The Good, the Bad and the Opposition: Observations from Middlesbrough’s 3-2 loss at Huddersfield Town
Huddersfield Town 3-2 Middlesbrough
EFL Championship Game 14
November 28th, 2020
Kirklees Stadium, Huddersfield
By Stewart Flaherty (@stewartflaherty)
A late winning goal from Josh Koroma sealed all three points for Huddersfield Town and handed playoff chasing Middlesbrough their second defeat in three games. Marvin Johnson continued his good run of recent form when he fired the visitors into the lead, before goals from Carel Eiting and Fraizer Campbell gave the Terriers a lead before halftime. Britt Assombalonga tied the game up from the penalty spot for his second goal in as many games in the 83rd minute, before Koroma scored the decisive goal two minutes later.
You can find a detailed game report on the BBC website here.
FLYING OUT OF THE GATE
The three goal outburst in a win over Derby County last time out was the biggest sign of attacking strength Boro had shown so far this season. Neil Warnock’s team looked strong going forward again here and flew out of the gate in the first half hour in particular.
Captain Assombalonga created chances and made one break that saw Huddersfield center back Richard Stearman injure himself and be subbed off after 30 minutes as he reached to stop the striker racing in on goal with Boro already 1-0 up. While the end result was not favorable, this game was a good sign for Boro fans in terms of their team starting to increase their goal scoring output.
CONSECUTIVE GOALS FOR DUO
Both striker Assombalonga and left winger Johnson scored in this game, and for both men it was their second goal in as many games. Assombalonga had to wait to get off the mark this season, failing to score in his first seven appearances but will likely gain some confidence now on the back of his third goal of the campaign.
Johnson has been in and out of the team so far this season on the left flank, with the common perception that he offers more defensive strength than some of Warnock’s other options. If Johnson can produce a consistent source of goals and assists, he has the ability to make himself an important starter as the campaign goes on.
This was an uncharacteristically fragile performance for Boro on the defensive end, shipping three goals in one game after conceding only six in the previous 13 will be something Warnock will hope is a blip rather than the beginning of a trend.
Boro are developing a reputation of a strong team in terms of mentality capable of grinding out results, so it will be particularly disappointing to Warnock to concede in the last minute of the opening half to go 2-1 down, and equalize in the 83rd minute only to let in the game winning goal two minutes later and fail to close out a point.
The nature of the goals conceded will have been disappointing to Warnock, with some basic individual errors on show. Anfernee Dijksteel has been excellent defensively this season, but was beaten off the dribble easily by Komona before being shy to apply pressure less than a minute later and allowing the winger space to tee up Eiting for the opening goal.
For the second goal, center back Dael Fry allowed Campbell to comfortably cut across and open a shooting lane, before a Chuba Akpom turnover started the Huddersfield attack that saw Komona again take advantage of a lack of Dijksteel pressure to curl home the winning goal.
Boro have achieved some good results against promotion contenders this season, with their only two defeats going into this game coming at the hands of third placed Watford and league leading Norwich. This will definitely be the most disappointing result of the season for Warnock’s men, as the three points lifted Huddersfield to 13th place while dropping Boro down to 10th.
THE OPPOSITION – HUDDERSFIELD TOWN
SHOOT ON SIGHT MINDSET
Veteran striker Campbell has plenty of Premier League experience and an England cap, and the assurance of that pedigree showed through as he led the Terriers attack with quality and a shoot on sight mindset that kept Boro on the back foot throughout. A quality performance from Campbell was capped off when he guided home his third goal of the season to put his team up 2-1 on the stroke of halftime.
PACE GOING FORWARD
Huddersfield may be a bottom half team, but their front three is full of pace and has the capacity to stretch any backline in the division. With striker Campbell flanked by Koroma and Isaac Mbenza, the Terriers showed the ability to threaten in behind and counter attack from one end of the field to the other, never allowing Boro to feel in a position of control at any point in the game.
Another example of players coming forward at pace troubling Boro was on display when the winning goal came, as the run past the ball of midfielder Eiting froze Dijksteel and played a role in Koroma having the space to cut across the defender and fire home the decisive goal.
Naby Sarr became a pivotal figure at the back for Huddersfield, especially when central defensive partner Steadman limped off at the half hour mark. Sarr fought gamely on the defensive end and was the focal point of his team’s efforts to build out of the back
Huddersfield will look to capitalize on the momentum of this result, their first win in five games as they travel to face midtable Cardiff City next up.
Middlesbrough have an important home game against Swansea City next time up as after starting to establish a reputation as being hard to beat, Boro have now lost twice in three outings. The fixture will also be an interesting measuring stick for Warnock, as it was a resounding 3-0 home defeat to Swansea that saw Janoathan Woodgate fired and led to Warnock being handed the managerial reigns.
14’ MID Marvin Johnson (Marcus Tavernier) 0-1
37; HUD Carel Eiting (Josh Koroma) 1-1
45’ HUD Fraizer Campbell (Lewis O’Brien) 2-1
83’ MID Britt Assombalonga PK 2-2
85’ HUD Josh Koroma (Harry Toffolo) 3-2
MAN OF THE MATCH
#19 LM Josh Koroma (Huddersfield Town) – The skill and pace of Koroma tormented Boro from start to finish, with the winger assisting on the opener and scoring the winner to cap an excellent performance.
3: LM Josh Koroma – Man of the Match.
2: CD Naby Sarr – The best defender for his team and focal point in possession when Huddersfield built from the back
1: CF Fraizer Campbell – Spearhead of the Terriers attack, putting his team ahead on the stroke of halftime with a well taken goal.
3: CF Britt Assombalonga – Missed one big first half chance but led the line well all game, won and converted the penalty kick that had appeared to snatch a late draw for his team at one point.
2: LM Marvin Johnson – Strong performance from the winger who opened the scoring and would have added an assist had Assombalonga not missed a golden first half chance that was laid on by Johnson.
1: ACM Marcus Tavernier – The young midfielder is putting together a quality body of work so far this season, and assisted on the opening goal here in a high energy performance.
HUD: Schofield, Toffolo, Sarr, Stearman (Edmonds-Green), Bacuna (Duhaney), O’Brien, Hogg, Eiting, Koroma (Rowe), Mbenza (Brown), Campbell (Ward).
MID: Bettinelli, Bola, McNair, Fry, Dijksteel (Watmore), Saville (Wing), Howson, Tavernier (Akpom), Johnson, Spence, Assombalonga.
Full highlights can be found on the official club website here.