Warnock works his magic as Huddersfield beat Birmingham
Neil Warnock made a dream return to management as Huddersfield ended an eight-match winless run in all competitions by beating Birmingham 2-1.
Joseph Hungbo and Jaheim Headley scored their first goals for the Terriers either side of half-time to bring them from behind after Troy Deeney had given Birmingham an early lead.
Huddersfield’s victory, their first since December 29th, moves them up one place in the table to 22nd and two points away from safety.
It was announced on Monday that 74-year-old Warnock was coming out of retirement to take over at his former club, who he led to promotion to the second tier in his first spell in charge in 1995.
He made seven changes to the team that started the 3-0 midweek defeat at Stoke, with only Tom Lees, Headley, Jack Rudoni and captain Jonathan Hogg keeping their places.
But the hosts got off to a poor start and found themselves behind in the sixth minute, when Birmingham captain Deeney bundled the ball home from close range from former Huddersfield man Juninho Bacuna’s left-footed cross.
Huddersfield responded well, though, and nearly equalised within a couple of minutes as Blues goalkeeper John Ruddy spilt a searching free-kick from Hogg and young French midfielder Etienne Camara hit the post from a shot with his outstretched left foot.
Warnock’s side slowly began to ease themselves into the game and drew level in the 25th minute, hitting the visitors on the break from a corner.
Latching onto a quick roll-out from goalkeeper Nicholas Bilokapic, Headley fed Hungbo down the left and the Watford loanee cut inside and fired the ball into the top corner.
Birmingham went close to going back in front in the 39th minute, with Bilokapic turning Bacuna’s effort around the post after the midfielder fired Maxime Colin’s pull-back goalwards.
Down at the other end, Ruddy was unable to hold onto Headley’s stinging drive but Birmingham managed to clear.
The second-half started in lively fashion, with Deeney’s diving header hitting the post from Emmanuel Longelo’s cross seconds after the restart.
And within a few minutes Huddersfield went in front with Colin misjudging Bilokapic’s long kick and allowing Headley to get in behind and drill the ball into the bottom corner.
Town were really brimming with confidence after the goal and it took two good blocks on the line from Bacuna on the hour mark, firstly to deny Matthew Lowton and then Danny Ward, to keep the score at 2-1.
Deeney had another chance to double his tally in the 70th minute, but the veteran forward sent his effort over the crossbar from point-blank range.
Birmingham continued to press for the equaliser with Bilokapic thwarting Auston Trusty’s attempt from close range in the 74th minute and Bacuna shooting wide in the final moments.
But it was not to be for John Eustace’s men and their misery was compounded by a nasty-looking injury for Krystian Bielik, who was stretched off the field in the 81st minute following a clash with Camara, leading to 12 minutes added-on time and a nail-biting finish for Warnock.