‘THERE will be plenty more twists and turns to come,’ became one of Simon Grayson’s stock replies when asked about the promotion run-in that culminated in Leeds United winning promotion from League One two years ago.
It is a phrase the new Huddersfield Town manager may well be dusting down this morning after a frustrating night in Hertfordshire.
Two goals to the good and seemingly on course to slash second-placed Sheffield United’s advantage to just a solitary point as the game entered the final quarter, Grayson and his new charges could reflect on a job well done in the absence of top scorer Jordan Rhodes on international duty.
By full-time, however, Grayson’s mood had darkened considerably following a dramatic collapse by his side.
Not only had Huddersfield been pegged back by their hosts, but had Alex Smithies not also pulled off a stunning save to keep out a Scott Laird penalty then the visitors would have made the return trip without any reward.
It was a barely believable finale and one that leaves Town hoping Scunthorpe United can do them a big favour by beating Sheffield United at Bramall Lane tonight.
What perhaps made matters even more galling for the 702 away fans was that until the late fightback, the home team had been so poor that Smithies had not been called into action until almost an hour had been played.
Since former Arsenal coach Gary Smith replaced Graham Westley as manager, Stevenage have not been as reliant on the long ball approach with the new man trying to instil a more pleasing on the eye passing style.
For large parts of last night, though, those instructions seemed to have been forgotten as they relied heavily on punting long balls forward.
Most of these were aimless, too, meaning the Town defence had little trouble in repelling what was fired their way – certainly in a one-sided opening hour that included goals for Danny Ward and Lee Novak.
It was apt that Ward should make the breakthrough as during a largely untidy first half he had been the one player who rose above the general mediocrity of those around him.
Not only did the former Leeds United junior twice test Chris Day in the Stevenage goal but he also provided the cross from which Sean Morrison brought a goal-line clearance from the home defence.
Ward’s first major involvement came on seven minutes when he latched on to a knockdown from Alan Lee to fire a fierce effort goalwards that Day did well to beat away.
He next went close just after the half-hour when, after collecting a deft lay-off from Joey Gudjonsson, the Town wideman unleashed a 20-yard effort that Day bundled round the post.
In the process, the Stevenage goalkeeper injured himself when colliding with a post – something that meant when the second half kicked off he had been replaced by Alan Julian.
The substitute’s first involvement was to pick the ball out of the net due to it taking Town just four minutes to break the deadlock.
A shockingly poor pass by Stacy Long helped create the opening, Novak intercepting and then releasing Ward with a slide rule pass.
The winger’s first touch was then poor but he more than made up for it with a drilled shot through the legs of Julian.
Six minutes later, Huddersfield’s advantage had been doubled thanks to a thunderbolt strike from Novak that had hit the net before the Stevenage goalkeeper had even made an attempt to save.
That should have been enough to put the game to bed but, instead, slack defending allowed Stevenage to pull a goal back 19 minutes from time when Michael Bostwick headed in Joel Byrom’s corner
Visibly lifted by the goal, Stevenage poured forward in search of an equaliser.
With just 10 minutes remaining on the clock, that chance seemed to have arrived when a clumsy challenge by Morrison saw Lawrie Wilson tumble to the floor.
Referee Dean Whitstone, after consulting with his assistant, pointed to the spot to send the fans into raptures.
Smithies then cut those celebrations short by keeping out Scott Laird’s spot-kick with a stunning one-handed save low to his left to suggest the three points may well be heading back to Yorkshire after all.
Those hopes were dashed, however, two minutes from time when Robin Shroot capped a swift breakaway by sweeping a cross from fellow substitute Jennison Mryie-Williams into the net to ensure honours ended even.
Stevenage: Day (Julian 46); Henry, Roberts; Bostwick, Charles; Long (Shroot 67), Byrom, Wilson, Laird; Reid (Myrie-Williams 74), May. Unused substitutes: Edwards, Aneke.
Huddersfield Town: Smithies; Hunt, McCombe, Morrison, Naysmith; Cadamarteri, Gudjonsson (Robinson 85), Gobern, Ward; Lee (Higginbotham 75), Novak (Kay 70). Unused substitutes: Bennett, Roberts.
Referee: D Whitestone (Northamptonshire).
Bradley Wright-Phillips fired a hat-trick as Charlton extended their lead at the top of npower League One to 13 points with a crushing 4-0 victory at rock-bottom Chesterfield last night.
Wright-Phillips opened the scoring two minutes before the break and added two more in the second half with Johnnie Jackson also getting on the scoresheet. The result still leaves the Spireites five points off safety.