Sluggish Town just miss out on century marker for 2011

MAYBE, Jordan Rhodes is human after all.

After dragging an out-of-form Huddersfield Town level last night with a typically clinical finish against Carlisle United, the stage seemed set for the in-form striker to cap an amazing 2011 with a dramatic winner.

All Rhodes needed, it seemed, was one chance and the Terriers would be on their way to three points and second place in League One.

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That opportunity duly arrived with a little over 60 seconds remaining, the Town top scorer being picked out by a deft pass from Scott Arfield that allowed him to scamper away from former Leeds United defender Lubomir Michalik.

However, as the 13,962 crowd rose to acclaim the winning goal, Rhodes did the unthinkable and rolled the ball beyond the post as Carlisle goalkeeper Adam Collin advanced from his line.

Visiting manager Greg Abbott immediately looked up to the heavens, almost as if thanking a higher power for the almighty let-off that meant the Cumbrians were able to begin and end the year by taking a point off Huddersfield.

As Abbott counted his lucky stars, Rhodes slumped to the floor, clearly unable to believe what had just happened.

Rhodes shouldn’t, though, beat himself up for too long with a far more pressing reason for the Terriers failing to chalk up 100 points for the calendar year being a below-par team display.

Against a well-organised and hard-working Carlisle side, the hosts laboured for long periods with central midfield, in particular, lacking sufficient fluency to pin the visitors back.

Town did have plenty of chances, particularly in the second half, and on another night could have won comfortably.

Among those who went close were Lee Novak, whose 50th-minute shot struck a post, and Peter Clarke, the captain’s low drive being unconvincingly bundled round the post in wet conditions by Collin.

Alan Lee also brought a save from Collin, while Gary Roberts saw a snapshot whistle just beyond the post after the wideman had shot from a tight angle.

Then, of course, there was Rhodes’s miss in the final minute but, even so, defeat would have been harsh on a Carlisle side who for most of the first half had been in control.

That the Cumbrians didn’t go in ahead at the break was down to a typically incisive finish from Rhodes seven minutes before the break to notch his 21st goal of the season in Town colours.

Earlier in the day, West Ham manager Sam Allardyce had revealed to the London press how an enquiry about the striker had been firmly rebuffed by the West Yorkshire club with the words, “No, not for sale”.

Rhodes showed just why Huddersfield are so adamant that their prize asset is not for sale with such a clinical finish.

The opening had been created by Tommy Miller with a fine block on the edge of the Carlisle penalty area that was followed by a deft pass inside to his in-form team-mate.

Rhodes was unmarked but, even so, the finish was still of the highest order as the striker waited for Collin to commit himself before rolling the ball past him.

Before Rhodes’s strike, Carlisle had been the better side and with better finishing could have been out of sight.

The one goal the visitors did manage came after just eight minutes, the quick feet of Francois Zoko down the left leaving Jack Hunt trailing before the ball was pulled back for Liam Noble to finish from eight yards.

It should have acted as a warning to Town but, instead, for the next half hour they always looked like a side liable to give Carlisle a helping hand.

Never was this more evident than in the 33rd minute when a woefully underhit back pass by Peter Clarke left Noble with just Ian Bennett to beat.

Thankfully for Huddersfield, the Carlisle midfielder’s attempted lob was poorly executed and the ball landed tamely in the gloves of the veteran goalkeeper.

Carlisle’s other two decent opportunities of the first half also came via Town mistakes as a mix-up between Lee Novak and Danny Cadamarteri allowed the ball to find Lubomir Michalik, who brought a smart save from Bennett with a stinging shot.

Zoko was the next United player to benefit from unnecessary sluggish play from the home side when he managed to muscle Jack Hunt off the ball.

Once again, however, goalkeeper Bennett came to the rescue of a team-mate with a brave block to keep out Zoko’s attempted chip.

Carlisle were made to defend more after half-time but they still had their chances, most notably on 70 minutes when former Town Academy graduate James Berrett wanted too long on the ball after latching on to a miscued clearance by Bennett and the home defence were able to get back.

That could have proved costly had Rhodes managed to bag the winner late on but, in truth, a draw was a fair result as Huddersfield took their points tally for 2011 to 98 points from 48 games.

Huddersfield Town: Bennett; Hunt, Kay, P Clarke, Naysmith; Cadamarteri (Arfield 78), Gobern, Miller, Roberts; Novak (Lee 71), Rhodes. Unused substitutes: Colgan, T Clarke, Parkin.

Carlisle United: Collin; Ribeiro, Michalik, Murphy, Robson; Noble, Berrett, McGovern, Thirlwell; Miller, Zoko. Unused substitutes: Livesey, Madden, Taiwo, Gillespie, McKenna.

Referee: M Naylor (South Yorkshire).