A very young North End XI took a valuable point against the Terriers at Springfields on Tuesday afternoon in the Central League.
A brace from Jacob Holland-Wilkinson and a third from Kitt Nelson put the Lilywhites 3-1 up just after half-time, before being pegged back by the much more experienced visitors.
The West Yorkshire side are the only team to beat PNE in the Central League this season, having won 5-0 at Canalside back in September, but this time round the team of Academy youngsters – with six first-year scholars in the starting line-up – held their own and were unlucky not to record another impressive win.
They started on the front foot, with skipper Mikey O’Neill – playing slightly deeper due to a huge injury list amongst the Academy - making a driving run down the left and winning a corner, from which Aaron Bennett’s excellent in-swinging delivery caused problems, before being eventually cleared.
However, in the 11th minute they went ahead as Jacob Slater crossed from the left, Joe Rodwell-Grant had a shot blocked, but it fell to Holland-Wilkinson whose shot was deflected into the net from ten yards out.
The visitors drew level on the 20-minute mark; Connor Falls making a break down the left of the penalty area before firing across James Pradic and into the bottom right-hand corner of the young Welsh ‘keeper’s goal.
But parity only remained for three minutes as North End hit back with Bennett playing a superb slide-rule pass down the right of the penalty area and Holland-Wilkinson took a shot from a very narrow angle which took a deflection off a defender and into the top left corner of the goal.
The centre forward was inches away from a hat-trick just before half-time, as Rodwell-Grant held the ball up before releasing his strike partner down a right channel. He drilled a shot from 20 yards, but it was inches wide of the right-hand post, with Giosue Bellagambi, the Town captain, beaten in the visitors’ goal.
And within seconds of the start of the second half there was another big opportunity for the young striker to take home the match ball as he again ran through, bearing down on the goal, and firing on target, only for Bellagambi to make a brilliant stop with his legs and push the ball away.
But on 49 minutes it was three as Josh Seary made a probing run and delivered a superb low ball from the right and Nelson caught it on the volley sweetly and arrowed the ball into the bottom right corner of the goal.
The visitors, who were a huge team and included trialist and former PNE Academy player Lewis Earl, forced Pradic into a good save just before the hour mark, as he denied Ernaldo Krasniqi with his legs, but he could do nothing on 63 minutes to prevent Falls grabbing his second of the afternoon, as he raced through the middle and rounded the stopper, before slotting into the empty net.
The equaliser came with eight minutes to go and it was a fine finish that Pradic could do nothing about. Substitute Cian Philpott cut in from the right and curled a left-footed effort from the edge of the box into the top left corner.
It was harsh on the PNE side, who ended the game with another two first-year scholars on the pitch – finishing with eight U17s – but it was a great effort and another tremendous learning opportunity for the young team.
PNE line-up: Pradic, Wallbank, Slater, Bennett (Best, 83), Taylor, Blanchard, Seary, O’Neill (c), Rodwell-Grant (Cross-Adair, 86), Nelson, Holland-Wilkinson (Green, 83). Subs not used: Lombard, Lewis.
Huddersfield Town line-up: Belagambi (c), Johnson, Ondo, Kherbouche (Philpott, 46), Earl, Okpolukpo, O’Brien-Brady, Krasniqi, Falls, Whittingham, Jalla (Deru, 72). Subs not used: Taylor, Stone.
Referee: Mr B Lamb