Full match report from Town's final Sky Bet Championship fixture of 2023 against Middlesbrough
- Huddersfield Town 1-2 Middlesbrough
- Michał Helik scores sixth of the season
- Coburn and Howson win game for visitors
Despite one of their most complete attacking performances of the season to date, a late goal from Jonathan Howson moments after seeing a penalty saved from Jacob Chapman gave the visitors all three points.
On their third game in six days, Town showed no signs of early fatigue, seemingly picking up from where they left off against Blackburn Rovers on Boxing Day.
Working the ball forward with pace and purpose, it was only two minutes in before the crowd had something to shout about, with Rudoni and Wiles giving Thomas time and space to cross from the right. Hitting a Boro defender, the crowd closest screamed for handball, but nobody on the field seemed moved which was telling in itself.
When the away side did enjoy a moment or two of possession on the edge of the Town box, the Terriers pressed as a unit to force a mistake and win it back, flying forward to give Rudoni a chance to deliver from the left flank, with the away defence doing enough to block for a corner.
Starting to show signs of frustration, a petulant foul on Yuta Nakayma just over the halfway line gave Sorba Thomas a chance to deliver into the box, with Tom Lees reading the flight of the ball best to head at goal. Turning his effort well wide, though, the defender put his hands to his head in annoyance.
More brilliant pressing in the final third gave Town another half chance moments later, with Sorba Thomas tempted into having a go from range. Despite the Boro keeper scrambling, a flick off Jack Rudoni’s heels did the away side a huge favour, taking the path of the ball wide for a goal kick. Continuing to attack, David Kasumu was the next to burst forward down the right only to be fouled, with Thomas’ dead ball delivery this time cleared by the defence.
Catching the Terriers against the run of play, it was almost Middlesbrough who took the lead just before the 20 minute mark, with Isaiah Jones doing well to beat Chapman to a spinning ball over the top, lifting it over the goalkeeper to give himself a tap in. Missing the ball with wave of his boot, the ball was still creeping toward the open goal, only for Yuta Nakayama to scoop it away on the slide as it reached the line.
Suddenly opening up, it was Town who tested the goalkeeper next. Working well together, Thomas played a deft ball through for Koroma in the left hand channel of the box, with the forward shaping his body well to side foot across goal looking for the opposite bottom corner. Glover read the situation well, however, and got down smartly to deny Koroma and gather the ball. Countering themselves, Silvera found himself with space in a similar position to Koroma at the other end of the field, with Chapman this time making the intervention between the sticks.
End-to-end by this point, a free-kick taken by Thomas midway into the attacking half was quickly cleared as far as Nakayama, who fancied himself from a long way out on his left. Hitting the defence, they sprang forward with a long ball over the top, giving Rogers chance to race clean through. Covered by Jaheim Headley, the young defender ushered the forward off the ball alone one-one-one to win it back, learning from a similar situation at home earlier this season that saw him sent off against the same opposition in the League Cup.
With the match clock showing just over half an hour played, it was Town’s chance to come extremely close to taking the lead. Rushing onto a through ball with excellent pace, Josh Koroma held off a defender while rounding the goalkeeper outside of the area, forcing himself a little wide with an open goal to aim at. Hitting it a little harder to beat the covering defender chasing him on his less favoured left, he caught it too well, smacking the face of the crossbar with the goal at his mercy.
Looking ginger in midfield after falling to his knees, captain Jonathan Hogg was taken from the field at around 40 minutes in what looked like a precautionary move, with Rarmani Edmonds-Green introduced in his place. Despite two minutes of added time indicated by the fourth official and a late corner won by Josh Koroma, that was the last meaningful action of an entertaining opening half.
Play was resumed in the second half by the away side, with neither time moved to make any changes during the half-time interval. Seemingly unhappy with his his side had operated inside the first few minutes of the half with Town enjoying more of the ball, Carrick made an early change in attacking, introducing Josh Coburn in place of Dijksteel, with Jones dropping to right-back.
Undeterred, it was Town who continued to push. Linking down the left, Jack Rudoni chipped a perfect ball forward for Koroma to run onto, with the forward battling with a defender to get ahead before cutting back inside on high right boot on the edge of the box. Curling toward the far corner, Glover shuffled his feet just well enough to get a hand to the ball and deflect it out for a corner.
Rising highest from the corner, Helik powered a great header toward goal that was blocked, with the first attempted clearance seemingly bouncing up to hit Dael Fry in the arm with the Town players and supporters appearing for a penalty in unison - unmoved, the referee allowed the game to continue. Not letting the attack die after getting the ball back, some nice one-touch passing gave Sorba Thomas chance to clip in a cross first time than was just a couple of inches over Jack Rudoni’s head at full stretch.
Against the run of play, it was one simple ball over the top from Rogers to Coburn that undid Town and gave Middlesbrough the lead. Getting in behind the defence, his deft dink over the top of Chapman landed over the line, with the travelling support from the North East delighted in the South Stand of the John Smith’s Stadium as Coburn wheeled away.
Going up another gear in reply, it was David Kasumu who was again tripped in the attacking half seconds after the opening goal, with Sorba Thomas taking another chance to get it into the box. With the Terriers keeping the ball in the final third, it eventually fell to Helik on the edge of the box who swept a right boot at it, catching the ball clean and watching on as it kissed the inside of the left hand upright on its way into the back of the net with Glover at full stretch trying to deny him.
The big Polish central defender’s sixth goal of the 2023/24 season and his first at the John Smith’s Stadium of the campaign, it brings him level with Delano Burgzorg in our goalscoring charts.
With the crowd in HD1 jubilant and feeding off the energy of their team, Town continued to fly forward, winning a corner seconds after play had resumed following the goal. Unforgiving in their press high up the field, another corner was won moments later by Sorba Thomas, but neither dead ball was converted into a chance at goal.
Racing through and powering a wonderful finish home past a helpless Glover just inside the box, Sorba Thomas thought he’d given Town the lead but having crept offside in the build up, the assistant had his flag raised to rule it out. Winning it back, Headley and Rudoni combined down the left to feed Koroma inside the box, who did well to hold off a defender and spin to shoot. Off balance, though, the effort flew wide.
Just as 70 minutes ticked by, Bangura made a run into the box with Kasumu tracking him all the way. Hitting the deck, the referee blew his whistle sharply, but given the lack of contact from David, it was a yellow card for simulation for the Boro man.
A foul on Koroma wide on the left and wonderful play from Rudoni and Thomas on the same flank gave Town two more chances from balls into the box, but neither could be converted, with Kasumu and Wiles doing their best to attack the latter that Glover managed to keep hold of at his far post.
As the contest headed into the final 10 minutes, a late challenge from Wiles on Rogers saw the referee point to the spot, with Town’s number 23 protesting his innocence to no avail. Taken by Howson, a huge leap and late hand in the air from Chapman into his top corner denied the Boro captain in amazing fashion. However, he made amends from the resulting corner, hitting a scruffy volley into the ground that bounced in off the crossbar well out of the reach of the defence and goalkeeper.
Pushing forward after the goal and laying seize to the Boro penalty area, crosses and corners were repeatedly headed away by a defence that dropped increasingly deep, with substitute Kyle Hudlin perhaps closest to pulling Town level sticking out a long leg toward a inswinging cross from Sorba Thomas, but the ball just evaded him. Battling hard for all six minutes of added time, it wasn’t to be for the Terriers on the night, but it was a performance and effort that certainly deserved more - with the John Smith’s Stadium cheers for their home side at full-time underlining that senitment.
TOWN’S TEAM (3-5-2)
Jacob Chapman; Tom Lees, Michał Helik, Yuta Nakayama (Kyle Hudlin 87'); David Kasumu, Ben Wiles, Jonathan Hogg (Rarmani Edmonds-Green 39'), Jack Rudoni, Jaheim Headley; Josh Koroma, Sorba Thomas
Giosue Bellagambi; Brahima Diarra, Josh Austerfield, Loick Ayina, Tom Iorpenda, Michael Stone, Conor Falls