Two-goal Novak nets his reward after spell in shadows

Lee Novak
Lee Novak
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CONSIDERING the quality of his striking peers at Huddersfield Town, maybe it is inevitable that Lee Novak has spent much of his time in a blue and white shirt watching others bask in the spotlight.

For three years, the striker plucked from non-League by Lee Clark in 2009 lived in the shadow of the extraordinary scoring exploits of Jordan Rhodes.

Then, when the Scotland international moved to Blackburn Rovers in an £8m deal last August, Novak found himself usurped by James Vaughan and then Jermaine Beckford as the talisman up front for the Terriers.

Now, however, after his two goals ensured Town claimed a 2-2 draw against Rhodes’s new club Blackburn, the 24-year-old is the toast of Huddersfield and his team-mates couldn’t be happier.

“Lee has been a fantastic servant for Huddersfield Town over the entire time I have been here,” said Terriers captain Peter Clarke in the wake of Novak taking his career total with Huddersfield to 40 goals.

“His work-rate is ridiculous. Honestly, it is second to none. I am thrilled he is getting his rewards now with goals. He got his fair share last season as well.

“Against Blackburn, I felt he led the line superbly and deserved his two goals. I also thought Alan Lee made a great impact when he came on in the second half.”

The introduction of Lee from the bench along with Danny Ward undoubtedly helped turn the game on Tuesday night.

Brought on in the wake of Danny Murphy putting Rovers 2-1 ahead with a controversial penalty, the pair energised Town to such an extent that few could begrudge the home side some reward for their efforts come the final whistle.

To Clarke, the impact made by Lee and Ward came as no surprise. Nor did Novak’s two-goal salvo and the Huddersfield captain believes the trio illustrated once again just how much strength in depth can be found within Simon Grayson’s ranks.

He said: “Every team who wants to achieve something needs a strong squad. The chairman and manager have made some shrewd acquisitions and we have a squad that has strength in depth.

“As the manager has said countless times, we have to be at it every day in training and then take that into games.

“Anyone who isn’t at it knows there are lads in this squad who can come in and push you out. It is a win-win situation in terms of the depth.

“The lads that aren’t in the team at the minute are probably more important than the lads who are. They are keeping up the standards of the players in the team because if those drop then they come in.

“There are a few who aren’t involved as much at the moment but I see them as being vitally important to the group.”

Tuesday’s draw means just goal difference is keeping Huddersfield out of the play-offs with the opening third of the season all but over.

It is a fantastic start to life back in the second tier after an 11-year absence but Clarke believes there is plenty more to come from Town.

He said: “To get something out of the game was terrific. We felt a bit aggrieved with the two Blackburn goals.

“The first one was the only chance Jordan had all evening and he finished it very well. But we felt it was offside. I don’t think the officials covered themselves in glory all night, with it being touch and go if it was a penalty and I don’t think the linesman signalled.

“That left us up against it but we have a never-say-die attitude as a group and that means you always have a chance. We have shown those qualities countless times this season and we feel we can do well.”

Coming just three days after a 1-0 win over Bristol City, Town’s draw means they will head to Oakwell for a derby clash with Barnsley on Saturday in fine heart.

The Reds will be keen to bounce back from a trio of consecutive defeats against Nottingham Forest, Hull City and Derby County, results that mean Keith Hill’s side sit just one place above the relegation zone with a three-point buffer.

It means Huddersfield are set for a stiff examination of their promotion credentials, as Clarke concedes.

He added: “Losing (4-0) to Millwall and (3-1) at Peterborough wasn’t nice but I think we had that out of our system when preparing for the Bristol City game.

“We put in a dogged performance then to win and then got another point off one of the more fancied teams (on Tuesday) and that means we go to Barnsley in good heart.

“Barnsley will be a tough test and it will be a competitive game. I’d imagine we will need to show the kind of qualities we have shown against both Bristol and Blackburn if we want to get anything.”