NOTTS County’s late comeback denied Huddersfield Town a winning start to 2012.
Things looked good for Lee Clark’s side when hot shot Jordan Rhodes turned creator for Gary Roberts, then claimed his 22nd goal of the campaign, in a sizzling start to the second half.
But the home side had the Hughes, Jeff with a penalty and namesake Lee with a hooked shot, to thank as they hit back in the last 18 minutes at Meadow Lane, where 2,352 Town fans in an 8,914 crowd, witnessed a second successive stalemate.
Danny Cadamarteri kept his place after a lively return to the team against Carlisle on Friday.
But there were three changes elsewhere in the wake of the 1-1 home draw, including a first start of the season for Tom Clarke, who came in at centre-back for Antony Kay.
Anton Robinson replaced midfielder Tommy Miller, who had a hamstring injury, while up front, Alan Lee was back in the XI at the expense of Lee Novak.
Notts had the first effort of the game in the second minute, with striker Lee Hughes shooting on the turn from Neal Bishop’s pass, but the effort was well covered by Ian Bennett in the Town goal despite the shot taking a tricky deflection.
When Hughes then returned the favour Oscar Gobern made a well-timed tackle to rob Bishop as he shaped to shoot from just inside the area.
Town had won a corner in the third minute, but it wasn’t until the 12th that the travelling fans were brought to their feet again, with Roberts feeding Rhodes with a long pass from the left.
The Town leading scorer got goal-side of his marker Haydn Hollis, but couldn’t get a clean connection.
Notts were troubled again three minutes later when keeper Stuart Nelson had to stretch to deal with a Rhodes shot from another Roberts centre.
By that stage Town right back Jack Hunt had been booked for a foul on Jeff Hughes, and when the Notts winger found himself in space on the edge of the area in the 17th minute, it took a brave block from Tom Clarke to divert his shot off course.
Both sides were pushing forward whenever the opportunity arose and Nelson had to spread himself to parry Peter Clarke’s header from a Roberts free-kick following a foul on Lee, who required treatment after taking a blow to the head when clearing from one of a string of four County corners midway through the first half.
Old campaigner Lee Hughes was looking lively for the home side, and it needed Gary Naysmith to mop up after the former West Brom frontman flicked the ball passed Bennett in the 25th minute.
Soon after Lee Hughes met right-back Julian Kelly’s cross but flicked his shot wide of the near post.
Peter Clarke was the next to need attention from Town physio Dave Buckby after another Notts attack was repelled in the 28th minute.
Lee was starting for the first time since his red card in Town’s 2-1 home win over County on November 19, and Sam Sodje, the man he clashed with that day, was taken off on a stretcher and replaced by ex-Town loan man Krystian Pearce in the 40th minute after he went down as the pair pursued a long ball into the home penalty area.
As Notts reshuffled Town attacked and when Nelson kicked clear hurriedly as Rhodes chased a through ball down, Cadamarteri had a long range chip cleared.
Roberts kept the attack alive and turned the ball back in for Rhodes to test Nelson with an overhead kick.
A foul by County’s Alan Sheehan on Roberts 25 yards out produced a free kick opportunity a minute before the break but the Town winger miscued the set-piece sending the ball over the bar.
There was no mistake when he headed Town in front from close range in the 52nd minute, however, with Peter Clarke starting the breakthrough move with a lovely ball down the right and Rhodes putting in an inviting cross.
Six minutes later, Rhodes was on hand to head home the rebound after Roberts latched onto Robinson’s pass and rattled a shot against the bar.
Both sides hit the bar, Town through Lee and County through Alan Judge, before the home side pulled one back with the 72nd-minute penalty, awarded for Tom Clarke’s foul on Sheehan and put away cleanly by Jeff Hughes.
Now Notts had the momentum, and the equaliser arrived in the 84th minute, with Lee Hughes holding off Peter Clarke’s challenge to hook home from Judge’s delivery into the area.
Bennett stood firm to foil Jeff Hughes while Town substitute Scott Arfield shot just narrowly wide during a fast and frantic finale.