Match report: Huddersfield Town 1 Nottingham Forest 1
NOTTINGHAM Forest should have claimed their third consecutive 1-0 win of the new season, but instead suffered frustration in Yorkshire as an injury-time penalty earned Huddersfield a fortunate point.
Sean O'Driscoll's side should have been cruising to three points long before the game entered its final moments, but saw Dexter Blackstock and Lewis McGugan denied by the woodwork as Forest failed to turn dominance into goals.
It was no more than the Reds deserved when Simon Cox provided a moment of composure to finally put the visitors ahead in the 68th minute – and it seemed they were going to hang on for another single goal victory in the same mould as they secured against Fleetwood, in the Capital One Cup, and against Bristol City on Saturday.
But then the game's other big-name striker, Jordan Rhodes, intervened, lashing home a 94th minute penalty to steal a point for the Terriers.
The big news in both line-ups was the inclusion of a striker. In Forest's case, it was the fact that Cox was handed his full debut, after playing an integral role as a substitute, setting up Adlene Guedioura's vital goal on Saturday.
The former West Brom man, who could cost Forest £2m depending on various potential add-ons, replaced Radi Majewski as the only change to the starting line-up, with O'Driscoll opting to play two up front.
Forest were otherwise unchanged, with Brendan Moloney deservedly retaining his place ahead of Chelsea loanee Sam Hutchinson and Daniel Ayala still side-lined with a slight muscle injury.
The bad news for Forest was that Huddersfield's Rhodes, the prolific forward who has been the subject of a £6m bid from Blackburn, was also included in their side after recovering from a hamstring problem.
It was fellow Terriers striker Lee Novak who tested the Forest defence for the first time, escaping the attention of Danny Collins briefly, in order to force a corner – which he then headed over after former Manchester United man Oliver Norwood had delivered a precise ball towards the near post.
But for the rest of the half – and the majority of the game – it was Forest who were in the ascendancy.
McGugan came close to breaking the deadlock in spectacular fashion when, after exchanging passes with Dexter Blackstock, he let fly with a 25-yard shot that had keeper Alex Smithies clutching at thin air as it thundered back off the foot of the post.
Andy Reid also had Smithies looking on with a slight sense of trepidation when he bent a shot from just outside the box, which dipped narrowly over the angle of post and bar.
Forest were building pressure, with Reid then delivering a sublime cross to the far post where Blackstock failed to muster enough power to trouble the keeper.
The striker did bring a save from Smithies on the ten-minute mark, when he pounced on a mistake from left-back Paul Dixon, who lost possession on the edge of his own box and allowed Blacktock to ghost in, with the keeper getting down well to block his angled shot.
It was still Forest, playing some fluid, incisive football, who looked the more likely to score when Reid swept a corner in from the far side, which Blackstock attacked powerfully, only to steer his header a few inches wide of the target.
Greg Halford seemed to misjudge a deep, angled cross from Adam Clayton, allowing Novak to surge into the box, but the striker fluffed his lines, firing badly wide when presented with an outstanding, but rare, opportunity for the home side.
Cox smelled blood when Blackstock flicked a clever header into the box, with the debutant breaking the offside trap and connecting with a shot, at full stretch, that Smithies blocked well with his body.
There seemed to be little danger when Gillett lifted a lofted pass to Guedioura, who had his back to goal on the edge of the box, but the Algerian controlled superbly on his chest and, in the same movement, turned to strike a spectacular shot that Smithies pushed away in equally impressive fashion, as it dipped towards the top corner.
The Huddersfield goal was leading a charmed life, with a rampaging run from Moloney then setting up Blackstock with a fine opening, pulling the ball back after racing to the byline. Blackstock's initial, driven effort was cleared off the line by Jack Hunt, before the Forest man than rattled the bar when he collected the rebound and pulled the trigger for a second time.
Huddersfield were looking brittle defensively, with Moloney forcing another corner after another slip in the Terriers back four. And, as the half drew to a close, Reid saw a shot charged down following another flowing move.
Forest will have been frustrated to go into the interval with the scores level, having dominated for long periods – while Simon Grayson will have welcomed the chance to regroup, following 45 minutes in which Huddersfield had looked more like the away side.
Moloney was again getting plenty of space down the right and, when he cut inside, he managed to carve out a shooting chance for Blackstock, which looped wide after taking a deflection.
Forest collected two bookings in the space of two minutes, one for Halford for arguing when he felt the visitors should have been awarded a corner and another for Gillett, who kicked the ball away after a free kick decision had gone against the Reds.
Keith Southern then fired over from close-range as Huddersfield stepped up their own search for a goal, with Norwood then lifting a shot high as the home side's confidence grew.
But, before Huddersfield could gain a foothold in the game, Forest finally managed to break the deadlock with a rapier counter-attack.
Guedioura fed McGugan who, in turn, sent Cox racing clear – and the striker demonstrated his predatory instincts in emphatic fashion, lashing a rising shot beyond the advancing Smithies and high into the back of the net from ten yards.
Forest replaced Blackstock, who had put in a tireless shift, with Marcus Tudgay as the game entered the final 15 minutes.
But Cox was still full of energy, with Clarke having to intervene with a timely challenge to prevent the Forest man from skipping through again.
But, just as it seemed Forest would hang on for a deserved win, Hunt sprinted into the box down the right and lured a lunging challenge from Harding – to earn the home side a 94th-minute penalty.
And Rhodes made no mistake, sending the ball into the back of the net from the spot, off the inside of the post, to send the home fans into raptures – and the Forest supporters home with a sense of frustration.
Huddersfield: Smithies, Dixon (Arfield 81), Norwood, Clarke, Scannell, Clayton, Novak (Ward 81), Rhodes, Southern (Gerrard 86), Hunt, Lynch. Subs not used: Bennett, Woods, Lee, Spencer.
Forest: Camp, Moloney, Halford, Collins, Harding, Gillett, McGugan (Moussi 82), Guedioura, Reid, Cox (Hutchinson 89), Blackstock (Tudgay 75). Subs not used: Evtimov, McGoldrick, Miller, Majewski.
Referee: Neil Swarbrick.
Attendance: 15,434 (2,274 away)