Ahead of this season, Huddersfield were, with substantial justification, being tipped to again be involved in a relegation zone, but Carlos Corberan has emerged from the opening five months as one of the managers of the campaign.
Although everything has not always gone swimmingly for the Spaniard, the Terriers have lost just four times since the end of September, three of which came during a four-game spell in November.
Since then, 16 points have been accumulated from a possible 24, Huddersfield’s latest victory seeing them prevail by a 4-3 scoreline in a thrilling encounter with Reading.
Danny Ward made the headlines with a hat-trick, taking his tally to the season to 10 strikes, but Corberan would have felt that it was a team effort given the back-and-forth nature of a bizarre contest.
Huddersfield, who have lost just three times in 13 home matches this season, now play three of their next four fixtures at the John Smith’s Stadium, and the opportunity is there to make real progress in the top six.
There can be no complacency against a Stoke side who have won four of their last six away games in the Championship, the most recent coming at Hull City.
However, that represents the Potters’ only triumph in five league games, the latest of their four defeats coming by a 1-0 scoreline at Coventry City on Tuesday night.
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The Sky Blues were full value for their win, a result which has moved them into ninth position and two points above Stoke while still possessing a game in hand.
That is the kind of small margins that Michael O’Neill and his squad are now dealing with, the gap to the playoffs now standing at six points.
Nevertheless, a showdown against the club occupying that spot is the perfect game at this stage for Stoke, and O’Neill knows that it can make-or-break their campaign