It is more likely than not that Huddersfield Town will scrape to survival from relegation as games run out for the teams below them and the point secured in a hugely fortunate draw with Rotherham should prove crucial to achieving that miserly, inadequate and unacceptable objective.
The thoroughly undeserved addition to Town’s measly total serves only to apply the thinnest of paper over the gaping holes in the strategies of a club in deep malaise and there will be no celebration afforded to retain a status they barely deserve. That three clubs, and possibly another one or two, will prove worse performers is a massive indictment of them.
Escaping demotion, which should be accompanied by sighs of guilty relief and nothing approaching celebration, will be utterly futile if nothing is done to ensure that next season isn’t another desperate struggle. It is impossible to detect even the faintest sign that we will not all be here again and rather more indicating that an even grimmer outcome is more likely. And we haven’t survived yet.
Lowly, desperate Rotherham came to town to commence a sequence of four games in eight days which may well condemn them and proceeded to dominate their hosts for three-quarters of a crude encounter.
The Millers will be rueing the woodwork, a referee who denied them a quite convincing penalty appeal and their own remarkable ineptitude in front of goal. They should take heart, however, that they won’t lack for effort and organisation for the monumental challenges of their tightly packed schedule.
Perhaps the only slice of fortune for them was facing a team as confused and lacking in personality as Town. The failure to take advantage, which would have dragged Town deep into the mire while providing themselves with a good platform for their week, is likely to be seminal for them.
For Town, the ineptitude of the first half at Carrow Road was equalled, and possibly exceeded, in the second half of this dreadful display. Lacking character, application and even the most basic of skills, Town were not helped by Corberán’s insistence on shoehorning players into his selection, particularly on the left and what appeared to be a hybrid of his own preferred style of play and the rudimentary approach adopted in the recent past.
A clearly less than fit Pipa was deployed at left wing back, Holmes at right wing back while the two other full back or wing back alternatives were sat on the bench, presumably not trusted by a coach preferring imbalance. It isn’t easy to make a case for Jordan Brown, more so for Rowe, but Brown would have facilitated a true back four and the greater potential for midfield control which was absent for all but a brief spell in the first half.
Well organised and aggressive, Rotherham easily coped with the few moments of potential danger Town conjured, with only a decent Keogh effort causing the visitors the slightest concern. The defender, one of only two to come out with credit from a rancid afternoon, was thwarted by Johansson’s chest and a hasty clearance.
Keogh himself prevented Rotherham from taking the lead with a last-ditch block to foil Crooks’ close-range shot after Town had been carved open on Rotherham’s left far too easily.
Town’s minimal threat came exclusively from the right with occasionally decent link-ups between Holmes and Bacuna falling short on delivery into the box. For all his presence as a line leader, and he works hard enough, Sanogo simply doesn’t look capable of scoring. He shows an occasional nice touch and can bring others in to play, but his main asset is nuisance value which wouldn’t look too out of place in the bottom divisions but it is simply not enough at Championship level. Ishmael Miller 2.0.
The Millers finished the half on the front foot and pinned Town in their own territory without creating much beyond slight concern. In fact, an attempted O’Brien headed back-pass was the root of most consternation but Schofield baled him out with a decisive intervention.
As disappointing as the first half had been, and the reaction to the disaster in midweek was barely discernible, the abject response in the second was worryingly depressing.
Shapeless, error-prone and paralysed by fear, the Terriers all but handed the game to the visitors who, for all their fight and resilience, were unable to collect the gifts handed to them.
Bar Keogh and Schofield, the former held things together as well as he could and the latter saved the day with an excellent save and some decent handling, the team was an almighty shambles seemingly at the mercy of their limited but massively superior opponents.
Within minutes, Town were spared going behind by a linesman’s flag and the stench of defeat became overwhelming from that moment.
Possession was fleeting and misused, Sanogo and Campbell became superfluous to events and Rotherham dictated virtually every aspect of the play.
Subdued and outworked, the hosts spent swathes of the second half desperately repelling their better organised, more determined opponents who won each and every individual battle across the spectrum. Even in possession, hesitancy and misjudgement poisoned any attempt to reverse the tide. The opportunities to break on the odd occasion Rotherham over-committed floundered on indecision and dreadful execution.
Early in the half, Town managed to screw up a 3-on-1 opportunity with baffling incompetence as neither Holmes nor Pipa seemed to want to make the decisive move. A decent run by Thomas, on for Pipa, failed to deliver a dangerous ball into the box and a brief ascendancy ended.
On the hour, the increasingly woeful Terriers were off the hook again as Schofield was nearly caught out as Wing curled an excellent free-kick effort on to the bar. In total control by then, Rotherham piled on the pressure and were desperately unlucky to find referee Moss in a forgiving mood as Sarr bundled into Wood following more induced confusion in the box.
Spluttering attempts to gain some sort of foothold in the game invariably ended with poor control, passing or judgement as the visitors assumed control and a good hit by Wing following a half clearance was very well saved by Schofield as Town were relived once more.
Scott High, on for Holmes and Bacuna with Mbenza, made a good run from his own half but could only force a corner for lack of support, just ahead of the defining moment of the match which arrived amidst the dreary final minutes.
Sarr was beaten by a long ball and allowed Smith into the box. His ball across wrong-footed Edmonds-Green after bypassing Keogh only for Wiles to miss an open goal when it was far easier to score. It didn’t require wiliness of any kind and didn’t get it.
It would be churlish not to acknowledge the absence of good fortune since the turn of the year with a rolling, persistent injury crisis severely hampering Corberán, but the outrageous good fortune provided by this game, which is only enhanced by the vital point it gained over a fellow struggler, is huge compensation.
If omens are your thing, and grasping at straws is what this club tends to leave us with, the last time we demonstrably threw a game against superior opposition at Bournemouth, Town followed up with a miserable draw against a relegation rival followed by a home win over a contender.
The parallels are, to say the least, imperfect. Coventry didn’t deserve to beat us and Watford’s latest manager was coming to the end of a typically short tenure, but it is something to tenuously cling on to.
Longer term, a win and a draw will see Town survive but there is precious little optimism that next season will not simply be a repetition of the malaise which remains from the waste of legacy which continues to rankle an increasingly apathetic support.