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Huddersfield seal dramatic shoot-out win
Published : 26 May 2012 18:47:11
Huddersfield held their nerve to win a gripping penalty shoot-out 8-7 to climb back into the npower Championship for the first time since 2001 after a goalless 120 minutes at Wembley.
Sheffield United goalkeeper Steve Simonsen, who had kept his side in the game with three top-class saves in normal time and two more in the shoot-out, missed the decisive spotkick as Huddersfield clinched victory in the npower League One play-off final.
Huddersfield's Tommy Miller, Blades midfielder Lee Williamson, Town's Damien Johnson and United defender Matt Lowton all failed with their penalties, while Blades substitute Andy Taylor hit the post. It was cruel on Danny Wilson's Blades, who have now lost four play-off finals after defeats in the Championship in 1997, 2003 and 2009.
But if either side deserved to edge through after a stiflingly cagey 120 minutes it was Huddersfield, beaten by Peterborough in last year's final at Old Trafford and semi-final losers the previous season, after the West Yorkshire outfit created far more chances.
Simonsen ensured a desperately tight final went into extra-time, producing two fine saves late in the second half to keep out headers from Huddersfield skipper Peter Clarke. Blades captain Michael Doyle also cleared the ball off the goalline from Miller during a frantic spell of pressure from Town.
Huddersfield were also denied the breakthrough a minute into the second half when winger Danny Ward crashed a shot against the angle of crossbar and post after Callum Woods' cross had been headed clear.
The Blades responded and Harry Maguire headed wide from Stephen Quinn's corner and in the 61st minute Town skipper Clarke almost stole in at the far post, but headed Kallum Higginbotham's flag kick inches wide.
Simonsen pulled off two terrific saves deep in quick succession deep in the second half to rescue his side. First he got down low to keep out Clarke's header, with Miller's follow-up effort cleared off the goalline by Doyle. And when Ward fired the subsequent corner into the box, Clarke headed firmly goalward only to be denied by Simonsen again.
And while Huddersfield threatened to snatch the decisive goal as the end of normal time beckoned, Clarke had to be at his best in his own penalty area in the 98th minute to block Quinn's thumping drive.
Simonsen thwarted Town again in the 109th minute, this time blocking substitute Alan Lee's angled effort with a stunning reflex save, while Blades winger Ryan Flynn hacked Gary Roberts' free-kick clear soon after as two tired teams staggered towards a penalty shoot-out.