Town led twice in the latest game of the Sky Bet Championship season at West Bromwich Albion, but three second-half goals from the hosts condemned the side to defeat in the Midlands.
A first goal in Town colours from Academy graduate Lewis O’Brien and a fifth for top scorer Karlan Grant put the Terriers ahead at the interval, but the Baggies pulled it back with two further goals that new Manager Danny Cowley will have felt were avoidable.
Cowley had spoken in detail about the need for a different style of play on the road and that was evident from the first whistle, with Town’s midfield holding a narrower shape to deny the Baggies space in the centre of the pitch.
When possible, the forwards – alongside O’Brien and Trevoh Chalobah – still pressed West Brom’s defenders.
West Brom’s strength was in attack, with long-time nemesis Charlie Austin leading the line, ably supported by Matt Phillips, winger Matheus Pereira and creators Romaine Sawyers and Filip Krovinović.
Austin was close to opening the scoring in the 11th minute after Sawyers released impressive right back Darnell Furlong into space. He intelligently pulled the ball back to pick out the striker, but thankfully Town skipper Christopher Schindler read that intention and got across to block the shot.
Then came the Town opener, and O’Brien’s first for the Club. Kamil Grabara initially mishit a goal kick into the packed midfield, with the 20-year-old picking up the loose ball and distributing quickly to the left for Fraizer Campbell. The experienced striker turned inside cleverly before slipping a return pass to O’Brien, who charged towards the edge of the box before thumping an unstoppable low drive into the bottom corner.
The celebrations showed what that goal meant to the Academy graduate and his teammates.
Unfortunately, West Brom equalised just three minutes later. Furlong isolated Kongolo and nutmegged the Town man before picking out Austin in the middle again; the striker had his back to goal, so he pushed the ball back to Phillips, whose first time shot found the bottom corner, kissing the post on its way in.
The leveller buoyed West Brom, and Furlong was soon in the action again – climbing above Grant to head Pereira’s cross straight at Grabara.
Town continued to show good discipline and were rewarded with a clinical 36th minute goal to give them the lead at the interval. A poor West Brom clearance saw the ball end up with Kachunga on the right and the German drove infield before picking out Grant’s run into the box with a superb outside-of-the-boot pass.
The former Charlton man showed great strength to hold off the last defender before prodding past the onrushing goalkeeper for his fifth of the season.
West Brom made the running in the second half and had a few good opportunities before eventually netting three goals.
The ever-dangerous Phillips toed the ball over the bar from a good position in the penalty area early on, before both centre backs combined to snuff out another Austin snapshot.
Phillips then clipped the outside of the far post with an in-swinging cross that evaded everyone in the penalty area.
Grabara came to Town’s rescue just before the hour mark, pulling off a great save to deny Austin after he got across the front post to meet Furlong’s cross.
Jake Livermore hit a volley just wide of target after some great initial defending in the area from Tommy Elphick before Grabara was needed again to push another Phillips effort wide.
Sadly, the goals did start to flow with 20 minutes left. The first came from a corner on the Town right, with Phillips, Pereira and Diangana working a three-on-two to get the latter clear, who crossed onto the head of Furlong. He made no mistake, heading in off the near post.
Five minutes later, West Brom took the lead for the first time in the game. West Ham loanee Diangana was at the heart of the move again, with the substitute collecting a poor pass before driving past Hogg and Hadergjonaj and pulling the ball back perfectly for Phillips to side-foot home.
Town’s best chance of the half followed barely a minute later when Jaden Brown, on for the injured Kongolo, delivered a deep cross that left back Ferguson got underneath. The ball dropped to Kachunga, but his powerful volley cross goal had too much on it and Steve Mounié couldn’t get near it.
The fourth and final West Brom goal came with a minute of normal time remaining when the tallest player on the pitch, centre back Semi Ajayi, found space at the back post to head home.
Town’s team (4-3-3)
Kamil Grabara; Terence Kongolo (Jaden Brown, 63’), Christopher Schindler (c), Tommy Elphick, Florent Hadergjonaj; Lewis O’Brien (Adama Diakhaby, 83’), Jonathan Hogg, Trevoh Chalobah; Karlan Grant, Fraizer Campbell (Steve Mounié, 65’), Elias Kachunga
Ryan Schofield; Juninho Bacuna, Isaac Mbenza, Jon Gorenc Stanković