Sheff Wed 1-1 Huddersfield AET (3-4 Pens): Terriers Reach Play-Off Final With Shootout Win

Wednesday July 19th, 2017

​Huddersfield reached the Championship play-off final with a penalty shootout victory over Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsbrough on Wednesday evening.

In a close encounter that reflected both side's final league positions, Steven Fletcher gave the hosts a second half lead before Nakhi Wells levelled for the visitors.

That was how it stayed through a tense additional 30 minutes of extra-time, until Danny Ward saved Fernando Forestieri's penalty in a nervy, dramatic shootout.

There was a sense of tangible anticipation and nervousness in the early exchanges at Hillsborough, typical of a play-off semi-final but heightened by the added significance of a Yorkshire derby, and one still in the balance.

In what was an untidy opening, both sides lacked an element of creativity, not dissimilar to the first leg. It wasn't until 25 minutes in that the first real chance presented itself, when Huddersfield's Isaiah Brown was picked out in space six yards out. But the on-loan Chelsea forward miscued his effort onto the outside of the post, squandering a rare opportunity in a game that seemed certain to be low scoring.

At the other end, Wednesday striker Fletcher faced the scorn of the home fans when he opted to pass, not shoot, having been played in by Barry Bannan.

Openings, though, were sporadic, and there was no clear indication as to who would progress into the final against Reading as the first half came to a close.

Minutes after the break, Hillsborough was sent into raptures. Bannan again picked out Fletcher, but this time the Scotsman headed accurately into the bottom corner to score the first goal of the tie.

The immediate impact of the breakthrough was an upsurge in tempo and intensity. Huddersfield responded with a period of dominance in possession, while the hosts retreated into their shape, the prospect of Wembley now within their sights.

Wednesday looked compact and restricted the away side, but with less than 20 minutes remaining Huddersfield were level. Substitute Collin Quaner was played through on the right-hand side, and picked out Wells who bundled the ball over the line for the equaliser.

The two sides seemed inseparable; a difference in styles but very little in overall quality. Wells tested Owls goalkeeper Keiren Westwood with the game approaching the final five minutes, as Huddersfield, in the ascendancy, searched for a late winner.

But extra-time was imminent, and, depsite the visitors' late dominance, another 30 minutes of tense, painstaking play-off football was required.

As players tired, Jordan Rhodes fired an effort at Danny Ward, before Forestieri saw a goalbound shot blocked towards the end of the first period of extra-time. It was a stark contrast to the end of normal time, the hosts this time enjoying a spell of pressure.

Fatigue was inevitably leading to more openings, and Wells guided a left-footed effort just wide of the post for the visitors in a second period that again saw a swing in the impetus. 

But it was with reluctant acceptance that the two wearied teams went to a penalty shootout. In front of their own fans, Wednesday missed their first penalty and never recovered. Huddersfield dispatched four, before Forestieri saw his penalty dramatically saved by Ward and the Terriers progressed to the final to play Reading.

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