MATCH REPORT 2022/23: Huddersfield Town 2 – 2 Blackburn Rovers

MATCH REPORT 2022/23: Huddersfield Town 2 – 2 Blackburn Rovers

An Easter Resurrection proved to be on the cards during the early Easter Monday kick-off, as Rovers fought back from a lacklustre first-half, to earn only their second point from losing positions all season, against an in-form Huddersfield Town side, fighting tooth and nail to survive.

After Good Friday’s disastrous 2-0 home defeat against Norwich City which added pressure on the playoff push, Jon Dahl Tomasson made two changes to his side as Adam Wharton and Tyrhys Dolan came in, with Sam Gallagher and Ryan Hedges dropped out. Sorba Thomas was ineligible to play against his parent club, hence his absence from the matchday squad.

As a sold-out Rovers away end spurred their side on as the teams made their way out onto the field ahead of the Sky Sports cameras for the 12:30 kick-off, Huddersfield Town got the ball rolling after Steven Martin’s starting whistle, as the Terriers looked to build on their fine form following Neil Warnock’s return to Yorkshire.

Rovers fashioned the game’s first chance in the 8th minute as Adam Wharton connected with Joe Rankin-Costello’s cross, but his shot proved harmless.

Two minutes later, Rovers wriggled into the box as Tyrhys Dolan fed Rankin-Costello, but the attacking full-back forced Tomáš Vaclík into a save from close-range.

Huddersfield were the first to break the deadlock after 16 minutes, as Rovers conceded a corner which Jack Rudoni whipped in towards the far-post. Rovers lost the initial header, before Aynsley Pears couldn’t claim the loose ball which was flicked back up into the air by a Blue and White shirt, before former Rover Matty Pearson netted his fifth goal of the season by powering a header past Lewis Travis and Ben Brereton Díaz, who were on the line, for 1-0.

From the kick-off, Rovers got themselves through on goal as Ben Brereton Díaz found Sammie Szmodics who opened up his body and looked to curl the ball towards the far-post, but despite him being offside, he was unable to beat Tomáš Vaclík.

1-0 soon became 2-0 in the 22nd minute as Jack Rudoni netted only his second Terriers goal in consecutive games. Huddersfield played the ball down the right as Joseph Hungbo beat two men before delivering a low cross that saw Rudoni beat Hayden Carter at the near-post as the flick beat Pears via the nutmeg for the game’s second goal.

Hayden Carter was the first player to see yellow in the 24th minute as he tugged back on Josh Koroma.

Brereton Díaz did well to break the host’s offside trap and bring down a long-ball by Carter, but his effort skid across the turf and zipped past the far-post.

Rovers were again through two minutes later, in the 32nd minute, as Harry Pickering slid Szmodics through, but despite the playmaker again seeing his attempt saved, he was deemed to be offside again.

Six minutes later, Szmodics again got behind the home defence but saw his shot blocked.

In the 43rd minute, Joe Rankin-Costello tried an audacious volley from the edge of the area, but it flew nicely into the gloves of the Czech Republic international goalkeeper.

Moments after his effort at goal, Rankin-Costello was booked after scything down Josh Koroma.

Before the break, there were a minimum of four added minutes called for by referee Steve Martin, as both sides prepared for the Town set-piece, which eventually clattered off the Rovers wall, before the whistle for the break came moments later.

Neil Warnock would have been over the moon with how his team had played in the first period, from remaining compact defensively, to being clinical on the break, with both their goals coming from their only attacks of the game until that point. The experienced manager would have been calling on his team to keep their heads and see out the game, not offering a route for Rovers to potentially get back into the game and rile their packed away end.

Jon Dahl Tomasson would have been scratching his head about how fragile his team continued to be. Despite ending the first period with 79% possession and more shots, passes and touches in the opposition’s area, Rovers looked lacking in the final third, despite creating half-chances. After Good Friday’s poor result, Rovers were again looking fragile at the back and bereft of any confidence. Individual mistakes across the field have cost Rovers in this first-half and the Head Coach will no doubt have strong words for his side at the break.

After the half-time discussions had taken place, Rovers kicked off the second period looking to try and salvage pride, a result and their playoff push, looking to send their travelling support away happy with, what would potentially be, their first comeback victory of the season.

It took only two minutes for Rovers to set off on the comeback trail as Joe Rankin-Costello stamped continued his second-half of the season revival by netting his first league goal for Rovers. After the Blues worked the ball down the left, Rankin-Costello played a one-two with Tyrhys Dolan before the attacking full-back dinked the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper to reduce Rovers’ deficit to 2-1.

In the 58th minute, Rovers continued their dominance of the game as Szmodics’ cross across the box was scooped up by Vaclík before Brereton Díaz could tap home an equaliser.

Rovers moved to make their first change in the 65th minute, as young Harry Leonard got his first opportunity to shine in the first-team, as he replaced Lewis Travis, as Rovers moved into a more attacking setup.

A bright start for the substitute nearly saw him write his name in the history books as a deflected pass fell to Leonard who tried a snapshot on the turn, but Vaclík produced a fine save.

In the 73rd minute, Rovers made a second change as Ryan Hedges came on for Tyrhys Dolan, as Rovers looked to change their attacking options in the hope of salvaging an equaliser.

Two minutes after the change, Huddersfield broke away on the counter, as David Kasumu led the charge before Sammie Szmodics tracked him down and tackled him, leading to the former Peterborough man earning a booking.

The home side made their first change of the game in the 77th minute as Ben Jackson replaced Joseph Hungbo, assister of the second Terriers’ goal.

Tyler Morton looked to try and feed a well-weighted pass into the area towards a plethora of red Rovers shirts, yet the pass proved more accurate than anyone would have predicted as it evaded everybody and rebounded back off the post, before a combination of Harry Leonard and a home defender put the ball behind for a Rovers corner that the home side cleared.

Joe Rankin-Costello came agonisingly close to netting a brace and the equaliser as he latched onto the end of Brereton Díaz’s cross but again Vaclík was there to save Huddersfield from throwing the game away.

The pair again combined, in the 84th minute, as the goalscorer again received the ball from the Chilean, but Rankin-Costello’s chip from outside the area saw Vaclík backtrack and tip the ball over the bar.

From the corner, Rovers recycled possession after it was cleared as Brereton Díaz’s shot across the face of goal evaded an offside Szmodics at the back-post.

Huddersfield made a double change in the 86th minute as Danny Ward and Josh Koroma departed, with Kian Harratt and Scott High replacing the duo for the final moments.

As Rovers continued to push in search of an equaliser, as the 90th minute ticked over on the referee’s watch, Steve Martin allocated a minimum of five added minutes onto the end of the tie, as the away contingency’s decibel levels increased in support of their heroes.

The level of noise soon shattered eardrums across Yorkshire as Rovers managed to salvage a point with a late equaliser, courtesy of substitute, Ryan Hedges who proved to be in the right place at the right time to make it 2-2. Tyler Morton delivered an outstanding cross from the right-hand channel as Rankin-Costello again appeared Rovers’ most attacking outlet by getting on the end of the delivery. The academy graduate forced a save from Vaclík, but the Welshman was alert enough to remain onside before poking into an empty net!

As Rovers’ pressure and dominance continued, Jon Dahl Tomasson’s side believed they could snatch a late winner, as Man of the Match, Rankin-Costello again looked to try and grab a brace, but he couldn’t beat Vaclík for a second-time in the 95th minute, as the final whistle was hastily blown.

Ultimately, Rovers will be disappointed to have failed to beat a side towards the bottom of the table, but they will no doubt take heart, belief and confidence from their late comeback. Whilst Rovers had dominated every statistic in the game, other than the one that mattered and provided the points, Jon Dahl Tomasson’s side, particularly in the second-half, showed that they were more than capable of playing at a high level of football with their dominance of the ball and the attempts at goal. There are no doubts points to improve upon, particularly defensively, yet many will look at this as a point gained, given the precarious half-time position the team were in.

Whilst Rovers failed to extend their cushion in 6th place, they remain in the playoff places despite being the early kick-off on Easter Monday. With 62 points from 40 games, Rovers will still have a game in hand over their rivals, once the 3pm kick-offs are completed.

Next up for Rovers, is a return to Ewood Park where they will host Hull City, live on Sky Sports, on Saturday 15th April at 5:30pm, before welcoming Coventry City and again Sky Sports, on Wednesday 19th April at 7:45pm. Once those home clashes are done, Rovers remain in Lancashire, but make the short trip to Deepdale, to face Preston North End – again on Sky – on Saturday 22nd April at 5:30pm.