Huddersfield Town’s early season zip and creativity evaded them on Saturday as they fell to a 2-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Carlos Corberan has overseen a solid start to the season and the acceptance in the head coach’s post-match press conference was that it was simply a bad day at the office.
Too many of Huddersfield’s key men weren’t at their best: sloppy in possession, lacking precision in their creative play and stumped by Forest’s switch in formation.
Steven Reid’s interim game in-charge saw the visitors move to 3-4-3, inspiring Forest to a first league victory of the season. That decision to use wing-backs in wake of Chris Hughton’s exit and, in the process, match Huddersfield’s formation, proved to be key.
Forest were able to play with width and overload out wide. Brennan Johnson and Joe Lolley were involved heavily in the two goals, whilst Djed Spence and Max Lowe impressed both offensively and defensively.
The latter’s job in managing Sorba Thomas looked a daunting one pre-match, yet the Sheffield United loanee left August’s Player of the Month really limited in terms of attacking output.
Our graphic above underlines the struggles Thomas had. He attempted two shots on goal, the first blocked by Joe Worrall and the second dragged harmlessly wide as the final stages played out.
The 22-year-old was caught offside twice, wasn’t accurate with one of his six attempted crosses from open play and lost possession on 12 occasions. Lowe’s ability to squeeze Thomas when he received the ball around the halfway line was key to a sloppy afternoon.
Thomas’ overall passing accuracy was 72%, just below his season average and way short of his most recent outing at the John Smith’s Stadium when he ripped Reading to pieces.
That day, his pass success was above 80% and he lost possession on only five occasions. He came up against the poor Andy Yiadom, who wasn’t nearly as intense as Saturday’s opponent, Lowe.
In terms of chances created, Thomas was electric against Reading, not just scoring, but also creating two goals. Forest limited him so much that his two shot assists on Saturday came from corners in the final 10 minutes; Tom Lees, it has to be said, should have converted the first.
Wyscout’s heat map below shows that Corberan’s side turned to Thomas to try and inspire them amongst their 71% possession. The former Boreham Wood man had plenty of the ball in the Forest half, helped by a switch from wing-back to a more attacking position in the second-half.
Despite completing five of six attempted dribbles, Thomas found it tough against the aggressive Lowe, who was backed up by Scott McKenna. His frustrations were evident when he dragged an 88th minute shot across Brice Samba’s goal from distance. Forest, as they had all afternoon, blocking all other avenues.
It’s been a good start to the season for Huddersfield and Thomas. The biggest compliment you can pay his form so far is that this was the first occasion in eight games where his opposite number has truly got the better of him.
Unearthing that usual zip and creativity when things aren’t going his way and he’s a marked man, is a challenge Thomas must meet head on. He’s come a long way in a short period of time and still has to learn.
Simply, a bad day at the office for Huddersfield shouldn’t impact Thomas too much: adapt, learn and move on.
That’s the remit for Huddersfield, too.