Huddersfield Town v Sheffield United: No goals, some controversy and plenty of serious shapes on the touchline
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Throwing the kind of shapes not seen since rave engulfed the music scenes in the late Eighties, the Huddersfield Town manager spends 90 minutes in a state of perpetual mania - pacing along the touchline and gesticulating at any player who comes near.
Whether or not they understand remains open to debate. But with the hosts starting this contest at fifth in the Championship, Corberan’s methods are clearly effective.
They certainly tested Sheffield United, whose four match winning run came to an end on a windswept West Yorkshire afternoon. But in the grand scheme of things, the draw probably suited Paul Heckingbottom’s seventh placed side a better. They have played fewer games than everyone else above them in the table and also found themselves on the right end of at least one marginal refereeing call.
“We didn’t give much away,” Paul Heckingbottom said. “Neither did they. That’s what good teams look like.”
The first-half saw United create two good chances, Town fall victim to a controversial decision and Corberan set a new record for distance covered inside an English technical area.
Although Heckingbottom’s decision to recall Oli McBurnie appeared to be the right call - the striker, now fully recovered from the health issues which have overshadowed his campaign, dovetailed well with Billy Sharp - the other changes to United’s starting eleven were not as effective. Until testing Lee Nicholls’ reaction with a powerful drive from range, Sander Berge had spent the afternoon on the periphery of the action. John Fleck did better but initially looked a little rusty and the same went for Morgan Gibbs-White, as he began his first match since early December.
Deputising for Heckingbottom at the pre-match press conference, the 44-year-old’s assistant Stuart McCall had given McBurnie quite the build-up. He made his presence felt, twice going close with headers following crosses by Jayden Bogle and Fleck. And, had Sharp’s pass been better suited to his stride pattern, would almost certainly have fired United ahead soon after the interval.
“Oli put in a real shift,” Heckingbottom said. “As always.”
Huddersfield felt United should have been trailing by then after seeing debutant Jon Russell head home just before the break. But as the former Chelsea youngster wheeled way in celebration, James Linington and his officials decided the impressive Danny Ward was in an offside position as he rolled around on the goalline in front of Wes Foderingham. He was. But only thanks to a foul by George Baldock.
“I know these things are complicated,” Corberan magnanimously acknowledged afterwards. “The referees in this division don’t have the help of VAR.”
Chris Basham came to United’s rescue when he prevented Sorba Thomas’ centre from reaching Ward. For the most part, though, it was the visitors who enjoyed the better of a sometimes fractious second period. McBurnie nearly looped a header over Nicholls as he darted back towards his net following a scramble involving Gibbs-White before Berge’s snap-shot also tested the Huddersfield goalkeeper.
Nicholls was tested by an effort from Fleck outside the box as United applied concerted pressure. But the Scot was frustrated to see it bounce back off a post.
“We’d have loved to have won,” Heckingbottom said. “If you can’t, don’t lose.”