Match Report: Middlesbrough 2-1 Huddersfield Town

Town again fell victim of their own mistakes on a dark night at Middlesbrough. Despite another bright start and another quality goal from Isaac Mbenza, Town failed to hold on and fell to yet another defeat on the road.

Carlos Corberan surprisingly made only one change as he readied his side to face Middlesbrough. The change saw Alex Pritchard come in for Alex Vallejo, who was decent without being spectacular at the weekend against Wycombe. Corberan and Town came into this game knowing it was a massive game not only for the result, but also for lifting the spirits of the fans all whilst releasing the pressure they had unnecessarily put on themselves.

Town started the brightest in the opening couple of minutes with Holmes and O’Brien whipping in a few promising crosses from both the right and the left but unfortunately there was no one there to convert.

Despite Town’s bright start it was Middlesbrough who had the first clear cut chance of the game. A free kick from their left hand side found the head of Ashley Fletcher, but he could only divert his header into the hands of the stationary Ryan Schofield.

Town took the lead just three minutes later, a twenty-five yard free kick from Mbenza dipped over the towering Middlesbrough wall and into the top left corner. 1-0 Town early on! But could they hold on this time?

Isaac Mbenza nearly doubled his sides lead just after the twelfth minute; he raced down the left hand side before hitting a low shot across the face of Marcus Bettenelli’s goal.

Following this Middlesbrough took control of the game, dominating possession and keeping Town in their own half with ease. Middlesbrough would have equalised on the twentieth minute had it not been for hero of the hour Mbenza. A mix up between Schofield and Sarr allowed Ashley Fletcher to poke the ball across goal, luckily for Town though Mbenza managed to get back onto his goal line to clear it away.

The clearance forced Mbenza to stretch to reach the ball. Resulting in him presumably pulling his groin and despite attempts to keep him on, he was withdrawn for Vallejo on half an hour. Bringing a premature end to Town’s so far brightest player of the match.

Middlesbrough took the lead just a couple of minutes later through a superb solo effort from former Sunderland winger Duncan Watmore. He picked the ball up on the right before skipping past O’Brien and dribbling into the box, taking on Sarr before unleashing a low effort into the bottom corner. 1-1 and Town had let another lead slip!

The ball was in the back of the net a few minutes later. A free kick from Middlesbrough found the head of Grant Holt after Schofield missed his punch in the air. Holt put it in but luckily for Town, the offside flag was up. Lucky escape for Town!

Middlesbrough won a penalty on the brink of half time. January signing Darnell Fisher made a late run into the box behind O’Brien. O’Brien has turned to clear the ball, not knowing Fisher was behind him and tore him down. Penalty to Middlesbrough!

Ashley Fletcher stepped up and netted it! But only just! Ryan Schofield got two hands for it but it was slightly too powerful for the young keeper to keep out. Middlesbrough had taken the lead and Carlos Corberan and his coaching staff looked dejected men.

Town had a chance to equalise a minute later. A twenty five yard free kick from Bacuna spun through the air before being tipped over the bar by Fulham loanee Marcus Bettenelli.

The full time whistle rang a couple of seconds later and Town went into half time after falling flat following an impressive start by recent standards. It was frustrating from a Town fans perspective as they watched another seemingly comfortable lead slip away and another battering ensue.

Half Time: Middlesbrough 2-1 Huddersfield Town

Town re-emerged for the second half having made a change, with Alex Pritchard – The player who had come into this game having not started since mid December – Having been substituted in place of young winger Aaron Rowe.

The first action of the half came in the form of a Town substitution ten minutes in, with young striker Kieran Philips coming on to replace Duane Holmes.

Town worked a half chance in the sixty-seventh minute, Aaron Rowe received a pass onto the left hand side and took a few touches before attempting to play in Jonathan Hogg, Hogg went to kick the ball but caught the Middlesbrough defender instead, foul and a Middlesbrough free kick – and yes, the game had got that boring by this point that a half chance like that is considered noteworthy. Town hadn’t actually come out into the second half looking that bad; they had just struggled to create any attempts on goal.

Town did eventually create a chance in the seventy-first minute, Aaron Rowe burst forward again before playing a short pass into Bacuna, who steadied himself before unleashing a low, driven effort. It took a deflection before rolling out for a corner.

Town looked like creating something from a blistering counter attack a few minutes later, only for the ball to ricochet off of Vallejo’s ankle and for the attack to fizzle out.

Town nearly equalised just seconds later, Aaron Rowe again created a brilliant chance, picking out Philips who nodded the ball goal wards from a tight angle, only to see his header saved by Bettenelli.

Campbell should have netted a few minutes later, Bacuna broke forward into the box before playing a ball back across goal for Campbell, who had an open goal from fifteen yards out. Town fans could only groan with agony though as Campbell somehow scuffed the shot into row z.

Bacuna, looking bright, won a free kick as the game broke into the final ten minutes. Leading to the dismissal of Paddy McNair. The tackle probably wasn’t even worthy of a foul, let alone a red card, but Town weren’t complaining, they needed all the help they could get with ten to go, Bacuna and Sarr lining it up on the edge of the box…

Sarr made his slow run up before striking it just over the bar.

Matty Daly was the next player to be introduced by Corberan; he replaced Richard Keogh, showing Town’s attacking intent as the game headed into the final five minutes of regular time.

Town hit the post as we headed into the eighty-eighth minute; Rowe broke into the box before slipping through Philips, who could only watch his first time slow shot agonisingly strike the near post.

The full time whistle rang out seven minutes later. Town were unlucky in certain aspects of their play and deserved more than they eventually got. Results don’t lie though and Town are slipping closer and closer towards the drop zone, Town looked like a new side with the introductions of Philips and Rowe to the team in the early minutes of the second half. That offers hope for the future but results need to pick up in the next week or two. Or Town seriously risk being dragged into the relegation zone.

Full Time: Middlesbrough 1-2 Huddersfield Town

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