Huddersfield 2 Norwich 2: Dramatic finale leaves Terriers scratching heads

THE talk across the country today as George Osborne prepares to deliver his pre-election Budget may revolve around possible tax cuts, further pension reform and a penny or two coming off the price of a pint.

John Ruddy saves a point-blank shot from Huddersfield's James Vaughan.   Picture: Bruce Rollinson
John Ruddy saves a point-blank shot from Huddersfield's James Vaughan. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

But, for Huddersfield Town fans, the only figure that really matters right now is the 10-point deficit that the bottom three have to make up to reel in Chris Powell’s side after a quite incredible finale at the John Smith’s Stadium last night.

The Terriers looked to have claimed all three points when James Vaughan netted in the fifth and final scheduled minute of stoppage time to put the hosts ahead for the second time.

Vaughan’s celebration which saw him rip off his shirt and level the corner flag with a drop kick saw him red carded. But it was to get even worse for the home side moments later.

Just as the 11,879 crowd were ready to hail a precious three points, substitute Jamar Loza fired in a dramatic equaliser.

That Loza’s first senior goal for the Canaries came in the 98th minute left Town incensed with referee Nigel Miller for playing so long over the allotted time.

As the dust settles today, however, Huddersfield can look back with pride on a fine display against an in-form side that had arrived in West Yorkshire with a haul of 23 points from their last 10 games.

The manner of the performance underlined why Town, for all the disappointment of recent defeats such as Rotherham’s recent 2-0 triumph, deserve to stay clear of trouble.

Norwich may have enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but the Terriers were well worth a point, even if the draw did owe plenty to the officials dramatically disallowing a ‘goal’ for the visitors on 10 minutes that had initially been given.

It took a mass protest by Powell’s men over what they vehemently believed to have been a handball by former Leeds United midfielder Bradley Johnson to bring about the U-turn.

With so much having been said and written about officials being harangued lately in the Premier League, the sight of the Town team en masse racing over to assistant referee Lisa Rashid initially seemed to spell danger.

Their fury had been understandable but, at a time when Chelsea and several of their top-flight brethren have rightly been pilloried for such blatant dissent, there was a worry that Town might end up a man down as well as a goal down if the protests went too far.

Then, though, something quite remarkable happened as the officials, after a conflab, disallowed the ‘goal’ and Johnson was booked.

It was a bizarre turn of events, especially with Rashid having already raced to the midway point of the Town half without flagging.

After that, the rest of the game could have been an anti-climax. Instead, it was an enjoyable affair with Norwich’s cultured passing style proving a fascinating contrast with the more direct approach of the hosts.

Chances abounded, especially in the first half as Sebastien Bassong fired over for Norwich from close range just after Johnson had bundled Cameron Jerome’s header across the face of goal into the net.

Gary Hooper was also guilty of a truly woeful miss just before the break, the former Celtic striker somehow managing to trip himself up when presented with a tap-in by Jonny Howson’s powerful run and cross.

Huddersfield, too, had plenty to offer in attack with Joel Lynch’s header being tipped over by John Ruddy, who then did brilliantly to deny James Vaughan from point-blank range.

Ishmael Miller had created the second of those opportunities and the loanee was the man who made the all-important breakthrough 10 minutes into the second half.

Collecting the ball with his back to goal and standing five yards outside the Norwich penalty area, Miller turned brilliantly before skipping past the on-rushing Ruddy and firing into the net.

Canaries manager Alex Neil responded by bringing Wes Hoolahan on just after the hour and by the 68th minute parity had been restored.

A deft one-two between Hoolahan and Howson in the wake of Jake Carroll losing possession proved sufficient to open up the Huddersfield defence.

Smithies raced from his line to try and close down Hoolahan but the substitute merely prodded the ball past the Town goalkeeper and into the net.

That set up a frantic finale that saw Vaughan finish with aplomb to seemingly settle matters – depsite his red card – before Loza struck at the death for Norwich.

Huddersfield Town: Smithies; Smith, Hudson, Lynch; Scannell, Coady, Hogg, Butterfield, Carroll (Edgar 70); Miller (Gobern 76), Vaughan. Unused substitues: Murphy, Wallace, Holmes, Charles, Majewski.

Norwich City: Ruddy; Whittaker, Martin, Bassong, Olsson; Redmond, Howson (Loza 86), Dorrans, Johnson (Hoolahan 62); Jerome, Hooper (Andreu 76). Unused substitues: Rudd, Cuellar, Tettey, Odjidja-Ofoe.

Referee: N Miller (County Durham).