IT APPEARS goal machine James Vaughan is human after all.
After a start to the season when just about everything has gone right for him, Huddersfield Town’s attacking talisman suffered a rare aberration in front of goal to ensure the hosts ended with one point instead of three.
He had become the first player in the country to reach double figures in the scoring charts with a 62nd-minute leveller to cancel out Ricardo Fuller’s opener.
With six minutes left the stage was then set for the forward to take his remarkable goal tally under the stewardship of Mark Robins to 20 goals in just 25 matches.
But it was not to be with Vaughan – who netted in last season’s televised victory at Blackpool – blasting his penalty against the woodwork after the Tangerines were reduced to 10 men, Angel Martinez having picked up his second yellow card after blocking substitute Sean Scannell’s shot with his hand.
Vaughan’s miss agonisingly failed to put the seal on an impressive second-round rally from Town, who were as vibrant on the restart as they were insipid in the first period.
Credit has to go to boss Robins, whose pro-active substitutions yielded fruit with the introduction of league debutant Duane Holmes and Sean Scannell seriously reinvigorating the hosts.
A pat on the back, too, for experienced referee Scott Mathieson, who played a fine advantage in the lead up to Town’s penalty, allowing play to go on with Scannell in plenty of space to roam up field after a Blackpool foul in the Huddersfield half.
A draw was perhaps about right, although Town will be ruing their spurned late opportunity on a night when their unbeaten run on home soil was extended to 10 matches, with Hull City the last side to triumph at the John Smith’s Stadium way back on March 30.
Offering his thoughts, Robins succinctly got it spot-on, refusing to skirt around a lame first-half showing in front of the cameras, commenting: “We were excellent in the second half, but our first-half performance meant that we didn’t deserve to win.”
It was an occasion when Vaughan – who on another day could have secured a hat-trick with a first-half ‘goal’ from him wrongly ruled out for offside – had to share equal billing with two other attack-minded Town players for the first time this season.
Eighteen-year-old Holmes’s instinctive pass, five minutes after entering the fray, was lashed home by Vaughan, whose first-time effort was only helped into the net by goalkeeper Matt Gilks at his near post.
It completed a dream three days for Holmes, fresh from making his competitive bow in Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup exit at Hull.
The endeavour shown on the restart by Holmes and his Town colleagues was far removed from a disappointing first period when the visitors were good value for their lead, provided in the 27th minute by Fuller.
For virtually the entire first half, Town provided little or no attacking incision with home fans growing increasingly frustrated with every misplaced pass or option.
The main threatening moment arrived just before the interval and it provided a talking point with a well-taken strike from Vaughan ruled out for offside when replays showed that the marksman was level with the last defender.
But in truth, an equaliser would have flattered Robins’ side, who could have few complaints that Pool were leading after a cohesive first-half showing.
The Seasiders, mindful that a 3-0 win would have taken them top, took a deserved lead when Anthony Gerrard’s half-clearance was headed back towards goal by Kirk Broadfoot and latched onto in a flash by veteran Fuller, who rounded the on-rushing Alex Smithies and coolly tucked the ball into an empty net.
It failed to serve as the jolt Town needed to liven up, with the goal merely adding to the visitors’ bravado, aided by the hosts’ propensity to cough up the ball cheaply.
The half at least ended with an assertive Town cameo with Vaughan skilfully netting with the outside of his foot after a precision pass from Stead only for a linesman’s flag to immediately stop any celebrations.
Thankfully, it was all change in the second half, with Scannell and Holmes breathing new life into the hosts, who were rewarded with Vaughan’s leveller.
Appeals for a penalty after Vaughan tumbled under pressure from Craig Cathcart were then rejected before a frantic final 10 minutes saw both sides press for a winner.
An arrowing stirke from substitute Nathan Delfouneso, who netted a last-gasp leveller in the game at Town on Boxing Day, was tipped over splendidly by Smithies and Fuller then saw a header saved by the Town goalkeeper, who signed a contract extension a few days ago.
Soon after, Town were handed their golden opportunity to go level on points with Watford and Nottingham Forest – in the final two play-off positions – from the penalty spot.
But it was not to be with the game ending all-square, as it did last season between the two at the same venue.
Huddersfield Town: Smithies; Clarke, Gerrard, Lynch; Hammill, Hogg (Scannell 46), Norwood (Gobern, Clayton, Richards; Vaughan, Stead (Holmes 57). Unused substitutes: Bennett, Woods, Wallace, Paterson.
Blackpool: Gilks; Broadfoot, Cathcart, Mackenzie, Robinson; Ince, Bishop (Delfouneso 65), Angel, Basham; Dobbie (Tyson 75); Fuller (Chopra 90). Unused substitutes: Davies, Grant, Zeegelaar, Barkhuisen.
Referee: S Mathieson (Cheshire).