After victory at Cardiff on Sunday, Neil Warnock can see Huddersfield to safety if his side avoid defeat against another of his former clubs, already-promoted Sheffield United. It’s a fixture that would have looked ominous at most other points in the season for the Terriers, but they’re resurgent under Warnock, while their opponents are already promoted automatically, with the title out of the question: safe to say, the timing of this game couldn’t have worked out much better for the hosts, in theory at least.
It’s Huddersfield vs Sheffield United in a 7:45pm BST kick-off on Thursday night. Here are my thoughts and football betting tips on the crucial game that could confirm Reading’s relegation to League One.
Town were four points adrift of safety after mid-February’s 3-0 loss at Stoke, but Warnock’s return to the club he led to promotion from the third-tier via the Play-Offs in 1994-95 has inspired the club to stir from its slumber.
The West Yorkshire outfit have accrued 19 points from 13 games under the wily veteran, whose favour to friend and club owner Dean Hoyle could be a last hurrah in English football. A lack of clean sheets has been a worry with no clean sheet in the last 6 league matches. The Terriers are available at 9/2 with Bet365 to win to nil, whereas Huddersfield to win with both teams to score is 11/2 with the same bookmaker.
It’s an average of 1.46 points per game, which would put Huddersfield on 67 points if extrapolated over a full campaign: enough for a ninth-placed finish. That’s probably the reason that Betfair have got Huddersfield priced at 36/5 to be relegated now.
The form of Michal Helik, Jack Rudoni and Josh Koroma has been key to the Terriers’ rally to near-safety, as a point on Thursday night will render Bank Holiday Monday’s encounter with relegation rivals Reading redundant. The bookies clearly think there is a strong possibility of this happening with Reading listed at 1/8 with Betfair to go down.
If Warnock’s side are beaten, however, defeat to the Royals would send them down, and the psychology of knowing a draw would be enough can sometimes be trickier to handle than when knowing only a win will do.
As such, the outcome of Thursday’s game will determine whether there’s next to no pressure on Monday, or whether all the pressure is on that game – Warnock will be desperate for his side to attack this one to ensure his side complete the job ahead of schedule.
Heckingbottom to Experiment?
Facing Sheffield United with them having already won promotion is not the same as playing them just before they cross the line, in theory, but anyone questioning their professionalism were proved wrong on Saturday, as Paul Heckingbottom’s side thrashed Preston North End 4-1. It’s now 4 wins on the bounce for the Blades with 7 victories from their previous 8 league matches. It seems a little tempting with their odds of 8/5 with BetUK to just win this game.
Key men John Egan and Oli McBurnie were rested for 82 minutes against the Lilywhites, but Heckingbottom still named a strong side, and while stalwarts Chris Basham and Billy Sharp aren’t quite the forces they have been previously at this level, it can still be considered a luxury to be able to rotate and bring them in.
Similarly, George Baldock has been a pillar of consistency for the Blades this season, but Jayden Bogle is an excellent option to introduce at right wing-back where required.Defence is still clearly a strength for the Yorkshire club. The team have kept four clean sheets in their last 7 league games and they are 10/3 with BetUK to win to nil here.
On Thursday, there’s the possibility of Daniel Jebbison coming in, as ‘Hecky’ looks to assess whether the tall, athletic centre-forward can be part of his Premier League plans next season, or whether another EFL loan is required, while it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see one or two academy graduates like Kyron Gordon, Ismaila Coulibaly or Andre Brooks come into the squad. Jebbison is an interesting shout for anytime scorer at 16/5 with William Hill. Anel Ahmedhodzic is also a pick at 11/1 to score anytime having scored in back-to-back league games for United.
The Tactics Board
We can expect Huddersfield’s plan to be to produce an aggressive, high-intensity first-half performance, with Joseph Hungbo, Josh Koroma, Jaheim Headley and Danny Ward given license to press United’s back-three, with Jack Rudoni handed license to follow up aggressively on Oli Norwood.
Town will keep a compact back-four with Matty Pearson and Josh Ruffels sticking close to Tom Lees and Michal Helik respectively, but with a high line and an emphasis on consistently winning the first duels, with Jonathan Hogg not being afraid to go in hard on the opposition’s star individuals, like Illiman Ndiaye, and possibly Sander Berge.
The test for Huddersfield will be to ensure they have a lead by half-time because it’ll be hard for them to sustain their intensity into the second half, when the Blades will have the wherewithal to change things around.
Huddersfield vs Sheffield United Betting Tips
At this closing stage of the season, matches can be determined more by what’s at stake for either side than how the table might look on paper, and that could be the case here. It’s hard to see Huddersfield being defeated, given the situation for both teams, so the Double Chance: Huddersfield or Draw at 8/15 with Bet365 looks excellent value.
For those keen on more of a speculative punt, Half-Time/Full-Time: Huddersfield/Draw can be backed at 14/1, which appeals given the likelihood of the hosts starting strongly, the visitors having the likelihood to switch things up at the break if required, and the fact Warnock’s side only need a draw to finish their job.
Double Chance: Huddersfield or Draw @ 8/15 with Bet365
Half-Time/Full-Time: Huddersfield/Draw @ 14/1 with Bet365
All odds are accurate at the time of writing.
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