Huddersfield Town
0-0
Sheffield United

 

 

 

Huddersfield win 8-7 on penalties

Ref: Mr R East

 


Attendance:
52,100

Huddersfield Town celebrated promotion to the npower Championship after beating Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United 8-7 in a thrilling penalty shoot-out following a 0-0 draw in the sunshine at Wembley.

Terriers goalkeeper Alex Smithies scored his side's final spot kick and then watched opposite number Steve Simonsen blaze over to send the army of blue and white shirted fans into delirium.

The club have bounced back from the disappointment of their last two League 1 Play-Off campaigns, the most recent being a 3-0 Final defeat 12 months ago to Peterborough United, to make it third time lucky and reach the second tier of English football for the first time in 11 years.

It was a typically nervy start to the game as both sides struggled to keep hold of the ball in the scorching heat under the famous arch at Wembley.

Huddersfield attempted to exploit the flanks, using the pace of their wide men, while United opted for a far more direct approach by utilising the power of striker Richard Cresswell as an outlet for a counter attack.

And it was Cresswell who had the first real opening of the match in the 17th minute. A cross in from Lee Williamson was flicked on by Stephen Quinn, but the experienced front man couldn't get his head on the ball ahead of the onrushing Smithies in the Huddersfield goal.

The rest of the half petered out without any other chances being created, which was surprising, given that Sheffield United have scored more goals than any other side in The Football League, finding the net 92 times over the course of the season, and the Terriers possess the League's top goal scorer in Jordan Rhodes, who had found the net 40 times before the Play-Off showdown.

In a stark contrast to the first period, the second 45 began in a totally different fashion as Huddersfield went within inches of going ahead just minutes after the restart.

Danny Ward picked up the ball on the edge of the area and, with nobody closing him down, he unleashed a rasping effort at goal which cannoned back off the crossbar.

The west Yorkshire club initially kept up the pressure but just after the hour mark Sheffield United worked their way back into the match and found an opening of their own. Stephen Quinn cut in from the left and fizzed a low ball across the box but nobody in red and white was on hand in the six-yard box to fire home.

As the clash entered the final 10 minutes, it suddenly came to life with Huddersfield having three golden opportunities in quick succession.

The first was a powerful header at goal which Simonsen was equal to. After the 33-year-old had palmed away, Lee Novak followed up with the second effort which was clawed off the line by Michael Doyle.

From the resulting corner, Clarke then caused more havoc with another header towards goal. But, yet again, Simonsen was on hand to make a fine save.

Despite the last-gasp string of chances, the Terriers couldn't find a way past the resilient United defence, and the League 1 Play-Off Final entered extra-time.

The opening half of extra-time mirrored that of the first 90 minutes with both sides lacking vigour. The ball went back and forth, end-to-end, with neither team showing any signs of quality in the final third.

Sheffield United did have a sight of goal though, when Quinn, who was lively all afternoon, jinked his way into the box. After some brilliant trickery, he fired his shot within the reach of Smithies, who turned the ball away comfortably.

After the teams took a much-needed drinks break, they were back on the pitch for more and the match was sparked into life again. Alan Lee, who replaced Danny Ward in the second-half, picked up the ball inside the box but his shot was turned away magnificently by Simonsen.

The Terriers then went within inches of a goal again as Peter Clarke rose highest from a floated corner, but somehow the Blades managed to clear his goal-bound header off the line when it looked destined to hit the back of the net.

With neither side managing to break through either defence after 120 minutes of football, the final promotion spot to the npower Championship had to be settled on penalties.

After all outfield players that ended the game on the pitch had taken a penalty, it was the turn of the two stoppers.

Smithies blasted his home, whilst Simonsen blazed over. The thin line between success and disappointment had swung on one final spot-kick and it was the Terriers who were celebrating.

Huddersfield Town (4-4-2): Smithies; Hunt, P Clarke, Morrison, Woods; Higginbotham (Roberts 78), Miller, Johnson, Ward (Lee 99); Novak (Arfield 115), Rhodes.

Substitutes not used: T Clarke, Colgan (GK).

Sheffield United (4-4-2): Simonsen; Lowton, Maguire, Collins, Hill; Williamson, Doyle, Montgomery, Flynn (O'Halloran 29); Quinn, Creswell (Porter 84).

Substitutes not used: Howard (GK), Taylor, McAllister.