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Huddersfield Town vs Middlesbrough. Sky Bet Championship.

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Huddersfield 0-0 Middlesbrough: Stalemate at John Smith's Stadium

Report and highlights from the Sky Bet Championship clash at the John Smith's Stadium

Dan Long

Wednesday 23 October 2019 22:49, UK

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Highlights of the Sky Bet Championship game between Huddersfield and Middlesbrough

Huddersfield's recent improvement in form continued on Wednesday evening as they held troubled Middlesbrough to a 0-0 draw to extend their unbeaten run to five at the John Smith’s Stadium.

Dani Ayala had the best chance of the first half when he headed over the bar from close range, while Adama Diakhaby curled a free-kick narrowly wide for the hosts on the stroke of half-time.

Terriers debutant goalkeeper Ryan Schofield made a stunning save after the break, but a glaring miss from Ashley Fletcher followed as neither side was able to force winner in a scrappy encounter.

The hosts remain inside the relegation zone despite their improving form, with Jonathan Woodgate's Boro just a point above them in 21st, thanks to a miserable run that has seen them without a win since September 14.

Huddersfield's misery gradually ebbing away

The Danny Cowley effect had taken hold of Huddersfield ever since his appointment in September and it was another confident start from his side who have, remarkably, won just three league games in 2019.

Boro centre-back Ayala had a golden chance to disrupt that inside the first 10 minutes, but headed Paddy McNair's perfect delivery clear of the crossbar, while Karlan Grant glanced over at the other end soon after.

The Terriers edged proceedings until the break, with Diakhaby curling a free-kick inches wide, but neither teenage stopper Ryan Schofield, nor Boro debutant Aynsley Pears - son of Boro legend Stephen - was targeted in a relatively low-key half.

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Team news

Huddersfield boss Danny Cowley made one enforced change as 19-year-old goalkeeper Ryan Schofield made his debut for the club in place of the Kamil Grabara, who was suffering with a stomach bug.

Unusually, there was also a change between the sticks for Middlesbrough. Darren Randolph was left out of the squad, with 21-year-old Aynsley Pears taking his place. Ashley Fletcher replaced Britt Assombalonga in attack.

Typically, that changed almost immediately after the break. Schofield superbly kept out George Saville's flick after Marvin Johnson's low free-kick, with Fletcher somehow blazing the rebound over from just a few yards out.

Woodgate brought on Assombalonga to try and force something from the game and his faith almost paid off when the frontman took advantage of a disorganised backline to move one-on-one with Schofield, but a last-ditch intervention from Jaden Brown put paid to the chance.

Man of the match - Dani Ayala

Putting the Spaniard's early miss to one side, he put in a strong shift to help Middlesbrough to their first clean sheet in more than a month, while shielding debutant goalkeeper Aynsley Pears from danger in a high-profile encounter between two sides battling at the wrong end of the table.

His performance was summed up late in the second half when he outmuscled Karlan Grant for the ball, then fought off Fraizer Campbell, before escaping out the other end of a joint effort between both Campbell and Juninho Bacuna. A real workhorse, as ever.

What the managers said…

Huddersfield boss Danny Cowley: "I don't think it was for the faint-hearted this evening. I thought it was two teams fighting for their lives with two young goalkeepers playing for both teams, so it was inevitable that we'd end up with a 0-0 draw.

"But I thought it was hard-fought with certainly the will, maybe not the skill. But if you can't play well - and we didn't play well tonight - then you refuse to lose and make sure that you're not defeated and you come up with something."

Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate: "I think we dominated the game, I think we had the chances, we had the majority of the play and I thought, out of possession, we were terrific when we pressed and closed them down. We thoroughly deserved to win the game, without question.

"He (Fletcher) has got to score it, but I stick with my players and I stick with my forwards and my midfielders. These are my players and I'll stick with them through thick and thin. People go through little patches where they don't score, but we'll score no problem and I'll stick by them."

What's next?

Both sides are next in action at 3pm on Saturday, October 26. Huddersfield host Barnsley at the John Smith's Stadium, with Middlesbrough welcoming Scott Parker's Fulham to the Riverside Stadium.