This Yorkshire derby, rightly or wrongly, will be remembered for a howler of a decision by a match official.
With five minutes left, Sheffield Wednesday were denied a clear opportunity to win for the first time in two months of football.
Owls substitute Chris Maguire, a 77th-minute replacement for Jacques Maghoma, went tumbling under a sliding challenge by Huddersfield centre-half Joel Lynch on the right edge of the penalty area.
It was a clumsy, tired-looking tackle by Lynch. Referee Graham Salisbury was not too far away from the action. His view was partially obscured by former Barnsley man Jacob Butterfield but that’s no excuse for the events that unfolded.
Salisbury ignored Wednesday’s appeals for a penalty and instead gave the free-kick to Huddersfield and yellow-carded Maguire, believing the forward had dived.
Sky Sports pundit Peter Beagrie said: “I think probably 90% of the time the referee gives the penalty.
“I can actually see why he doesn’t and books Maguire for simulation because he goes down theatrically, but there is contact.”
You could argue Maguire made a meal of Lynch’s tackle and was looking for the decision, falling elaborately to the ground. But Lynch was nowhere near the ball. You could tell from the guilty expression on the defender’s face as he got back to his feet that he knew he had got away with one.
Tongue in cheek, Huddersfield boss Chris Powell said: “The ref had a call to make and I thought it was a great decision!
“Most players are honest. They go down genuinely and don’t try to con the ref. It can be difficult for referees and maybe he felt it was simulation by Maguire.”
The Owls have yet to be awarded a penalty in the Championship this season. Atdhe Nuhiu arguably should have been given one at Charlton and Wednesday boss Stuart Gray was convinced Kirk Broadfoot brought down Kieran Lee in the South Yorkshire tussle with Rotherham United.
“I don’t know why we aren’t getting the breaks,” said Owls skipper Glenn Loovens.
For Gray, the Maguire incident was a “stonewall penalty”.
“That’s the last three games where we have not had the rub of the green,” he said. “I’ve looked back on it and it was a stonewall penalty.
“There is no way that was a dive by Chris Maguire in the box. I can’t believe the referee booked him.
“You want the right decisions. At the moment, we are not getting them. I just cannot believe how the officials can get that wrong. We have been let down by a big decision. Maybe our luck will change against Wigan.”
The first half was a poor spectacle. The two sides cancelled each other out and there were no shots on target. Stevie May, who won his first Scotland cap, against England, last week, was bright and busy and unlucky not to get on the scoresheet after several positive runs.
However, Huddersfield came closest to scoring after a lovely through ball by Jacob Butterfield released Tommy Smith, who sneaked in behind Wednesday’s defence and drilled in a low centre which was superbly cleared away by Tom Lees, with Sean Scannell ready to pounce.
Scannell, the hosts’ main threat, fired over after racing on to Paul Dixon’s header and things opened up in the final quarter of the contest.
Huddersfield substitute Nahki Wells was thwarted by Keiren Westwood before May, who was booked after three challenges on goalkeeper Joe Murphy, latched on to Jacques Maghoma’s pass and rifled a fierce effort which struch both crossbar and post.
“He’s got to keep believing and doing what he was doing,” said Gray. “One of these days, it will break for him, but he’s got to keep believing.”
Prior to the Maguire flashpoint, Wells spurned a great chance to put Huddersfield ahead after slack defending by Wednesday. The striker broke clear and his venemous drive was kept out by Westwood, who rushed off his line quickly and spread himself well.
Gray said: “Keiren made a terrific save but it wasn’t by good play. It was one lapse of concentration. One ball beat my flat back four and Wells has got a bit of pace, but Westwood stood up and made it difficult for him. It was a great save and it gave us a lift.”
All the momentum was with Wednesday in the closing stages. Murphy pulled off an excellent save to deny Royston Drenthe, one of two changes to the starting line-up, a last-minute winner following a four-v-two counter-attack. From the resulting corner, Nuhiu twice failed to force the ball home after a big goalmouth scramble as Huddersfield survived.
Gray said: “The game didn’t get going in the first half. It was like two boxers sparring at each other. I quite enjoyed the second half because we dominated possession and we got in behind them in the end. We played in front of them a little too much and when we did go forward we didn’t have enough quality.
“We had lots of quality when we counter-attacked in the second half. When you break four v two, you expect to score but it was a wonderful save by the keeper. In the last 10 minutes, I thought there was only going to be one winner. We have got to make sure we score when we are on top.”
Although they have gone 11 matches without a win in all comeptitions, Wednesday have recorded clean sheets in half of their league fixtures.
“We are keeping them out but it’s all about goals at the other end,” conceded Gray. “If we keep playing like we did at Huddersfield, we will cause teams prob
lems. We have got Wigan at home on Saturday and we have to make sure we play at the same tempo, intensity and put them on the back foot.”
Dutch defender Loovens is confident Wednesday’s luck will change. “We had a few good opportunities to get ourselves in front,” he said.
“We had one cleared off the line, hit the bar and post and I think we should have had a penalty.
“We had loads of chances. We should have put one or two away. We never gave up. The lads never stopped. They kept on going.
“It has to turn some day. We can’t keep being unlucky. We have to keep plugging away and putting a shift in and I’m sure our luck will change.”
Gray thought Lewis McGugan was “excellent” on debut, admitting he took the midfielder off late on because he had a slight hamstring problem.
“Lewis grew into the game,” he said.
“He can play a devastating pass.
“He just needs to get up to speed of playing 90 minutes.”
After dropping two points at the John Smith’s Stadium, Gray admitted he is feeling the pressure following their tenth draw.
“It’s about winning and that’s 10 league games where we have not won,” he said.
“All I ask is for the players to give me everything and they did against Huddersfield.”
Gray needs a win and so do Wednesday.
It would greatly help them both if key refereeing decisions started to go their way.
Huddersfield: Murphy 7; Smith 7, Hudson 7, Lynch 6, Dixon 7; Scannell 7, Poyet 7, Coady 6* (Ward 67, 5), Bunn 6** (Wells 67, 7), Butterfield 6, Holt 5. Substitutes: Allinson, Peltier, Wallace, Robinson, Hogg.
Wednesday: Westwood 7; Palmer 7, Loovens 7, Lees 7, Helan 7; Drenthe 6, Semedo 6, McGugan 7*** (Lee 86), Maghoma 5** (Maguire 77); May 8, Taylor-Fletcher 5* (Nuhiu 77). Substitutes: Dawson, Dielna, Lavery, McCabe.