Huddersfield Town finally ended seven months of misery in midweek as Danny Cowley inspired their first win since February against Stoke City.
Two defeats and a limp draw with 10-man Millwall proved that reviving the ailing Terriers would be far from an easy task for the newly-arrived manager who performed miracles at Lincoln City, but the fruits of his work are beginning to show after a first success since the defeat of Wolves in the Premier League a winter ago.
It would only be fair to recognise the opposition – the only team below them in the Championship table is Nathan Jones’ languishing Potters – but Leandro Bacuna’s 82nd-minute strike may well earn the club more than those three points on the cliched Tuesday night in Stoke.
Because while there are undoubtedly deeper-lying issues in the squad, confidence can be as valuable an asset as any skill. When a team haven’t won in half a year there isn’t a whole lot to go around. But get that sweet taste of success in their mouths and it can be a very different story.
That’s what Cowley will be hoping for, anyway. He is still getting to grips with the squad and their performance in Staffordshire was, truthfully, still far below the desired standard, but the Terriers needed something to build upon and now they have it.
Hull City can approach this game on a high themselves though, as they search for a second Yorkshire derby victory in the space of five days after Tom Eaves helped see off Sheffield Wednesday.
It is still early days in Grant McCann’s reign but the Tigers are gathering momentum. They are unbeaten in six going back to late August and a win at the John Smith’s Stadium could allow the former Doncaster boss to revel in an impressive top-half position during the international break.
Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki remain key, of course, but there is a neat team being built around those two figureheads and they will ask plenty of questions of Cowley’s recovering men.
Huddersfield are hoping to have two key players back to face the Tigers, with defender Terence Kongolo (calf) and attacking midfielder Alex Pritchard (knee) in a race against time to be fit.
Cowley, who has no other concerns heading into the game, said of the pair: “it would be a big plus to everybody to have them back.”
Hull boss McCann says he may make changes to his line-up for the short hop across the M62, as “it’s never easy playing three games a week in this demanding league.”
He has no new injury concerns but neither left-back Callum Elder (calf) or midfielder Jon Toral (hamstring) will be ready to return before the international break. Eaves will be pushing for a starting spot after scoring his first goal for the club in midweek off the bench.
What the managers have said
Cowley says that he wants his Huddersfield side to show the courage that got them their first win of the season once again against Hull.
“We were pleased with the resilience and determination we showed,” he said. “We were also pleased with the way we committed to the game plan even if we weren’t always free-flowing.
“The players played with a lot of courage, which is really important, and they showed a real spirit – reflected in the way the players, staff and supporters celebrated the goal and at the final whistle.”
He added: “We’ve had a taste of victory and we’re really determined to get another good performance and most importantly show the characteristics we showed on Tuesday.”
Despite their good run of form, Tigers counterpart McCann feels his side should be higher up the table after 10 matches.
“We know we should’ve won another couple of games but we haven’t,” he said. “Now we’ve got to finish this little cycle in between international breaks well.
“There’s a decent stubbornness about us I think. We’ve been organised and looked good on the break.
“We need to show that again at Huddersfield because they’re a lot more organised since Danny has gone in there. It’ll be tough to break them down.”