Huddersfield Town progressed to the second round of this season's Carling Cup at the expense of League 2 Port Vale this evening courtesy of a Lee Novak brace and second-half goals from Jack Hunt and Gary Roberts.
Vale took the lead in the first half only to be pegged back by Novak's first two goals of the season before the Terriers took control in the second-half, with Hunt scoring his second professional goal - a real stunner - before Roberts netted his second of this embryonic season with a free-kick.
The hosts netted a late consolation, but the Terriers enjoyed the majority of the possession throughout - particularly in the second-half - and were well worth the win. There were several impressive performances throughout the team, giving Lee Clark a lot to think about in terms of his team selection come Rochdale on Saturday.
Town, giving their new change shirt of red with a white and black chevron a competitive debut, started the game in the 4-3-3 formation that served them so well on the road throughout the second half of the 2010/11 season. Weekend goalscorer Gary Roberts and Donal McDermott flanked Lee Novak in attack, with Scott Arfield and Tommy Miller joining Oscar Gobern in midfield.
Port Vale's side boasted two players with big Huddersfield links; former Town Academy man John McCombe played at centre-back for the home side, meaning he came up against his brother Jamie for the first time in professional football, whereas Vale's Anthony Griffith hails from Huddersfield.
Lee Clark's side started the game positively and put together a great move inside the opening two minutes. A quick one-two between Roberts and McDermott set Gary away into the left side of the penalty area, but instead of shooting he looked to slide the ball right for Scott Arfield to tap home - only to play his pass slightly too far ahead of his teammate.
Town continued to press and Arfield was involved in another great attack moments later. The Scotsman played another smart one-two with midfield colleague Miller to release Tommy in on goal, but under pressure he could only send a left-footed snapshot over the crossbar. Still, it was a very positive start for the away side.
Arfield was playing very high up the pitch and the Terriers were finding him regularly, playing the ball at a much higher tempo than against Bury on Saturday.
Despite this, an error from Jack Hunt presented the hosts with the best chance of the game to date on the stroke of the seventh minute. The young right back gave the ball away to Sean Rigg on the halfway line and with Jamie McCombe in support on the right, the Vale striker ran straight at the isolated debutant Liam Cooper; he drew Liam before playing the ball right to strike partner Tom Pope inside the area, but Ian Bennett sprang quickly from his line and blocked the resulting shot with his feet excellently.
The Valiants enjoyed a good period of possession following that chance without testing Bennett again, but Donal McDermott took the attack back to the home side in the 16th minute. After picking up a throw-in from Hunt down the right, he drove infield onto his favoured left foot and slipped a through-pass into the feet of the lively Arfield on the edge of the area. The Scotsman collected the pass well at full pace, but could only prod an effort straight at the goalkeeper with his toes from around 20 yards.
Oscar Gobern pulled off a brilliant sliding block to deny a Port Vale player a clean shot at goal soon afterwards as the game's exciting start continued before striker Rigg intercepted another sloppy Town pass in midfield before advancing and stinging Bennett's palm with a drive from just over 20 yards out.
Town had their first set-piece opportunity in the 22nd minute after Gary Roberts was upended by right back Adam Yates; the winger picked himself up and picked out Jamie McCombe with his free-kick, but the big defender's back-post header was turned away by the 'keeper. In any case, the referee then awarded the home side a free-kick due to an offside.
GOAL - The home side then took the lead two minutes later when Port Vale's very own Gary Roberts scored the opening goal of the game. Midfielder Anthony Griffith made a good run into the right channel to pick up the ball and played a one-two with a teammate before driving a low cross into the box; Port Vale midfielder Roberts reacted quickest in the Town area and played the ball calmly into the bottom corner of Ian Bennett's goal from around 12 yards out.
GOAL - However,the Terriers responded in style and equalised in the 29th minute - with Lee Novak (pictured) netting his first goal of the season. The move started with the impressive McDermott, who picked up the ball on the right before drifting infield once more; he looked up and played an inch-perfect through-ball over the top of the Vale defence into the path of Arfield, who cleverly pushed the ball to his right first time - allowing Novak to tap the ball in from extremely close range to level the scoreline.
McDermott and Arfield were playing very well for Lee Clark's side, with Donal's skill on the ball and Scott's constant runs beyond striker Novak causing problems for the Vale defence.
GOAL - Town kept the ball off the home side brilliantly following the equaliser and fully deserved to take the lead in the 38th minute when Lee Novak netted his second of the game. The goal originated on the Town right, with Jack Hunt collecting a pass from Gobern and driving past left back Green easily before squaring the ball to Gary Roberts inside the area; the winger jinked past a player and beat the goalkeeper with his shot - only for defender Yates to block his shot on the line. However, the ball rebounded straight to Novak - who blasted the ball home from around the penalty spot.
Lee Novak celebrating his second goal
Port Vale's Gary Roberts tried his luck with a powerful volley from 25 yards out with just over two minutes of the first half remaining, but the ball was well held by the experienced Bennett and the Terriers went into the interval with a one goal lead.
HALF-TIME: PORT VALE 1 HUDDERSFIELD TOWN 2
Town kicked-off in the second half and forced a corner within the opening 30 seconds, from which Jamie McCombe should have extended Town's lead. The big defender headed Roberts' near post ball wide completely unmarked from close range and should have really done better.
McCombe was soon in action at the other end, positioning himself perfectly at the near post to head away a dangerous cross from the right from Griffith. Cooper made a similarly impressive clearance soon after as the new defensive duo started to gel as a pairing.
A curling free-kick into the box by Town's Gary Roberts in the 56th minute evaded everyone in the box and eventually had to be tipped over by Vale 'keeper Martin, who decided to take no chances.
Once again the Terriers were enjoying the majority of possession, which began to frustrate the home players and supporters alike.
Donal caused the Valiants all kinds of problems with his direct running
GOAL - Town then scored a spectacular third goal through Jack Hunt in the 58th minute - a goal that drew applause from all four ends of Vale Park. The right back drifted infield to collect a low pass from a teammate and realised he had space; he carried the ball forward before hitting an unbelievably clean strike from 25 yards out - leaving the goalkeeper with absolutely no hope as the ball arrowed into the top corner. The ball was still rising as it hit the net!
McDermott continued to impress down the right and turned left back Green inside-out following the goal before trying to play an ambitious through-ball into the area for Novak. The pass was slightly over-hit, allowing the goalkeeper to collect - but the effort still drew applause from manager Clark on the touchline.
SUB - Port Vale made their first substitution in the 63rd minute, with left back Mike Green - who appeared to have a slight injury - replaced by centre back Clayton McDonald.
With a rare loose control of the ball, McDermott lost the ball on halfway just before the substitution and had to bring down the advancing Doug Loft on the edge of his own box. This allowed Vale's set piece specialist Roberts to step up and fire low towards goal, but Bennett gathered the ball in superbly with several home players sniffing around for a rebound.
Town immediately launched a counter-attack and Novak forced a corner. Roberts played another superb delivery towards the back post for Jamie McCombe to head towards goal, but somehow the goalie clawed the ball away from almost underneath his own crossbar - an excellent save from Chris Martin.
GOAL - The Terriers extended their lead to three goals in the 67th minute when their own Gary Roberts got on the scorecard - his second for the season. A foul on Oscar Gobern from Vale's Anthony Griffith gave Town a free-kick 25 yards from goal and when Roberts stepped up, he curled an excellent effort into the bottom left corner and past the despairing hand of the goalkeeper.
Sean Rigg's rasping 25 yards drive flew over the crossbar soon after, but it looked menacing enough to make Bennett scramble across his line.
SUBS - Vale made their remaining two substitutions in the 69th minute, with Gary Roberts and Tom Pope replaced by Lewis Haldane and Ben Williamson.
SUB - Town's first change followed in the 76th minute, with Danny Ward replacing McDermott.
SUB - The second substitution still followed, with Novak replaced by Alan Lee.
Lee Clark was demanding perfection from his side even in the closing stages, but unfortunately a mistake soon came - Oscar Gobern clumsily upended Griffith in the penalty area in the 83rd minute.
GOAL - That allowed winger Doug Loft to step up and send Ian Bennett the wrong way to reduce the deficit for Vale.
Rigg had another snapshot saved by Bennett after collecting a flick-on from Griffith inside the Town area in the closing stages as Vale threw bodies forward in search of a goal. Substitute Lewis Haldane lifted a back post chance just wide as added time approached, but Town ran out as winners by two goals.
FULL-TIME: PORT VALE 2 HUDDERSFIELD TOWN 4
Town's team (4-3-3):
Ian Bennett; Gary Naysmith (c), Liam Cooper, Jamie McCombe, Jack Hunt; Oscar Gobern, Tommy Miller, Scott Arfield; Gary Roberts, Lee Novak (Alan Lee 79), Donal McDermott (Danny Ward 76)
Unused Subs: Nick Colgan, Calum Woods, Peter Clarke, Antony Kay, Danny Cadamarteri