Huddersfield Town had to be satisfied with a point in an eight-goal thriller against promotion chasing Derby County, as Steve McClaren’s side fought hard to avoid defeat.
A first Huddersfield goal for Reece James, as well as strikers from Mark Hudson, Oscar Gobern and Nahki Wells, meant Derby had to score three second-half goals to avoid dropping points, as their push for the Premier League intensifies.
A fantastic first half performance from Town rattled Derby, even though it was the visitors who struck first at the John Smith’s Stadium, but as in the last home game the Terriers conceded a goal early into the second 45 minutes - and ultimately it cost them on this occasion.
Steve McClaren was forced to make two alterations in the first half; Craig Bryson had to be replaced after just nine minutes and it was Simon Dawkins who came on in his stead.
Zak Whitbread also made way for Cyrus Christie not long after, however Derby took the lead through the in-form Tom Ince prior to this change.
Alex Smithies had just pushed away an Ince free kick from around 20-yards out. This strong clearance from Town’s ‘keeper went for a throw in and this was given to the feet of the goal-scorer.
A swift turn and a thunderous effort from the left hand side left Alex Smithies with no chance at the second time of asking – however this goal only seemed to spur Chris Powell’s side on.
It didn’t take long for Town to reduce this one goal deficit, as Oscar Gobern scored his first goal for the Terriers since 6 January 2012.
Conor Coady collected the ball from Reece James before clipping a lofted ball into the chest of Gobern. The midfielder controlled brilliantly and struck a volley straight past Lee Grant in the Derby goal to equalise.
This was then doubled a matter of minutes later as Town pressed the Rams further and further into their own half. Reece James made his way over to the corner flag to take another spot-kick and this time it was Mark Hudson who climbed highest to head into the back of the net.
Town’s captain has now made a habit of scoring against Derby, as his last and only other goal for Town came against Steve McClaren’s outfit in November 2014.
As the half time whistle approached, the majority of the fans in the stadium thought Mark Hudson’s header would be the last action of the game, however this was not the case.
Reece James stepped up to score his first goal for Town since joining on loan from Manchester United. The left-sided full-back’s corner flew straight past Lee Grant and nestled in the back of the net, stunning Derby with a third goal after the visitors initially took the lead.
The two sides reappeared for the second half, with Town looking confident and Derby looking determined to reduce the two-goal deficit in the remaining 45 minutes.
This didn’t take long, as Simon Dawkins pulled a goal back for McClaren’s side after just five-minutes of play in the second half.
This gave the travelling Rams a boost in confidence, which then resulted in another goal in quick succession. Jesse Lingard, who slotted his effort into the bottom corner and past Alex Smithies who was at full stretch, put the equaliser away.
After such a frantic start to the second half, the game momentarily settled, however Simon Dawkins was soon back in the thick of it and received a yellow card for a challenge on Jacob Butterfield.
Town almost grabbed a fourth, as Conor Coady linked up well with Oscar Gobern. This lovely flowing move gave Ishmael Miller a chance to shoot, however this time Lee Grant stood firm and denied the striker.
Nevertheless, the Derby ‘keeper couldn’t keep out the next effort – Nahki Wells picked up the ball on the edge of the opposition area before sliding a ball through to Sean Scannell.
The wide-man then darted into the box and pulled the ball back for Miller, who then laid the ball back for Wells to strike. The Bermudian’s effort, although on target, took a deflection and looped over the heads of Grant and his defence to nestle in the bottom corner.
Having put away a fourth goal, Town looked to seal the win; however as Jacob Butterfield received a yellow card this gave Derby a moment to regroup and compose themselves as they prepared fro the free-kick.
Will Hughes walked towards the bench as Steve McClaren readied Johnny Russell for action – this change sparked the Rams into a frenzied attack, which would lead to the final goal of the game.
As Derby pressed Town whilst in possession of the ball, a loose pass from Tommy Smith gave County possession in opposition territory. A sharp move ended with Tom Ince picking up the ball in a dangerous area and the forward finished emphatically, for his second goal of the game.
Jonathan Hogg then came off the bench for Conor Coady and Nahki Wells made way for Harry Bunn, who came back to Town’s match-day squad after missing six games with a hamstring injury. This gave the Terriers some energy down the left-flank and stopped the advancing Cyrus Christie.
Nevertheless, as the fourth official indicated a minimum of five minutes of stoppage time, Derby seemed content with the draw after coming back from a 3-1 score line. Reece James saw yellow in stoppage time, yet this was the last notable action of the afternoon in this eight-goal thriller.
The draw extends Town’s unbeaten run to five games. This however keeps Derby’s promotion chase afloat, as Steve McClaren’s side also go five games unbeaten.
Town’s team (3-5-2):
Alex Smithies; Joel Lynch, Mark Hudson (c), Tommy Smith; Reece James, Jacob Butterfield, Conor Coady (Jonathan Hogg, 81’), Oscar Gobern, Sean Scannell; Ishmael Miller, Nahki Wells (Harry Bunn, 88’).
Joe Murphy, David Edgar, Murray Wallace, Joe Lolley, Philip Billing