By Tony Leighton
Huddersfield Town are back in the npower Championship following an 11-year absence after making it third time lucky through the Play-Offs - and boy did luck play its part as Simon Grayson's team clinched promotion in a pulsating, 22-player penalty shoot-out after the Wembley Final against Sheffield United ended goalless.
The Terriers failed with their first three spots-kicks but recovered to win 8-7 - Sheffield United's luckless goalkeeper Steve Simonsen missing the final penalty to hand Huddersfield victory and sentence the Blades to their fourth Play-Off Final defeat in succession.
"I certainly didn't see that coming when we missed our first three," admitted manager Grayson. "It was an unbelievable experience." It was unbelievable to many that 40-goal striker Jordan Rhodes was reluctant to take one of the spot-kicks, but Grayson said that as manager he had not decided on the running order of penalty-takers.
Rhodes did eventually take - and score - but Grayson said: "I couldn't control it so I just sat on the bench to have a chat and a joke with the chairman. I just left it to whoever was feeling the most confident. It may surprise you that Jordan didn't feel confident of being one of the first five, but that's how days like this are."
The day ended with Grayson and everyone else concerned with Huddersfield delighted and relieved in equal measure, but it was unbounded misery for Sheffield United manager Danny Wilson and his players, especially the unfortunate Simonsen.
The Blades boss gave the keeper his full support, however. Simonsen had made three excellent saves during the game and also kept out two of Huddersfield's shoot-out efforts before blazing his own penalty over the crossbar. "I don't know if it was fate for Steve to miss the penalty," said Wilson, "but he's blameless."
While Wilson must now start preparing for a second season in League 1 following last term's relegation, Grayson is looking forward to life back in the Championship after leading a team to promotion from League 1 for the third time.
He had previously achieved the feat with Blackpool and Leeds United, and guided the Terriers to their long awaited promotion just three months after taking over the managerial reins from the dismissed Lee Clark.
As he accepted the promotion plaudits Grayson paid tribute to his predecessor and also offered sympathy to the defeated Blades. "A lot of credit must go to Lee Clark, who brought in most of these players," he said. "We came in with a remit to finish the job off and we've managed to do that.
"In the end it was an unbelievable way to do it, but I really feel for Sheffield United - hopefully they can come up next year." Blades boss Wilson will drink to that and will use Huddersfield's experience to help his own team in the 2012/13 campaign.
Twelve months ago the Terriers lost 3-0 to Peterborough United in the Play-Off Final and Wilson said: "Huddersfield have bounced back after their disappointment - now we have to take inspiration from them."
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