REPORT: SHEFF WED 1-1 TOWN (3-4 PENS)Danny Ward was the hero as Huddersfield Town held its nerves from the spot to seal a place in the Sky Bet Championship Play-Off final against Reading.
David Wagner made just one change from Sunday's first leg as the eventual hero Ward replaced Joel Coleman between the sticks who dropped to the bench.
As Play-Off encounters go, the second leg of this all-Yorkshire semi-final tie left nerves shredded down to the bare minimum; a close and cagey affair for large quantities, with both sides cautiously trying to avoid having to climb a very steep hill to reach the elusive final.
Town continued where it left off from Sunday; Izzy Brown instantly pressed on the front foot, but was unable to slide in Elias Kachunga behind a static Owls defence. Following the denied through ball, Nahki Wells did however manage to wriggle some space in behind that back-line, but to his dismay, saw the linesman's flag raised on the near-side.
Wednesday was also keen to hit the front from the off; Steven Fletcher found his goal-bound volley blocked by a defiant Michael Hefele, with the chance coming after a reinstated Sam Hutchinson managed to fire an un-harmful attempt past the Town net.
Chris Loewe outlined the knowledge that the Terriers weren't going to rue any offensive chances with poor defensive plays; the left-back kept pace with a released Barry Bannan down the Wednesday right to ensure that the Scottish international's surge into the box was halted prematurely before any threatening cross could be delivered.
One of the host's major chances fell the way of early substitute Adam Reach; the former Middlesbrough man's volley was kept out by Danny Ward's sharp reflexes, before Steven Fletcher was adjudged to have been offside before slotting home past a stricken Ward; to Town's evident relief.
In the end, the proceedings were only really starting to get going; however, Town followed up the relief of Fletcher's offside decision by creating its own key chance. A flowing move saw the ball spread out to the left-flank, and Rajiv van La Parra. Rajiv's excellent vision to pick out Nahki Wells down the same line resulted in the Bermudian turning out a low cross for a barnstorming Izzy Brown. Agonisingly for the Terriers, Izzy could only find the side netting, but it still provided evidence that Town hadn't arrived at a packed out Hillsborough to pay witness to a home Play-Off party.
Wednesday responded by sending Bannan down the right yet again; this time, the Scot managed to beat marker Loewe and slide a ball across the face of goal, which compatriot Steven Fletcher had difficulty reaching after the ball ended up yards behind the initial run into the danger area.
A possible controversial moment came to light just minutes before the break; Tommy Smith's deep cross was knocked by Rajiv van La Parra towards Nahki Wells, who was free inside the six-yard box. However, a determined and tireless Nahki seemed to have been bundled over by Westwood, but referee Andre Marriner thought otherwise.
The second half of normal time proceeded in a manner which more than suited the host; the crowd had raised its volume, and that energy transferred to the pitch as Fletcher met Bannan's stood-up cross high above Christopher Schindler to give the Owls that precious advantage.
Nonetheless, Town did the exact opposite of wince at the challenge of having to come back in the cauldron of noise; an energetic Wells led the charge by attempting to create a chance of his own, but could only blast way wide of the target. Elias Kachunga followed suit shortly after by ending another flowing offensive move by striking harmlessly wide of Westwood's goal. Wells continued to be a hindrance up top, this time failing to connect with Sam Hutchinson's risky back-pass by a matter of inches.
Collin Quaner's introduction seemed to spark the Terriers into life that little bit more and Big Coll came up trumps with the decisive assist just minutes after coming on. Aaron Mooy's effortless through ball to a galloping Quaner on the right-wing saw the former Union Berlin man find an advancing Wells in the area who in turn managed to squeeze the ball home amongst a sea of blue shirts, sending the Town fans in the upper tier of the stand behind the goal into unrivalled ecstasy - cue the unbelievable scenes of celebration.
Big Coll would then turn his attention to the defensive aspect of his game; the German crucially nodded away a delivery before Adam Reach could connect with his favoured left boot.
Yet again, that man Quaner showed a beautifully silky touch and piece of skill to take the ball past Glenn Loovens before crossing for Wells. Nahki did the hard-work by rounding Westwood, but the Irish international recovered well to claw away a tame effort and keep Wednesday in the hunt for victory.
One final attempt before the commencing of extra time saw an active Wells found by Mooy, who, once again, found a resilient Westwood in his way to palm the effort into the path of Rajiv van La Parra who just couldn't find the touch to possibly send Town into the Play-Off final without additional minutes needed.
Overall, the way that the defensive unit of Smith, Hefele, Schindler and Loewe had marshalled the Owls attacking prowess had been heroic; home chances came and went, but the shift that all the defensive compartments had put in was one of a commendable status. Jonathan Hogg had been his usual dogged self to nullify the threat of the Wednesday midfield to the greatest extent possible.
Wells had lead the line with great energy and passion to see Huddersfield Town into yet another Play-Off final; however, it would be the impressive Skipper Tommy Smith who fired over the first chance of the extra-time period having been found by Chris Loewe's cross into the penalty area.
Izzy Brown stung the palms of Westwood from distance shortly after Tommy's chance, before ex-Terrier talisman Jordan Rhodes found a combination of Chris Schindler and Danny Ward in the way to send his effort spiralling over the cross-bar.
Ward kept his agility to deny Rhodes moments after the first attempt by displaying reputably strong palms to thwart the striker following his clever movement into menacing space.
Michael Hefele produced a superbly vital block to deny Fernando Forestieri from rifling home on the penalty spot, before the cult-hero's positioning aided Town immensely on another occasion seconds from the finish after Sam Hutchinson had crossed for Jordan Rhodes.
The dreaded conclusion of a penalty shoot-out took place in-front of an intimidating home kop-end; however, successful strikes from Chris Loewe, Michael Hefele, Nahki Wells and Aaron Mooy ensured that when Fernando Forestieri had his spot-kick saved by a sprawling Danny Ward, it ensued wild moments of jubilation amongst the Huddersfield Town players, staff and supporters as a trip to Wembley to face Reading in the Sky Bet Championship Play-Off final on Monday 29 May is confirmed.
Danny Ward; Chris Loewe, Christopher Schindler, Michael Hefele, Tommy Smith (c); Jonathan Hogg, Aaron Mooy; Rajiv van La Parra (Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, 105'), Isaiah Brown (Jack Payne, 96'), Elias Kachunga (Collin Quaner, 72'); Nahki Wells.
Joel Coleman, Dean Whitehead, Mark Hudson, Martin Cranie
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