West Bromwich Albion v Huddersfield Town; The Hawthorns, Saturday 11th March 2023, 3pm
Carlos Corberán welcomes his former club to the Hawthorns on Saturday, the first time he has faced Huddersfield Town since leaving at the end of last season. He has stated, however, that it will not be particularly emotional for him and he will be concentrated on securing the three points for the Baggies.
The Spaniard did a fantastic job at the John Smiths Stadium guiding them to the play-off final where they lost narrowly to Nottingham Forest, but some at the club were unhappy when he walked away to take over at Olympiacos and it is unclear what sort of reception he will get from those Terriers’ fans who make it through the snow from West Yorkshire. Things have not gone well for Huddersfield since he left with the club are on their third manager of the season. They originally appointed Danny Schofield as Corberán’s replacement, a coach who had already had a couple of spells as caretaker manager, but he only lasted eight games after winning just one match in that period. They then went for their third first-time manager in succession in appointing Mark Fotheringham who had been Felix Magath’s assistant at Hertha Berlin for a period last season. Unfortunately for the Terriers, he was unable to arrest the slide and they continued to struggle at the wrong end of the table as they won just five of his twenty-one games in charge of the club.
After three inexperienced managers, the club opted to go to the opposite end of the scale to appoint 74-year-old Neil Warnock who had previously managed the club to promotion from the third tier in 1995. Given his association with the Battle of Bramall Lane, Warnock will be forever unpopular at the Hawthorns and any positive reception that Corberán may get from the visiting supporters is likely to be drowned out by a more negative one from the home fans towards “Colin”. Having won his first game in charge, a 2-1 win over Birmingham City, the Terriers lost the next two 4-0 before drawing 0-0 with Bristol City on Tuesday evening, a result that moved them off the bottom of the table on goal difference, replaced by Wigan Athletic who, of course, were beaten at the Hawthorns.
I’m sure that Corberán’s history with the club and the pantomime villain that is Neil Warnock will not distract him from the job at hand which is to ensure that Albion continue their excellent run of home form with another victory. Nine wins and one draw in ten home games with just one goal conceded is a remarkable run of form, particularly when you think that the Baggies had won just two home games all season, only one of which was in the league, before the Spaniard took the reins.
At the time of writing, it is not clear whether any of Albion’s injured players will be available for Saturday’s match. The only ones that may be available are Erik Pieters, who has hobbled off from two of Albion’s last three matches, Brandon Thomas-Asante, who may have recovered from his hamstring strain, and Tom Rogić who is close to a return. If Pieters is fit, I’m sure he will play, but Semi Ajayi is waiting in the wings should he be required. The Nigerian hasn’t started a league game since August although he did play in each of Albion’s three FA Cup games in January. He wasn’t overly impressive in those games but I always think it is unfair to judge a player when so many of his teammates were also making rare appearances. He looked solid enough when he came on on Tuesday evening and I have no major concerns should he be forced to play. It does leave the defence a little imbalanced with no left-footed player in the middle, and with Bartley and Bryan still unavailable, the squad is down to the bare bones in that position.
If BTA is available, I would expect him to be on the bench with Daryl Dike continuing from the start. The American has struck three times in his last two home games, doubling his goal tally for the season and, while he has still missed a few chances, I do think that his run in the team has been a huge benefit. He is getting more chances than he was, and the goals he has scored can only increase his confidence, and should lead to more.
I’d be surprised to see Rogić anywhere other than the bench.
Assuming there are no more injury surprises, Pieters is the only change from the starting line up that I am expecting, assuming his injury is enough to keep him out. Jayson Molumby has two more games to navigate without getting booked if he is to avoid a suspension, so that is one change Corberán may consider. However, I think we would lose his energy too much and I think I’d prefer to see TGH in the middle rather than Chalobah were that to happen, but I’m not sure that our head coach shares the same view!
As for the game itself, it’s the same situation as Tuesday. Given the opposition, it is as close to a must-win game as you can get at this stage of the season. Victory could lift the Baggies to within a point of the play-offs with Norwich City not playing until Sunday, although that would rely on Millwall and Coventry City failing to beat Reading and Hull City respectively.
It is going to be like that for the rest of the season, but Albion really need to just concentrate on their own games, and rediscover their winning touch away from home. But first up, let’s make sure we send Mr Warnock home with nothing to smile about.
Albion have beaten Huddersfield Town only once in the last seven meetings between the clubs. That was an ultimately comfortable victory under Slaven Bilić in September 2019. Lewis O’Brien put the visitors ahead before Matt Phillips swiftly struck home an equaliser before future Baggie, Karlan Grant, put the Terriers back in front ten minutes before break. It stayed that way until the 70th minute when Darnell Furlong equalised before another goal from Matt Phillips put the hosts deservedly in front. Semi Ajayi added a fourth late on to give the final score a little gloss.
Albion’s biggest ever win over Huddersfield came at the Hawthorns in April 1938. Harry Jones and Sammy Heaselgrave both scored twice while the legendary Ginger Richardson also netted as the Baggies ran out 5-1 winners – it was a false dawn for Albion that season, however, as they lost their last three games of the season and ended up being relegated back to Division Two. It was very tight at the bottom of the table with the Terriers finishing seven places higher with just three more points.
Huddersfield have never won by more than two goals at the Hawthorns and the biggest of those was in October 1923 when Town were beating allcomers. I mentioned in my comparison piece on Tuesday that it was Huddersfield that ended Albion’s run of conceding just one goal in ten home games when they recorded a 2-0 victory at the Shrine in April 1923. Six months later they returned to the Black Country and won 4-2 with Billy Cook and Billy Smith scoring a brace apiece for the visitors while Stan Davies and Joe Carter netted for the hosts. It was a result that kept the Terriers in 4th spot but a 3-0 win over Nottingham Forest on the final day of the season the following May saw Herbert Chapman’s team pip Cardiff City to the league title on goal average.
In November 1998, Denis Smith’s Albion were hovering around mid-table when Peter Jackson’s Huddersfield came to town, but one player was making all the headlines in Division One. Lee Hughes, a 22-year-old Smethwick lad, had made the step up from non-league football successfully the previous season scoring 14 goals, but his start to the 1998/99 season had been remarkable. In 19 games in all competitions, he had netted 18 goals including hat-tricks against Port Vale and Crystal Palace. The Terriers would be the latest of his victims as he scored another treble, albeit two were penalties, as the visitors were beaten 3-1. Hughesie would score another five goals before the end of the year to make it 26 goals in 26 games in all competitions. Form and injury saw his scoring record drop off and he failed to reach WG Richardson’s club record 40 goals in a season and ended with 32 goals in total, impressive but something of a disappointment given the first half of the campaign.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
27 Aug 2022 – League Championship
Huddersfield Town 2 (Anjorin (2))
West Bromwich Albion 2 (Wallace (2))
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
11 Mar 2022 – League Championship
West Bromwich Albion 2 (Grant (pen), Carroll)
Huddersfield Town 2 (Ward (2))
22 Sep 2019 – League Championship
West Bromwich Albion 4 (Phillips (2), Furlong, Ajayi)
Huddersfield Town 2 (O’Brien, Grant)
Albion’s Record against Huddersfield Town
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