Related content

IT WAS typical of Jordan Rhodes to play down the finish which brought Lee Clark his first Boxing Day win as Huddersfield Town boss.

But the modest marksman’s 34th-minute strike, back-heeled past wrongfooted keeper Tommy Lee from Lee Novak’s neat cross, showed a man playing with real confidence.

It was Rhodes’ 20th goal of the campaign at club level, and a first win in four League I games for Town brought smiles to the faces of the 12,325 home fans in a 13,410 crowd – especially when they learned that Sheffield Wednesday had lost at Walsall.

Now Clark’s side have the chance to apply some pressure by beating Carlisle at the Galpharm on Friday and reclaiming second place before their promotion rivals play on Saturday.

Yesterday, Antony Kay came in for the suspended Peter Clarke – and took the captain’s armband – while Donal McDermott was handed a first start in 15 league games after a lively appearance from the bench against Sheffield Wednesday last time out.

Both sides created decent chances in the opening stages as basement side Chesterfield’s frontman Todi Obedayi put an angled effort across the face of goal and narrowly wide after being set up down the left by Dean Morgan before Novak, playing a deep-lying frontline role, burst through and thundered in a low shot which keeper Lee needed two attempts to gather.

Spireites striker Jordan Bowery was unable to make the most of a neat pass from left-back Nathan Smith while Gary Roberts failed to get enough power onto Rhodes’ flicked pass to unduly trouble Lee, who then combined with Drew Talbot to foil Rhodes as he darted into the penalty area in the 13th minute.

Town’s Ian Bennett had to be alert to collect Morgan’s side-footed shot from 20 yards out, but the home side, playing a neat pass and move game, were slowly but surely turning the screw.

Former Chesterfield loan pair Jack Hunt and McDermott were combining tellingly down the right, and Rhodes was just inches off connecting with the former’s teasing cross in the 26th minute.

Novak’s 27th-minute drive was deflected for the first corner of the game, taken by Roberts and met powerfully by Rhodes, only for his header to go wide. The lively frontman would have put his side ahead on the half hour, had it not been for Danny Whitaker’s fine clearance.

The home team broke quickly after Gary Naysmith cleared Smith’s free-kick from halfway, and good work by McDermott and Roberts freed Rhodes, whose low shot had the beating of Lee but not the Chesterfield midfielder, who got back to hook the ball away for a throw-in.

The breakthrough wasn’t long in coming, however.

Roberts was once again involved in the build-up, but the real architect of the goal was Novak, who got to the byline on the left and split the visiting defence with a low cross.

The oncoming Rhodes met the delivery and produced the kind of finish few expected, skilfully back-heeling the ball beyond Lee and into the keeper’s left-hand corner.

Town deserved their advantage, and would have gone further ahead had any of their players been able to get a touch to an inviting 40th-minute cross by Roberts, who showed great footwork before playing the ball in low.

Then the busy Oscar Gobern had a shot from the edge of the area blocked before his follow-up effort was deflected wide.

Having shot over from Novak’s 58th-minute pass, then freed Hunt to put in a cross which Novak glanced wide, McDermott was given a rousing ovation when replaced by Scott Arfield on the hour.

But what the home supporters really wanted to see was another goal, and Rhodes almost obliged when he shot just wide from the edge of the area after the industrious Novak contested a header with Gregor Robertson.

The Chesterfield centre-back was given the benefit of the doubt by referee Carl Boyeson when Novak claimed a 66th-minute penalty for climbing, and the need for a two-goal buffer was underlined twice in five minutes, when first Morgan, then Bowery came perilously close with low shots.

Alan Lee made his return after a three-match ban as a 75th-minute replacement for Novak as boss Clark looked to freshen things up.

And Tom Clarke, back from his loan at Leyton Orient, featured for the first time since February, replacing Naysmith in the 81st minute and making a crucial tackle to thwart Bowery in the final minute of normal time as Town kept a first clean sheet in seven games.