Another game, another substitute making a game-changing impact for Huddersfield Town as Michael Hefele’s heroics on his Championship debut secured a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa on Tuesday evening.
The charismatic German centre back was thrown on as a makeshift striker with the Terriers a goal down and charged down goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini’s clearance to make himself an instant hero with the 2,700 terrific travelling Terriers.
That was exactly what Town deserved after a much-improved second half performance, will all three substitutes turning the tide in the favour of David Wagner’s favour.
Villa boasts two of the most potent strikers in the Sky Bet Championship in Rudy Gestede and Ross McCormack and they caused danger all afternoon, with McCormack – so often the scourge of Town – scoring the only goal of the first half.
In truth, Villa deserved it; they were the better side in the opening 45 minutes as the Terriers didn’t hit their rhythm in attack.
Gestede’s aerial prowess is second to none at second tier level and gives Villa the chance to go long whenever the mood suits them, with Mark Hudson doing his best to ensure the striker’s flicks fall in safe areas.
After just 36 seconds, Roberto Di Matteo’s side showed its high-tempo intent. Ghanaian international Jordan Ayew nicked the ball off a hesitant Aaron Mooy in the Town penalty area and forced Danny Ward into a save to his right side.
McCormack found midfielder Ashley Westwood’s run with a deep corner delivery after he’d run off marker Rajiv van La Parra, but the home player sent the ball rocketing over the crossbar.
Midfielder Aaron Tshibola’s headed goal was correctly ruled out for offside soon after, but it took Town a good 10 minutes to see any possession at all.
Villa continued to make the running as Gestede twice headed over and it took until the 18th minute for Wagner’s side to launch an attack, with van La Parra racing past Bacuna on the counter before curling an effort too close to the ‘keeper.
However, the goal Villa deserved came midway through the first half – albeit with a slice of fortune. Bacuna’s ball from the right landed at Jack Grealish’s feet and his attempted volley towards goal sliced onto the head of McCormack, who nodded past Chris Löwe on the line.
Gestede almost turned provider a few minutes’ later when he landed a delicate cross on Ayew’s header, but the midfielder turned it wide of the far post.
Schindler did well to block an Ashley Westwood shot soon after as the hosts attempted to turn the screw before Gestede headed over again at full stretch.
In the end, skipper Hudson was needed in first half added time after Grealish found Ayew with an intelligent pull-back; he stepped past Ward, but the centre back managed to clear his goal-bound toe-poke.
Sean Scannell was introduced for an injured Lolley at half time for his 300th career appearance, but Villa still had the first chance of the half when Ayew smashed a shot into the Holte End.
Nahki Wells was introduced just before the hour mark – and the game began to turn. The Bermudian striker immediately saw a shot blocked and was then inches away from capitalising on Mooy’s deflected effort, just being beaten to the ball by the goalkeeper.
Cheered on by the packed away end, Elias Kachunga tested the goalkeeper in the 63rd minute with an acrobatic overhead kick after good play set Smith away down the right and his cross was half-cleared into the sky.
Wells was then put into the area by the increasingly influential Mooy, only for his first touch to let him down.
Hudson was brave at the other end to prevent Gestede knocking home a rebound after his initial header was saved low by Ward, poking clear before getting clattered for his trouble.
However Town kept pressing, with left back Cissokho doing brilliantly to block Scannell’s dangerous shot inside the area after another good Mooy pass.
Town looked to be heading for defeat with 10 minutes left when Wells was mightily unlucky with a free kick, awarded after Tshibola nudged him over 25 yards out. Slightly left of centre – similar to his goal at QPR last season – he stepped up and smacked the post with the ‘keeper stationary.
Wagner threw on big Hef for the final five minutes – and he immediately had the desired impact. From a long Schindler ball forward, the German chased down the goalkeeper as he came out to clear and took a powerful clearance in the chest, with the ball flying into the empty net from nearly 25 yards out!
The Terriers comfortably saw out the final stages to secure a point, sparking more memorable scenes between players, fans and Wagner at the full time whistle.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Danny Ward; Chris Löwe (Michael Hefele, 86), Christopher Schindler, Mark Hudson (c), Tommy Smith; Aaron Mooy, Jonathan Hogg; Rajiv van La Parra, Jack Payne (Nahki Wells, 56), Joe Lolley (Sean Scannell, 46); Elias Kachunga
Joel Coleman, Dean Whitehead, Martin Cranie, Kasey Palmer