Huddersfield Town put three defeats in four behind them last night in the Championship, coming out on top of a five-goal thriller with Blackburn Rovers at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Carlos Corberan’s side took the lead on three separate occasions and eventually held on for a 3-2 victory, with Danny Ward the hero with a second-half brace.
Alex Vallejo had fizzed Huddersfield into a first-half lead. Ben Brereton Diaz responded for Rovers shortly after half-time, and did so again from the penalty spot following Ward’s first header.
However, Ward wrapped up the points on 84 minutes with a close-range finish beyond Thomas Kaminski.
It was a game that left you drained from the press box, as both sets of supporters went through every emotion on a brisk Yorkshire night.
We run you through our talking points here:
Danny Ward stepping in the right direction
The place to start, without a doubt, is Danny Ward and his heroics in the penalty area.
Since returning to Huddersfield in 2020, the striker has struggled to convince, offering very little goal threat and finding himself established as something of a scapegoat amongst supporters.
So, for him to pop up with two goals last night and a crucial role in the victory was pleasing to see.
Corberan said: “He took the responsibility to attack the box like a proper No.9,” delighted with the two headers his striker produced against a young Rovers defence.
The first, leaping high to connect with Sorba Thomas’ quality ball from the right, as Huddersfield responded to Brereton Diaz’s equaliser.
Ward’s second was different. Ollie Turton’s deep cross was beyond him, yet he managed to find space and time in the box to be available to Harry Toffolo, who kept the ball alive. The finish was simple, but the movement and instinct was something we’ve not seen much of.
Huddersfield were urgent with possession last night and were not afraid to get the ball out of their feet and into the penalty area; it’s what Thomas is so good at and it isn’t a surprise he ended up with another two assists.
Ward, clearly, can thrive on that kind of service.
There’s still a long way to go before the 29-year-old fully convinces every Huddersfield fan that he’s the man to lead the line on a regular basis. He will need to score more goals, more consistently.
This, though, was a step in the right direction.
Jonathan Hogg is an important part of this Huddersfield team. I asked Corberan about his captain’s role within the squad a couple of weeks ago and received an answer underlining how valued Hogg is.
Last night, he was missing with an abdominal injury. That isn’t thought to be a serious problem for Hogg, but he had a watching brief last night as Alex Vallejo played his role.
The Spaniard has played second fiddle to Hogg since arriving at Huddersfield but stepped onto the main stage emphatically last night.
Vallejo zipped Huddersfield into a 36th minute lead after good work from Josh Koroma and Thomas. However, there was more to the midfielder’s game than just his goal.
The 29-year-old accrued a pass success of 78.3% and an overall WhoScored rating of 7.38 before he was withdrawn at the start of the second-half due to injury.
The aforementioned urgency that Huddersfield played with stemmed from Vallejo, who looked to play forwards and break lines with his passing, not just providing a shield for Corberan’s defensive unit and playing safe. He took risks with possession and was rewarded.
Corberan recognises the important role Vallejo could play for his side and stated post-match that he hopes his knee injury isn’t serious.
Whether Vallejo can ever be as important and popular at Huddersfield as Hogg is a big ask. However, he stepped in last night and excelled, underlining the depth of quality Corberan has at the base of his midfield.
When Sorba Thomas arrived at Huddersfield from Boreham Wood back at the start of 2021, the idea of a loan to Harrogate Town was floated around. The thought process behind that was that it would be a big ask for Thomas to step up out of non-league into the Championship and impact games regularly.
As it was, nothing materialised and Thomas padded out Corberan’s injury-hit squad for the latter part of 2020/21.
Corberan did not see enough to convince him that Thomas was going to be a starter this season, and he has admitted as much in various press conferences.
What Thomas has done, then, is muscle his way to the forefront of Huddersfield’s plans, adapting to life as an attacking wing-back, and made himself undroppable.
After he was pushed into a more advanced position in the defeat to Swansea City on Saturday, Thomas returned to wing-back last night with a spring in his step having been named in the Wales squad for the upcoming international break earlier in the day.
He was at it from the off and involved in early chances for Ward and Danel Sinani.
Harry Pickering was struggling to contain the Town ace, who was also working hard to stop his Rovers opponent linking up with Brereton Diaz when Rovers turned over possession.
On 36 minutes, he bamboozled Pickering out wide and skipped into the penalty area, cutting back for Vallejo to score. Then, on the hour, Sinani’s good work opened up a crossing opportunity for Thomas, whose delivery was hanging and perfect for Ward to convert.
Questions have been asked of Huddersfield’s creativity in open play and this was a response. Little surprise, then, that it was Thomas providing the answers.
He’s been doing that all season and initial questions about his ability to jump three divisions feel a long time ago.