A dramatic last-gasp winner from Skipper Tommy Smith ensured Huddersfield Town would return to West Yorkshire with all three points, extending its winning run to five games in the Sky Bet Championship for the first time since 1999 after coming from behind to beat Rotherham United 3-2 at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.
Five changes were made by Head Coach David Wagner from Saturday’s victory at QPR; Joe Lolley started his first Sky Bet Championship game since August, whilst Collin Quaner took to the field for his first start away from home for the Terriers.
Lolley and Quaner slotted in for Rajiv van La Parra and Nahki Wells respectively, whereas Tareiq Holmes-Dennis replaced Chris Löwe, who was rested due to tight hamstrings. Philip Billing came in for Jonathan Hogg who suffered a groin injury in his previous outing, with the final change coming in the shape of Tommy Smith returning to right-back in place of Martin Cranie.
The opening stages of this Yorkshire derby didn’t play out as many associated with Huddersfield Town would have expected.
An early chance fell the way of the Millers; a very high Huddersfield defensive line was almost breached, as Tom Adeyemi waded in at the far post, only to see his looping header clear Danny Ward but finish just wide of the target.
‘The Yorkshire Club’ responded well to the early threat; Joe Lolley saw his weak effort comfortably saved by O’Donnell in the Rotherham goal.
The battle in midfield would turn out to be key; Town aimed to gain a foothold in the game early on, with Aaron Mooy looking to dictate play as usual with Philip Billing also looking composed in possession.
However, the hard-work would have to begin within a short space of time.
On-loan Cardiff City defender Semi Ajayi bundled home an opener for Paul Warne’s side coming from Richard Wood’s knock down; all this coming after Jon Taylor’s corner was failed to be dealt with by the Terriers’ defensive ranks.
The mountain that Town had to climb became a whisker away from steepening; Jerry Yates adjudged to have been offside after having the ball in the net, this time Ajayi turned provider.
It was evident that to have any sort of influence on the result, the Terriers would have to become sharper in possession, as well as taking a tough stance on the physical presence which the Millers provided at set piece situations.
And step up the gears they did. Aaron Mooy the first to see a positive drive and cut-back cleared by a recovering Rotherham defender, before the scores were indeed levelled from a delightful curling effort into the far corner by the restored Joe Lolley; the winger’s first goal since scoring against Burnley on the 12 March 2016.
A frantic opening half-hour saw neither side really gain complete control; Danny Ward had to be alert to tip Ben Purrington’s cross come-shot over the crossbar, before the dangerous Richard Wood managed to miss the target from another set-piece after losing his marker.
A flurry of Town chances would follow as David Wagner’s side tirelessly worked to find that elusive second goal.
Isaiah Brown, on his return to the AESSEAL New York Stadium having spent the first half of the season on loan, stung the palms of O’Donnell before Aaron Mooy followed up with a similar but unsuccessful effort.
Town began on the second half on the front foot; goal-scorer Lolley tested O’Donnell in the opening exchanges with the Reds’ ‘keeper somehow managing to avert any danger after losing the ball with his first grasp.
The end to end nature of the match reared its head once again shortly after the Lolley half-chance. Ex-Town man Danny Ward managed to reach the by-line and deliver a pinpoint cross for Jon Taylor who, to Town’s large relief, couldn’t connect with his headed attempt.
The affair embroiled into an almighty local tussle; Rotherham was evidently out to prove that even though its league position showed them in danger of the drop, that the points were not going to be let over the border back into the West of the county without a fight.
After several scrappy chances at either end, Tom Adeyemi drove into the heart of the Town defence and saw the lights at the end of the New York tunnel. The eventual home man-of-the-match rifled an effort past a helpless Danny Ward to nudge the Millers ahead.
The Terriers were staring at a first defeat in five until the illustrious Mooy floated a corner perfectly for Elias Kachunga. The striker nodded home on the line to bring Town level.
Nahki Wells’ sublime touch and skill to round Richard Wood very nearly completed the Huddersfield comeback, but Semi Ajayi was on hand to deny that possibility for a little longer. Aaron Mooy tried his luck from 25 yards, only to see his fizzled effort sail over the bar.
Hope would turn to despair as Nahki Wells had a clear shot on goal within the first seconds of injury-time, only to be denied by the linesman’s flag on the near side.
However, the scenes of utter jubilation and uncontrollable bedlam would ensue three minutes in from the allotted four added on as Skipper Tommy Smith fired in a superbly controlled half-volley into the far corner to send 2,500+ Huddersfield Town supporters into raptures, and to ensure that maximum points would be collected and returned back to the John Smith’s Stadium.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Danny Ward; Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, Christopher Schindler, Michael Hefele, Tommy Smith (C); Aaron Mooy, Philip Billing; Elias Kachunga, Isaiah Brown (Jack Payne, 80’), Joe Lolley (Rajiv van La Parra, 61’); Collin Quaner (Nahki Wells, 61’)
Joel Coleman, Dean Whitehead, Mark Hudson, Martin Cranie