In his third game in charge, Huddersfield Town secured a first win under Head Coach David Wagner – and it was fully deserved after another great performance.
The game started well, with Joe Lolley scoring his second goal in as many seasons at St. Andrew’s inside 36 seconds before Nahki Wells sealed the deal nine minutes from time.
With a little more composure in the final third, the margin of victory could have been greater as Wagner’s side negated the threat that Birmingham posed for the majority of the 90 minutes.
The goal came through Town’s first attack of the game, starting with Lolley in the left back area. His ball into the middle of the pitch set Jamie Paterson into space and he in turn set Scannell away on the right.
The powerful winger, making the 150th start of his career, sent a deflected low cross into the area that Nahki Wells intelligently dummied before Lolley, having made the hard yards, sent a bobbling effort past the diving Kuszczak. Coincidentally, the goal came at the same end where he scored last season.
The early strike rocked St. Andrew’s and Town preceded to boss possession in the same style that Wagner’s Terriers have since his appointment. Interestingly, Wagner’s players didn’t press as high as they had against Boro last weekend; with Birmingham playing a bit more directly into big Danish striker Nicolai Brock-Madsen, Town opted to engage the Blues on halfway instead.
Jed Steer’s first work of the afternoon came on the quarter hour mark when highly-rated young winger Demarai Gray stepped infield from the left and sent a powerful shot goalwards from outside the area; Steer turned it around his near post.
Barely a minute later, a speedy break led to a great chance for the Terriers. Wells run into the left channel was picked out by a slide-rule pass and the Bermudian’s low cross looked destined for Paterson’s boot, but somehow the ball evaded the loanee.
The glut of opportunities continued as Birmingham’s best chance fell to Brock-Madsen seconds later. Town left back Ben Chilwell popped out of position and Birmingham played David Davis into the vacated space; his low cross was perfect for the forward, but at full stretch he could only turn it wide.
Martin Cranie was the man on the ball often at the back for Town and his fantastic 24th minute pass found Lolley in acres of space 30 yards from goal, but after turning he blazed his effort disappointingly high and wide.
Just after the half hour mark, Town became uncharacteristically loose in possession and had to rely on some excellent defending from Dean Whitehead. The midfielder showed all the positional ability that has earned him successive Club ‘Player of the Month’ awards to snuff out several attacks, often calmly heading the ball back to Steer under pressure in the area.
Young left back Chilwell also made a superb 37th minute block to stop a dangerous shot at source after Gray had managed to sidestep Smith and push the ball across the face of goal.
Town picked up the quality towards the end of the half. After Wells had a shot blocked in a goalmouth scramble, Lolley had a great chance. More good work from Scannell on the right ended with his drilled low ball dropping to the goalscorer, but his shot from 15 yards out was going wide before it took a deflection off a defender.
Birmingham came out at the interval looking to get back in the game and the Terriers weren’t afforded the same amount of possession as earlier, but the Terriers – led by the superb Martin Cranie and excellent Ben Chilwell on only his second career league start – stood firm.
Town had the first chance of the second half in the 53rd minute when a back-heel from Paterson set Huws into space down the left; he lifted a cross to the back post, but Scannell could only turn it wide before colliding with the woodwork.
The Terriers were dealt a blow when the excellent Whitehead was forced off through injury with 25 minutes to go, so Wagner shuffled his pack – dropping Huws into the deeper midfield role and bringing on Kyle Dempsey.
Goalkeeper Jed Steer made the save of the match with 13 minutes left after centre back Spector was allowed to step out of defence and find Toral in the area with a low pass; the on-loan Villa goalkeeper spread himself well to keep out the ball.
Then, with nine minutes left, Nahki Wells secured the result with his fifth of the season. The goal owed everything to Scannell’s wing play; he knocked Maghoma flying shoulder to shoulder before cutting inside left back Jonathan Grounds and putting the ball on a plate for the Bermudian to tap home at close range.
Gary Rowett threw centre back Michael Morrison forward late in the game as the Blues searched for a goal, but Paterson had the best chance of the final minutes after a break from sub Mustapha Carayol; his volley was deflected feet wide of target.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Jed Steer; Ben Chilwell, Martin Cranie, Mark Hudson (c), Tommy Smith; Emyr Huws, Dean Whitehead (Kyle Dempsey, 73); Joe Lolley (Mustapha Carayol, 62), Jamie Paterson, Sean Scannell; Nahki Wells (Ishmael Miller, 89)
Lloyd Allinson, Jonathan Hogg, Murray Wallace, Harry Bunn
Mark Hudson (32); Mustapha Carayol (74)
Town fans: 813