Huddersfield Town picked up their first points since the Sky Bet Championship’s restart with an emphatic 3-0 win over Birmingham City at St. Andrew’s.
An early Karlan Grant penalty set the tone before second half goals from Fraizer Campbell and Elias Kachunga sealed the three points and rounded off a perfect evening’s work in the West Midlands.
With the Wednesday night encounter at St. Andrew’s the first of seven games across a busy month of July for Town, Danny Cowley made three changes to his starting XI from the one that was beaten by Forest at the weekend.
Emile Smith Rowe returned to the team whilst Elias Kachunga and Fraizer Campbell were brought in from the start for the first time since the restart, with the latter making his 300th career league appearance in the process. Fellow forward Steve Mounié also made a welcome return from injury, starting on the bench.
The game got underway in conditions far thought from an early evening in July, as the rain came down heavily upon kick-off at St. Andrew’s.
The weather didn’t dampen Town’s early spirits though, having the opposite effect in fact, as Town came out with an intent to their play.
Karlan Grant’s early two efforts, both going over the Birmingham crossbar, were Town’s first attempts on goal but it was Fraizer Campbell’s early chasing down of a back pass that really signalled the Terriers’ fight in the opening minutes.
Grant’s next effort on goal came from the spot, after some neat footwork inside the box saw him brought down by Harlee Dean and a penalty awarded to the Terriers.
Town’s top scorer stepped up to take the penalty and kept his composure to find the net despite Lee Camp’s best efforts, to give the visiting Terriers a 11th minute lead on the road.
A sustained period of pressure from the hosts followed, as did their first chance of the game. Lukas Jutkiewicz met Kristian Pedersen’s floated ball from the left, but the forward’s header was comfortably gathered by Jonas Lössl.
Jutkiewicz’s aerial presence continued to be prominent after the game’s first drinks break on 22 minutes. The Birmingham striker first headed over Daniel Crowley’s cross from the right before he was found by Pedersen again on the other side, but Lössl was equal to his glanced effort once more.
Having withstood a period of sustained pressure from the hosts at the end of the half, Town came out in the second rejuvenated in attack, just as they were early in the first half.
Like in that first 45, an encouraging start was rewarded with an opportunity from the spot. This time, it was Captain Christopher Schindler who was wrestled to the ground by Gary Gardner, with referee Rob Jones awarding Town with a second penalty of the encounter.
However, unlike earlier in the game, Grant couldn’t get the better of Camp. The Birmingham ‘keeper dived to his left, keeping out the spot-kick with an outstretched hand.
Just 52 seconds after the miss, Town did get the second goal and some breathing space at St. Andrew’s.
The returning Campbell marked his career landmark by meeting Harry Toffolo’s free-kick from the left and finding the bottom corner on the stretch to double the Terriers’ lead on 52 minutes.
The forward’s first Town goal away from the John Smith’s Stadium turned out to be his final bit of action in the game, as he was replaced by Steve Mounié on the hour.
More changes followed the second drinks break, but one thing that stayed the same was the quality of Toffolo’s free-kick delivery.
From a similar position to the one that had led to Town’s second goal, the left-back floated a ball to the back post, finding the head of the substitute Mounié who nodded back across goal for Elias Kachunga to glance into an empty net, putting Town into a 3-0 lead on 72 minutes.
At the other end, Jutkiewicz’s head continued to be Birmingham’s most likely route on to the scoreboard. The Birmingham forward rose highest at the back post to meet a cross from the right but couldn’t find the target with his latest effort on Lössl’s goal.
Danny Cowley asked in the week for a resilience and a robustness to Town’s play and he certainly got that from the Terriers, along with a creativity and an intent in their attacking play.
That creativity and intent was evident throughout the second half, and nearly brought a fourth in the closing stages on two occasions, but both Lewis O’Brien and substitute Alex Pritchard were denied by Camp.
Town were then able to preserve that clean sheet at the back in the final few minutes, wrapping up three important points that move the Terriers up to 19th and out of the relegation zone.
Next up for Town is a return to the John Smith’s Stadium to host Preston North End in the Sky Bet Championship on Saturday 4 July 2020; 3pm kick-off.
BIRMINGHAM CITY (4-4-2)
Lee Camp; Kristian Pedersen, Jake Clarke-Salter, Harlee Dean (c), Maxime Colin; Jérémie Bela, Gary Gardner, Jude Bellingham, Daniel Crowley; Scott Hogan, Lukas Jutkiewicz
Connal Trueman; Wes Harding, Marc Roberts, Maikel Kieftenbeld, Ivan Šunjić, Caolan Boyd-Munce, Ryan Burke, Ryan Stirk, Jayden Reid
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN (4-2-3-1)
Jonas Lössl; Harry Toffolo, Christopher Schindler (c), Richard Stearman, Demeaco Duhaney (Trevoh Chalobah, 82’), Lewis O’Brien, Jonathan Hogg, Karlan Grant (Alex Pritchard, 70’), Emile Smith Rowe (Andy King, 70’), Elias Kachunga (Collin Quaner, 82’), Fraizer Campbell (Steve Mounié, 60’)
Joel Coleman; Chris Willock, Jon Gorenc Stanković, Matty Daly