coventry, it seems his goodwill well is dry.
Town were on course to blatantly rob the 3 points despite playing second fiddle to the slick Sky Blues who had been thwarted by some excellent goalkeeping, the post and several blocks before an injury time equaliser delivered a sliver of justice for their progressive, easy on the eye style.
In fact, the football played by the visitors seemed to be the type we were promised under Carlos but which is rarely delivered by a squad who appear constrained by rigid tactics. As well as they can defend, which is the significant difference over last season and the reason the limited football isn’t dragging us closer to the relegation battle, any early season joy has been sucked out of performances.
On the rare occasions Town break out of the rigid structures imposed by the manager, they show that they are not without talent. The goal which very nearly took them over the line was a case in point as a sweeping move down the left resulted in a perfect low ball in by Toffolo which was sweetly struck first time by Ward.
Despite some good work down the left by Colwill in the opening 20 minutes, Town had been scruffy in possession and unthreatening before the goal, while Coventry’s neat and tidy approach play failed to trouble the hosts but more than suggested they were going to be a tough challenge.
And so it proved. The goal didn’t settle Town at all and they nearly handed out an equaliser 2 minutes later when a poor Nicholls ball to High saw the youngster engulfed and robbed but O’Hare’s attempt to lob the keeper was badly executed and easily dealt with. It was a big let off and simply increased the already jangling nerves. Possession was lost immediately after the scare too though Coventry again failed to take advantage.
On the half hour, O’Hare hit a shot too close to Nicholls, who blocked well, following a sumptuous cross field ball by the visitors which completely opened Town up. They had hit a similarly excellent ball earlier in the half but rather messed up the opportunity but should have equalised with the second one.
The half rather fizzled out after Coventry’s big opportunity and Town took an undeserved lead in to the break and an opportunity to regroup.
The whole complexion of the afternoon could have been changed in the first minute of the second half as a lovely ball in to Holmes who had made a good run in to the box saw the midfielder hit a good effort which was finger tipped on to the post and away for a corner. Coming desperately close to doubling the lead was a massive turning point; Town’s confidence levels, which appear to be low at the moment, would have been boosted and Coventry’s resolve possibly weakened.
As it was, the visitors proceeded to batter the Terriers who were desperately poor in possession throughout a very disappointing second half.
A cracking shot from just inside of the area slammed against the post, last ditch blocks thwarted other attempts and generally poor finishing (including a far post header at a corner which looked much easier to convert than miss) and decision making at the sharp end contributed to Town barely clinging to a lead which looked increasingly preposterous.
And yet, with virtually his only contribution after replacing Ward on 70 minutes, when other candidates, particularly the ineffective and out of form Thomas, looked far more prudent, Campbell hit a shot against a defender which looped up invitingly for Pearson. Sadly, the defender couldn’t convert to seal the points, heading wide.
This was a rare foray forward as Town consistently gave up possession and sat deep to cling on to their precarious advantage.
Though the defending could be seen as effective and, in some ways, admirable, it was anything but that. Constantly failing to clear correctly – and even the otherwise excellent Colwill was guilty of this as time went on – and persistently wasting the small amounts of possession available to them, Town were as unattractive and ineffective as they had been the week before against much inferior opposition.
The injury time equaliser, one of the most deserving the stadium is likely to witness, came as a result of tired defenders and Nicholls failing to deal properly with a ball in the box. Godden arrived at precisely the right time to glance his header past Nicholls to the delight of the excellent travelling support who had encouraged their team throughout.
Most of that support will never have seen Coventry in Huddersfield before, the clubs having assiduously avoided each other for decades (nearly 50 years in the league until last year’s behind closed doors encounter), and their club looks to be on a good path after many years of horrendous struggle through mismanagement.
The boos which descended from the thin home support, and the clear evidence of significant stay aways continues to be of great concern, was justified and a judgement on a performance which seemed at least as much to do with the architect rather than the team.
Nobody was fooled by the elevated position Town were occupying just a few short weeks ago, but levels have dipped enough to create real concerns that a repeat of last season is, at least, a possibility. This seems unlikely given a significantly improved defence and it is hard to imagine an injury crisis of similar proportion, but the dull performances simply cannot continue if Carlos wants to remain in post.
The ownership uncertainties buy him a little time to imbue this team with a bit of personality. Maybe if he stopped the micro management and allowed them to play more freely, he may rescue himself?
Fortune certainly favoured the meek in this one.