TOWN 1 DERBY 1
Martin Paterson netted with just four minutes of the game remaining to earn Town a point in a scintillating Boxing Day match against Derby County.
Paterson’s lofted effort, his first for Town on home soil, was just what the Terriers deserved having laid siege on the Rams’ goal for much of the second half.
Mark Robins’ men were second best in the first half and were lucky to go in at the interval just one goal behind. Craig Bryson had given the Rams the lead after Chris Martin had seen a penalty saved and before Joel Lynch had deflected a cross against the post.
On the balance of play, a point apiece was probably fair and brought an end to the Rams’ seven match winning streak.
James Vaughan was the noticeable absentee from the Town team sheet, while there was also no place for Joel Lynch, who was available again following suspension.
Instead, Murray Wallace’s impressive display against Brighton saw him keep his place, Jonathan Hogg returned from injury in midfield and Danny Ward replaced the injured Vaughan in attack.
Alex Smithies captained the Terriers on his 200th start for the Club and was alert in the tenth minute to keep out Chris Martin’s low effort.
Derby were aiming for eight straight wins in the league and dominated the opening exchanges as Town struggled to gain a foothold in the game.
Danny Ward hit over a free-kick and Adam Clayton saw a shot deflected behind, but the Terriers were struggling to get in-behind the Rams’ resolute defence.
That wasn’t proving to be a problem for the visitors though, who won a 26th minute penalty when Jamie Ward showed substitute Joel Lynch a clean set of heels and was fouled. Chris Martin shouldered the responsibility despite missing his last spot kick, but again missed from 12 yards with Smithies making a smart save to his left.
The striker didn’t have to wait long to redeem himself though, when he played the assist for Craig Bryson to open the scoring from close range.
Derby were more than deserving of their opener and were hugely unfortunate not to be two up come the interval. Lynch was the man who breathed a sigh of relief when he deflected Bryson’s cross on to the post before clearing behind. Had Lynch not connected, it looked set for Martin to make it two.
County’s dominance continued into the second half with Simon Dawkins firing at Smithies and then over his crossbar.
On the hour, Mark Robins turned to young Duane Holmes in his search for an equaliser and had it not been for the midfielder’s slightly off aim, it would have worked. Lee Grant pushed Paul Dixon’s cross into the path of Holmes who failed to guide the ball home from 12 yards.
Despite Holmes missing the chance, Town were visibly lifted. Ward saw a shot blocked by goalscorer Bryson at the far post, both Hammill and Clayton smashed efforts into the Derby defence before Oliver Norwood had the crowd on its feet with a curling effort for the ball to fall the wrong side of Grant’s upright.
Between all the madness, Michael Keane had a header chalked off for offside.
The game had completely swung in Town’s favour, but the Terriers were having the same problems they suffered against Reading.
Adam Hammill and Norwood forced Grant into full length saves, while Ward looked set to beat the ‘keeper only for Keane to get in his way.
Town’s reward eventually came with just four minutes of the game remaining. Holmes’ flick found the chest of Paterson whose lofted volley found the far corner of Grant’s goal.
Ward almost capped a grandstand finish with the winner, but his 25 yard strike was tipped over by Grant.
Town’s team (3-5-2):
Alex Smithies (c); Murray Wallace, Anthony Gerrard (Joel Lynch, 22), Tommy Smith; Paul Dixon, Jonathan Hogg (Duane Holmes 58), Adam Clayton, Oliver Norwood, Adam Hammill (Sean Scannell, 80); Martin Paterson, Danny Ward
Ian Bennett, Calum Woods, Oscar Gobern, Jonathan Stead
Bookings Town: Murray Wallace 7, Jonathan Hogg 53, Paul Dixon 66, Adam Hammill 76