Huddersfield Town boosted their hopes of Championship survival with an important 2-0 away win over Nottingham Forest at the City Ground on Saturday afternoon.
Following Derby County’s defeat to Blackburn Rovers on Friday night, Saturday presented the Terriers with a chance to take advantage and put some much-needed daylight between themselves and the bottom three, as they look to come up against a Forest side who were unbeaten in their last four.
It was the hosts who started the game on the front foot. The tricky Alex Mighten caused problems with his direct running, before pulling back for Filip Krovinovic who blazed over from the edge of the area.
Krovinovic, in fact, was supplied with two good chances in quick succession soon after. With Huddersfield looking fragile on the ball whilst looking to play out from the back at every opportunity, high pressing resulted in the Croatian robbing possession, before driving into the area and forcing a low save out of Ryan Schofield.
Carlos Corberan was left a frustrated man as he watched his side waste possession far too cheaply once again, with Krovinovic leading the charge and opting to fire narrowly wide despite Lewis Grabban positioned to his left.
Corberan takes great pride in the way his teams go about the game, and the Spaniard, who leaned heavily on Marcelo Bielsa during his time at Elland Road, likes his team to replicate Leeds United’s qualities on the ball.
After Richard Keogh carelessly gave the ball away once more, this seemed to spring the Terriers into life as their Head Coach desperately searched for some urgency from his players.
They started to test Brice Samba eventually, with the Congolese shot-stopper down low to deny Aaron Rowe’s near-post effort, shortly after having to come out and punch a cross away.
Forest’s pressing and tempo had died down at this point following a rampant opening 15 minutes, allowing Corberan’s men time on the ball to move it around and exploit space.
The visitors were forced into making a frustrating change on 40 minutes, with Fraizer Campbell picking up a knock following a firm but fair challenge from Cyrus Christie – Danny Ward coming on in his place.
But after Duane Holmes failed to test Samba with a low effort from long-range, Town took a deserved lead after three minutes were added on at the end of the half.
It was Forest who were now looking careless on the ball, and James Garner was the main culprit. The Manchester United loanee’s back pass was sloppy, with Rowe latching onto the loose ball, bearing down on goal before firing coolly beyond Samba.
1-0 to Huddersfield, and a big goal for Corberan’s men at the perfect time.
Chris Hughton will have been desperate to see an improvement from his side in the second half, but it was the Terriers who started strongly.
A swift break saw Juninho Bacuna try to slip Duane Holmes in behind the defence, but as his pass ricocheted back into his path off Scott McKenna’s boot, the midfielder tried the spectacular, seeing his effort fly the wrong side the post from all of 30 yards.
The lively teenager Mighten looked to give his side a bit of inspiration in the final third, showing clever footwork before teeing a cross up to the back post. Ryan Yates was unmarked, but his header lacked any real sort of conviction and was held comfortably by Schofield.
Forest were made to rue that chance, though, as Huddersfield doubled their lead in emphatic style.
Forest’s search for an equaliser saw them push numbers forward, leaving space for the Terriers with plenty of room in the final third. A quick counter released Bacuna, who composed himself before unleashing a thunderous effort into the top corner beyond a helpless Samba.
Changes were made by both sides soon after, but for different reasons. Hughton looking to add attacking impetus by introducing Lyle Taylor and Cafu. Corberan looking to shore things up and settle defensively, introducing Rarmani Edmonds-Green for Harry Toffolo.
But despite those changes, there was to be no turnaround. Instead, Huddersfield came close to adding a third on two occasions. Richard Keogh couldn’t connect with a cross after ghosting in at the front post from a free-kick, and a cute turn and spin from Holmes on the edge of the area allowed him to square the ball to Ward, who shot wide from the edge of the box.
Luke Freeman and Glenn Murray were introduced by Hughton for the last 10 minutes of the contest, with the latter almost immediately finding space on the edge of the area before skewing an effort wide.
Five minutes were added on at the end of a frustrating 90 minutes for the hosts, with the Terriers comfortably holding onto a massive three points in the battle for survival. Those points see them move eight points clear of Rotherham in 22nd on 39. Although the Millers have games in hand, the table looks a lot healthier for Corberan’s men.
A rare off-day for Forest based off their recent high standards, and a reminder that there is no time to take your foot off the pedal in this enthralling relegation dogfight.