Preview: Huddersfield Town

A point away at Preston North End in midweek was far from a set-back for Coventry City, however, another injury picked up from the game could have much more serious implications on the team’s play-off ambitions. Heading into a month in which the Sky Blues take on all of the bottom three, this should have been the moment to step on the pedal and close down the top six. Instead, Coventry will do well to continue to put out a competitive starting XI until players start to return.

Upcoming opponents, Huddersfield Town, will have little sympathy for Coventry City’s injury issues as they look to pick up an important result to avoid getting cut adrift in the bottom three. With Championship veteran, Neil Warnock, back in charge of the club, this promises to be a competitive and bruising encounter for what looks set to be a makeshift Sky Blues side.

Expected Line-Up

Possible Line-Up (3-5-2): Wilson; McNally, McFadzean, Doyle; Norton-Cuffy, Hamer, Eccles, Wilson-Esbrand, Bidwell; Walker, Gyokeres.

The loss of Jamie Allen in midweek means that Coventry City have almost ran out of options in support of Viktor Gyokeres in attack. Mark Robins has turned to Josh Wilson-Esbrand, a left-back playing in central midfield, and a half-fit Matt Godden to fill the void but he will have to be careful in the case of the latter not to overstrain his body so soon after returning from injury.

With Josh Wilson-Esbrand likely to be given the start on the left side of a midfield three, the main area of interest with the team selection for this game is whether the manager continues to gamble on Matt Godden not breaking down again as Viktor Gyokeres’ strike partner or to throw an opportunity out for Tyler Walker or Sean Maguire to impress. If that was the case, then Walker would be far more likely than Maguire to start in this game, which could be one last opportunity to get his Coventry City career going after a series of false dawns over his three years at the club. That is unless one of Ben Sheaf, Kasey Palmer or Jamie Allen somehow makes a miraculous return to fitness for this game.

Elsewhere, the only thing to watch out for is whether Callum Doyle is deemed fit enough to start in defence after. for the second time running, being taken off early. That Mark Robins chose to substitute Doyle around the hour mark on Tuesday night with no obvious sign of the defender struggling seems an indication that the manager was looking to keep the player fit specifically for this game.

Last Time We Met

With Coventry City bang out of form towards the end of January, Huddersfield Town provided willing opposition at the Coventry Building Society Arena to get back into shape. After a first-half in which very little happened at either end, the deadlock was broken by an excellent piece of skill and finish from Gustavo Hamer. From then on, there was very little doubt as to the final result.

A final gloss was applied to the scoreline when Viktor Gyokeres teased himself into some space on the ball on the right wing, before sending in a cross for Kasey Palmer to head home against his former club.

The Opposition

The Manager – Neil Warnock

It has been a terrible season for Huddersfield Town after making the play-off final last season and seeing their manager and a host of key players depart over the following summer. Huddersfield’s woes this year have been made worse by two successive appointments of completely inexperienced managers in first Danny Schofield and then Mark Fotheringham. The subsequent move to bring Neil Warnock back to the club, having managed there between 1993 and 1995, is a clear attempt to rectify earlier mistakes.

Neil Warnock has had just two games in charge of the Terriers, one of which was a come-from-behind win against an out-of-form Birmingham City side, the other was a heavy defeat away at Burnley, providing little evidence yet of just how much he can improve this set of players. With a gargantuan squad, featuring a lot of young players, there is an argument that they may not be suited to a belt-and-braces approach, however, Warnock has shown in recent jobs that his ability to simplify his tactics, and provide clear roles to individuals can allow youngsters to flourish.

Who To Look Out For?

Possible Line-Up (4-2-3-1): Bilokapic; Edmonds-Green, Lees, Helik, Headley; Camara, Hogg; Hungbo, Rudoni, Koroma; Ward.

In stark contrast to Coventry City’s meagre playing resources, Huddersfield Town have used 40 different players this season. The issue for Huddersfield, however, has been that so few of that massive squad have been consistent, stand-out performers this season.

One potential source of inspiration for the Terriers in their survival battle could well be Joseph Hungbo, recruited in January on loan from Watford. The pacey winger has looked bright in his first few appearances for Huddersfield Town, driving at defenders and stretching opponents in a way the team haven’t been for much of the campaign. Additionally, Jack Rudoni and Etienne Camara pushing forward from midfield add further drive to the team, while Jaheim Headley at left wing-back has returned from a recent loan spell at Harrogate Town looking like another quick and direct player to boost the Terriers’ attacking threat.

With those players, plus a potentially dangerous Anthony Knockaert from the bench, providing much of Huddersfield Town’s attacking threat, the job of the rest of the team is largely to keep things tight. Jonathan Hogg plays an important role in a defensive midfield position, while Tom Lees and Michal Helik in central defence are very competitive and physical defenders who will throw their bodies on the line to protect the penalty area.

Where The Game Will Be Won Or Lost

Given Huddersfield Town’s league position, Coventry City have to be ready for a highly energetic and potentially bruising showing from the home side in this game. If the Sky Blues can’t match that desperation to win, this game could easily get away from them. The key to this game is likely to be how Coventry ride out an early storm, which could then allow players such as Gustavo Hamer and Viktor Gyokeres to wear down Huddersfield with their quality over the course of the 90 minutes.

Hamer could well be the key player here for Coventry City, with Huddersfield Town likely to look to crowd out Viktor Gyokeres at every opportunity they can. That close attention on the Swede should allow Hamer some time and space on the ball in central midfield to either get others in the game, or to play quick passes that will make it difficult for the Terriers to get numbers between Gyokeres and goal.

At the other end, the defence will need to be disciplined positionally to avoid being dragged around by the combination of the pacey Joseph Hungbo in Huddersfield Town’s attack and midfielders, Jack Rudoni and Etienne Camara, making runs into the penalty area. Some of the responsibility for that will also lay with Josh Eccles, as the screening player in front of the Sky Blues’ back-line.

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