Despite a seismically disastrous performance at Ewood Park, which should, but probably won’t, send shockwaves through the club, Huddersfield Town’s survival chances were boosted, yet again, by results elsewhere.
Few care. The assumption, and one which is far more believable than the opposite, is that another relegation battle looms next season and relying on others’ failings to cover your own is just skating on paper-thin ice.
A thoroughly unprofessional display, riven with basic individual errors and a total absence of collective spirit handed Blackburn a victory which should have challenged the Norwich debacle in severity. Even the most partisan Rovers supporter would not claim they are anywhere near the level of the Champions elect, rendering this result even worse than that horrible night in Norfolk.
The victory at Forest last week created the gap which will likely secure Championship status but had the home side in that game capitalised on Town’s nervous first 20 minutes, as they surely should have, defeat was extremely likely. Blackburn showed no such mercy.
With Toffolo, Pipa, Eiting and Koroma in the starting line up, Town were, on paper, at their strongest for months. Proper full-backs, invention in the middle and increased threat upfront, the scene was set for the collection of at least a point with 3 not far from the minds of the optimists among us.
The opening minutes held no clue to the disgrace to follow as Town saw two shots blocked in a reasonably bright start. Jonathan Hogg, of all people, began the rapid descent to farce just minutes later, losing possession in a dangerous area.
Schofield was called into action early to repel Brereton effort after the big forward had been played in far too easily down Blackburn’s right. The subsequent corner was aimed at the young keeper who inexplicably flapped at the ball with an attempted punch which, even with the benefit of replays, remains entirely inexplicable. Adam Armstrong had the easy task of reacting more quickly than the dozing Bacuna and headed the hosts into the lead.
Professionalism, composure and even the most basic levels of skill deserted the visitors and calamities ensued.
Naby Sarr seemed congenitally unable to make simple passes forward, Keogh suddenly imagined himself as a combination of Beckenbaur and Berasi and Bacuna played the role of, well, Bacuna.
There were other culprits; neither Toffolo nor Pipa seemed comfortable, Hogg’s influence was limited and often wayward while O’Brien failed to drive forward effectively.
Keogh’s faux pas, an attempt to cleverly extricate himself from a poor situation entirely of his own dithering making, was as comical as it was hugely negligent. Blackburn failed to capitalise, letting the veteran off the hook.
Minutes later, and with Pipa missing in action, Keogh barely reacted to a wide open right flank and Sam Gallagher strode forward, picked out Brereton, Toffolo slipped and Rovers were 2 up.
Armstrong should have put the game to bed when played in following another raid down Town’s exposed right but fell over the ball. The visitors were collapsing and oozing mistakes all over the pitch.
Incredibly, after 45 minutes of an execrable, shapeless and error-strewn clown show, Town, or more accurately, Koroma, grasped a lifeline. Somehow, Eiting turned a rushed and typically poor ball forward by Hogg into threat by feeding the wide man who twisted opponents in the box before delivering a dangerous cross. Nyambe beat O’Brien to the ball and turned it into his own net.
Entirely undeserved, a late goal before half time was a gift for the hitherto pitiable visitors and, as they have found to their own cost this season (hello, Wycombe), provides momentum and hope for the second half.
A period of decent possession, entirely devoid of penetration, offered a glimmer of hope that, for once, a Corberán team could show the character to come from behind.
A glimmer which was extinguished at the feet of the truly woeful Sarr who squandered possession as he dithered, managed to concede a throw-in and then entirely ignored the fact that Brereton was on the move behind him into yet another vast expanse of space. A quick ball inside to Armstrong finished the weakest revival since Cats, the movie.
The collapse over the next 7 minutes was both remarkable and entirely predictable as Town’s weakness and lack of character was ruthlessly exposed by a Rovers side barely believing their luck at facing an opponent who persisted in playing to the strengths of their opposition.
Yet another attempt to play out from the back ended in disaster for the fourth goal. Keogh’s under-hit ball found Armstrong who had the simple task of squaring to Gallagher who beat Schofield far too easily. The young keeper’s afternoon, already a disaster, was capped by pushing the ball into the top of his own net.
On the hour, demoralised and bereft of ideas or fight, Town conceded a fifth in a typically lazy and disorganised manner as Armstrong was presented with an easy chance to complete his hat trick.
And there, dear reader, the report on this shambles ends. Unable to stomach another half hour, sun and ale called.
Corberán’s position is now looking increasingly untenable. The persistence with a style of play clearly beyond the ability of his players, particularly in central defence, while still uncertain of survival, was bad enough. To attempt a high defensive line against Rovers’ counter-attacking ability – the single reason for their good start to the season and the denial of which by any coach with eyes and football intelligence their demise – was negligent.
Sacking the coach would barely raise a protest from a now thoroughly disenchanted support, but begs the question of who would be willing or able to work at a club that simply cannot reverse the dire fortunes of the past 3 years.
The Pyrrhic victory of survival now has little, if any, value. Hoping for at least three clubs to be more catastrophic than our own is a malignancy we hoped was banished in the brief, brilliant period of success. The fact that it is back with a vengeance, last season and this, is a damning indictment of the whole management and structure of the club.
The descent appears inevitable.