Huddersfield promoted after shootout

Huddersfield Town clinched promotion to the Championship with an 8-7 win on penalties over Sheffield United at Wembley after it had ended goalless after extra-time.

Eurosport

Goalkeeper Steve Simonsen missed the sudden-death penalty in what was the seventh miss between the two sides in an epic shoot-out following a fairly drab match.

Huddersfield lost 3-0 to Peterborough in the League One play-off final at Old Trafford last year, but Simon Grayson’s side were successful on this occasion and join Charlton and Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship.

Normal time saw a stalemate as both sides cancelled each other out in hot and humid conditions, and extra-time could not produce a goal either as both defences excelled before spot-kicks decided promotion with Huddersfield finally returning to the second tier after 11 years.

The match went ahead at the scheduled time of 3pm, despite the fact that thousands of fans from both sides had been hit by severe traffic problems, but the atmosphere belied the fact that there were more empty seats than anticipated early on.

Huddersfield goalkeeper Ian Bennett was ruled out through injury and was replaced by Alex Smithies, but otherwise Grayson's side was unchanged from the return leg of the semi-final win over Stevenage as 40-goal striker Jordan Rhodes kept his partnership with Lee Novak up front.

Striker Richard Cresswell was back to make his 100th start for United in place of Chris Porter, who headed the winner in their semi-final against Stevenage, and midfielder Nick Montgomery started in place of Kevin McDonald, who was absent due to a hamstring problem.

Huddersfield forced the early pressure and striker Kallum Higginbotham dragged the game's first chance wide in the ninth minute, while at the other end Peter Clarke's last-ditch tackle thwarted Cresswell in the penalty area.

Smithies looked very shaky in the Huddersfield goal as he repeatedly failed to deal with aerial balls in his box. Indeed, the keeper hurtled off his line just after the half hour mark and completely missed his attempted punch, before getting a fortunate reprieve as Cresswell failed to bring the ball down under control with the goal open.

There was a paucity of clear-cut chances as both sides scrapped away in midfield, desperate not to compromise their defensive shape while in possession: the result was a tight and goalless first half.

United’s back four managed to marshal Novak and Rhodes to good effect as Danny Wilson’s side defended stoutly, but Huddersfield almost stunned their opponents just two minutes into the restart.

Daniel Ward pounced to collect a loose ball on the edge of the United box, and the Huddersfield midfielder proceeded to drive a fierce shot against the far corner of the crossbar from 25 yards out with Simonsen comprehensively beaten.

Many of the Huddersfield fans leapt up in celebration as defender Peter Clarke rose imperiously to power a header down from a cross by Ward, which brushed the side netting as it drifted agonisingly wide of the near post with Simonsen at full stretch.

It was then time for the Blades skipper to save his side: first Simonsen saved superbly from a Sean Morrison header, then Doyle produced an inspired goalline clearance to deny Clarke, whose close-range shot looked to be heading into the far corner of the net with three minutes left of normal time.

Normal time could not produce a winner, with both sides forced to toil for a further 30 minutes in the muggy conditions at Wembley, and substitute Chris Porter was denied a close-range header at the back post within minutes as Woods deflected the ball behind.

The excellent Stephen Quinn continued to cause havoc in the Huddersfield half, and the nimble-footed midfielder jinked between three challenges before driving a low shot on target, with Smithies forced to parry to safety at his near post.

Late on in the second period of extra-time, substitute Alan Lee pounced on a loose ball to drive a low shot on target from inside the United box, but Simonsen made a fine save to his right.

Another substitute Gary Roberts whipped over a fine delivery from a free-kick which Clarke met with a powerful header, only for Nick Montgomery to save his side with an impeccable hooked clearance from under his own crossbar with Simonsen out of his goal. It would be the final chance for either side before penalties ensued.

Six of the first seven penalties were missed, before an extraordinary string of fine spot-kicks saw the shootout go to 7-7 before both goalkeepers were called upon.

Smithies stepped up and struck a confident penalty into the corner of the net, but his opposite number Simonsen was left inconsolable after he ballooned his effort over the crossbar to end an epic shootout.

Huddersfield were left to celebrate a previously elusive promotion to the Championship, while United were left to bemoan a fourth defeat in a play-off final.

View photo

.

View comments (0)