TERRIFIC Huddersfield Town made a highly impressive return to the Championship – only to be robbed of a deserved point right at the death.
Even without injured talisman Jordan Rhodes, Town played magnificently only to concede agonisingly to Cardiff captain Mark Hudson right on 90 minutes.
Playing with this sort of determination and precision however, Simon Grayson’s men will win a lot more games than they lose.Related content
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Town received a massive blow before kick-off when striker Jordan Rhodes was ruled out by a hamstring injury suffered while on duty for Scotland in their midweek international friendly against Australia.
It meant Scott Arfield was drafted in on the right of a five-man midfield, while Lee Novak was required to play up front on his own.
Six of Simon Grayson’s summer signings – Paul Dixon, Joel Lynch, Sean Scannell, Adam Clayton, Keith Southern and Oliver Norwood – were in the starting line-up, while Anthony Gerrard was on the bench against his former club, who were playing in their new red home kit for the first time.
Cardiff’s Malaysian owner Vincent Tan was in the crowd to see the second coming of Welsh international and hometown boy Craig Bellamy, who lives just two minutes down the road from the Cardiff City Stadium and he received a massive ovation from the Bluebirds fans.
Rhodes was also in the stand watching Town make a steady start in the steadily falling rain.
The striker has a grade one hamstring tear – confirmed by an MRI scan – an injury which could keep him out a week but which Grayson hopes will have settled down by the time Nottingham Forest are at the John Smith’s Stadium on Tuesday night.
After eight minutes Town had a fantastic chance to take the lead when Novak released Arfield into the right hand side of Cardiff’s penalty box, but advancing keeper David Marshall made a terrific block from the Scot’s effort.
On 13 minutes, from a pass by Jack Hunt, Norwood unleashed a thunderous 25-yard drive which Marshall did well to parry.
At that stage Town were looking very composed and the home side were having to work hard to try and break them down.
Cardiff – who have reached the play-offs for the last three seasons in the Championship – have a more highly rated squad right now than in all of those previous campaigns, but Town more than matched them through a first half hour in which the home side’s best effort was a Jordan Mutch shot over the angle of after Peter Whittingham’s effort had been charged down.
Heider Helguson, the only survivor in Malky Mackay’s team from the Capital One Cup exit at the hands of League II outfit Northampton Town, wasn’t getting a look-in and neither was Bellamy who kept dropping deep.
Town took advantage and would have taken the lead on 39 minutes had Marshall not made a brilliant sprawling save to deny Norwood’s dipping volley from 30 yards.
Town were lucky to survive, however, two minutes before half-time when a Bellamy corner was headed back by Ben Turner and Helguson sent a crashing header against the bar and there was a suspicion of handball as Lynch blocked the follow-up.
Town responded well with a break by Scannell, who rounded the keeper but his cross from a narrow angle was prodded wide by Norwood, who had earlier shown Town’s determination with a brilliant block in midfield.
Cardiff’s expected surge at the start of the second half never materialised as Town stayed strong, with central defenders Lynch and Peter Clarke doing well and the central midfield trio working hard.
After Southern has been booked for a scything challenge on Whittingham, Town continued to impress with some neat passing and Hunt went close to putting them ahead with a 61st minute rasping left-foot drive just over the bar.
Mutch responded for the Welshmen with a low shot which Smithies needed the help of Clarke to keep out, while a Hunt raid at the other end almost brought a reward for Arfield who turned smartly in the box before being blocked.
On 71 minutes the home side went perilously close when a wonderful drive from Kevin McNaughton had Smithies stretching to his left to beat the ball wide.
Town went as close as they had all game seven minutes from time when Southern set up Arfield in the box, but again City keeper Marshall made a brilliant diving save from his effort on goal.
The game looked as though it would stay all square until Hudson’s miserable parting shot.