While some in the Sky Bet Championship may have one eye on setting their squad up for next season, that is a luxury that Huddersfield Town can ill afford at the moment, as they still have a battle on their hands to secure their status in the division for another year.
A painful day at Wembley for all of a Royals persuasion saw the Terriers promoted to the Premier League back in 2017, but their time in the top tier came to an end last season - having to dust themselves down and go again in the Championship, which has been as fiercely competitive as ever.
An extremely difficult start to the season saw Town near the bottom of the standings, and Danny Cowley’s side have since recovered to move away from the relegation zone, but with the gap just two points, all three points are required from their visit to Madejski Stadium on Tuesday night.
A barren beginning
There is precedence in teams who come back down from the Premier League to the Championship struggling to readjust to life in the second tier, and this was certainly the case at the start of the campaign for Huddersfield.
Ovie Ejaria is congratulated as he scores against Huddersfield earlier in the season
The West Yorkshire side collected just two points from their opening nine matches this season, with plenty of travelling Royals returning home in good spirits after Reading earned a 2-0 win at the John Smith’s Stadium in August, with goals from Ovie Ejaria and Michael Morrison ensuring all three points came back to Berkshire on the day.
With their fortunes not looking like they would improve after a very difficult beginning to the season, a change was needed - and fast.
Cowleys beat them, then join them…
Among Huddersfield’s tough start to the season was an exit at the first round stage of the Carabao Cup at the hands of League One’s Lincoln City back in August.
Danny Cowley, alongside his brother Nicky, were in charge of their opponents on the night, and the pair had led the Imps to two promotions in three seasons in their time in charge at Sincil Bank. The Cowleys also received national acclaim when they led Lincoln, then in the National League, all the way to the last eight of the FA Cup in 2016-17 - becoming the first Non-League side to achieve that feat in over a century; finally being knocked out by Arsenal having beaten Championship and Premier League opposition on the way.
With a superb record in charge at Lincoln and a chance to see the pair in action when the Terriers were on the wrong end of a 1-0 defeat on the night, Danny Cowley was swiftly appointed Town manager when Jan Siewert was relieved of his duties in early September.
The coaching staff celebrate a win at Charlton in December as results improve
Cowley, formerly a PE teacher before his football management career took hold, swiftly turned the tide on a tough start and oversaw a run of just one loss in 10 matches, earning himself the Sky Bet Championship’s Manager of the Month award for October in the process.
After climbing out of the bottom three, the Terriers have managed to keep themselves above the dotted line ever since, but the form of teams below them has meant they have never quite been comfortable in their pursuit of maintaining Championship football at the John Smith’s Stadium.
The fight for Championship survival
Town have had a difficult run of fixtures upon their return to action after lockdown, losing out to a resurgent Wigan Athletic side before being defeated by promotion hopefuls Nottingham Forest.
But a consummate performance last week saw the Terriers see off Birmingham City with a comfortable 3-0 win, with top scorer Karlan Grant notching his 18th goal of the season from the penalty spot, supplemented by strikes from Fraizer Campbell and Elias Kachunga on the night at St Andrew’s.
The Terriers and Preston play out a goalless draw last time out
That performance was not a one-off, backing up their win with a hard-fought clean sheet in a goalless draw against Play-Off chasing Preston North End at the weekend.
Mark Bowen’s side will be aiming to complete a first league double over the Terriers since the 2001-02 season - with a famous afternoon at Griffin Park in that campaign’s final game seeing Reading promoted to the second tier.
There’s plenty on the line for both teams on Tuesday night, with the Royals hoping to push their way closer to the Championship’s top half and their opponents wanting to move clear of trouble.
How they last lined up...
Huddersfield Town: Lossl, Toffolo, Stearman, Schindler, Hogg, Chalobah (Stankovic 85), Pritchard (Smith Rowe 56), O’Brien, Kachunga (Quaner HT), Grant (Willock 76), Campbell (Mounie HT).
Unused subs: Coleman, Duhaney, King, Pyke.