A FIRST meeting with former manager Lee Clark since he was sacked back in February means Huddersfield Town’s trip to Britain’s balti capital was always going to be spicy.
But the burning desire of both Simon Grayson’s side and Clark’s Birmingham City to get their Championship challenges firmly on course has added an extra dash of heat.
Victories in their last two away games at Sheffield Wednesday and Blackpool lifted promoted Town to second in the Championship.
A win at home to Watford last Saturday would have put them top – thanks to Birmingham’s 1-0 triumph at then-leaders Brighton.
But Grayson’s side slumped 3-2 against the Hornets, then lost 2-0 to Leicester at the John Smith’s Stadium on Tuesday to fall to eighth.
The manager is firmly refusing to press the panic button, but is demanding a much-improved performance tomorrow.
As for Birmingham, it’s a first outing at St Andrews since the Sky-televised 5-0 drubbing by Barnsley a fortnight ago.
Clark, appointed in the close-season after Chris Hughton left for Norwich, called that experience “horrendous”.
But he’s been lifted by the follow-up win at Brighton and his side’s battling display in the 2-1 midweek defeat at new leaders Cardiff.
And he’s calling on his players to prove the Barnsley horror show was a blip by clinching the win which with 10 games gone, would put them level on 14 points with Town.
“Give Leicester credit, because they are a good team who played well,” said Grayson. “But from our point of view, there are no excuses.
“Defeats are always going to happen at some stage of a season, but there’s a way of losing, and the other night, we weren’t good enough.”
Town were missing on-loan Leicester striker Jermaine Beckford, ineligible against his parent club, and suspended centre-back Joel Lynch, both of whom are available again.
In addition frontman James Vaughan and winger Adam Hammill were out with groin and knee injuries respectively, with both remaining under treatment.
But Grayson insisted: “For me, that wasn’t an issue, because there was a big opportunity for the ones who came in.
“I’m the sort of manager who will stay loyal to players who are performing, no matter who is waiting in the wings.