JAMIE McCOMBE’S sending off proved pivotal as victory slipped from Town’s grasp in the space of six agonising minutes.
JAMIE McCOMBE’S sending off proved pivotal as victory slipped from Huddersfield Town’s grasp in the space of six agonising minutes.
Without ever hitting top gear, Lee Clark’s side were nevertheless firmly in the driving seat thanks to Alan Lee’s 22nd-minute header and Jack Hunt’s 70th-minute sizzler.
But McCombe was shown a straight red after jostling with George Porter, who ended up on the floor, as Orient prepared to take an 84th-minute corner.
When the set-piece was finally delivered by Dean Cox, substitute Kevin Lisbie headed home.
Then a minute into the five added on by Shropshire referee Rob Lewis, Lisbie set up centre-back Ben Chorley, who levelled with a low shot from just outside the penalty area.
At least Town took a point, and stretched their unbeaten run to 35, the second-best in Football League history.
But what felt like a defeat meant that instead of going second, they fell to eighth in the League I standings.
While McCombe claimed he had been grabbed in the most sensitive of areas, there’s little doubt he raised his hands and felled Porter with an outstretched leg, and whistler Lewis, who had a good view, showed no hesitation.
As well as the criticism of manager Clark, the big centre-back was hit with a three-match ban and maximum fine.
The dismissal meant a Town league bow for Liam Cooper, on loan from Hull, but it’s not a match he, or his teammates, will recall fondly.
That’s a shame for Hunt, because the 20-year-old right back had a fine game, defending solidly and raiding down his wing with gusto.
It was his incisive run, past Cox and between Chorley and left-back Elliot Omosuzi, which paved the way for the opener, planted into the net by Lee, whose aerial power was obvious all afternoon.
That’s three goals for the season for the 33-year-old and three for the club for Hunt, who latched onto a square ball from Damien Johnson and lashed home a right-foot shot.
While Oscar Gobern rattled the bar with a rasping 20-yard shot after playing a neat one-two with Scott Arfield in the 10th minute, Town didn’t create a huge number of clear-cut chances, but were still worth their advantage.
Orient’s first-half opportunities came mostly from home lapses, with Ian Bennett coming out smartly to save at the feet of Matt Spring after Cox threaded the ball through the defence.
Then the keeper’s miscued kick-out let in the lively Porter, who vehemently claimed a penalty even though Antony Kay’s covering tackle looked clean (assistant referee Chris Hilton was close and kept his flag by his side).
A mix-up between Kay and Calum Woods gave another opening to Porter, but his ball across the face of goal failed to find the lurking David Mooney.
Town finished the first half on the attack, with visiting keeper Lee Butcher having to stretch to hold Lee’s looping header from Johnson’s cross underneath his bar.
Porter had the ball in the net after 64 minutes, but was ruled offside as he ran onto skipper Stephen Dawson’s pass.
And after Hunt’s strike, Gary Roberts had one chalked off for the same reason.
Meanwhile Butcher made a key save as Roberts’ fellow substitute Jordan Rhodes shot powerfully in the turn in the 82nd minute after Arfield nodded back Gobern’s ball into the box.
A third Town goal would surely have finished off the O’s, whether or not they gained a numerical advantage.
Have your say in our Huddersfield Town webchat from 12.30pm by clicking here. What did you think of Saturday's performance? What about the season so far? Talk to other fans between 12.30pm and 1.30pm today here.