Smithies is Huddersfield hero in epic penalty finale

Huddersfield Town 0 Sheffield United 0 (aet: Huddersfield win 8-7 on penalties): Keepers go head-to-head after all outfield players fail to settle play-off final


The way the final stages of the2011-12 campaign have been going, no one should have been surprised that another of the end-of-season prizes was decided by late drama. But surely no drama has come as late as this, with the 22nd kick of a penalty shoot-out finally proving decisive.

It was missed by the Sheffield United goalkeeper Steve Simonsen after his opposite number, Alex Smithies, had put Huddersfield ahead with their 11th kick, all the outfield players on both sides having tried their luck. Somehow, Huddersfield failed with their first three kicks and still prevailed, while the unlucky Simonsen, who saved two of them, ended up as the villain.

Until the penalties, the occasion lacked drama and quality – six out of 10 players failed to convert their penalties before the sudden death stage – but Huddersfield will not care. They earned promotion to the Championship a year after falling at the final play-off hurdle and after finishing nine points behind Sheffield United in League One.

Simon Grayson, their manager, returns to the second tier after being dismissed as manager of Leeds earlier in the season. "The chairman attracted me with his ambition for the club and it has been rewarded," he said. "You've got to have the nerve to take penalties and the goalkeeper was unbelievable."

For Sheffield United there was a familiar feeling of despair after their fourth defeat in as many visits to play-off finals, with no goals scored. They were overtaken late in the season for an automatic promotion place by their fierce local rivals, Sheffield Wednesday, after failing to win any of their final three league matches.

Danny Wilson, their manager and a former Wednesday player and manager, had won here as player, but has achieved a hat-trick of play-off final defeats as a manager, having lost with Bristol City and Swindon.

The game was poor, with most of the noteworthy incidents coming late in the second period and in extra time. The 50,000-plus all-Yorkshire crowd in a sweltering Wembley saw a first half that had plenty of endeavour but not too much subtlety. Huddersfield made the early running and their supporters the early noise, but Jordan Rhodes, whose 40 goals in all competitions this season gave him an average of a goal per game started, could not escape the attentions of the Sheffield United central defenders. United's more direct approach, getting the ball into Huddersfield's penalty area high and often, looked a reasonable one with Smithies flailing uncertainly at several crosses.

However, Simonsen was almost the first to pick the ball out of the net when Danny Ward smacked the crossbar from 20 yards in the opening moments of the second half. That seemed to wake up both sides and play began to switch quickly from end to end, the two teams swapping near misses and let-downs, but Huddersfield came closest to settling it in 90 minutes. First Simonsen sprawled to save Town captain Peter Clarke's header and when Tommy Miller hit the rebound past the prone keeper, Michael Doyle cleared the ball off the goalline.

Extra time could not separate the teams, although it was not for the want of effort. United's man of the match Stephen Quinn, still full of running after 105 minutes of non-stop endeavour, forced a diving save from Smithies at his near post after cutting in from the left. Simonsen, not to be outdone, flung himself to his right to parry a goal-bound shot on the turn by Huddersfield substitute Alan Lee, and when he was beaten by Lee Novak's header, Nick Montgomery came to his rescue with a twisting clearance.

And so to penalties. Each goalkeeper saved twice and each team missed once before competence suddenly took over in the sudden death stage, with all kicks converted until only the two goalkeepers were left. Smithies scored, Simonsen shot high. "[Grayson] asked me of I wanted to take one and I said yeah, I'll take the eleventh," Smithies said. "I just ran up and blasted it. I'm absolutely over the moon."

Huddersfield (4-4-2): Smithies; Hunt, Morrison, P Clarke, Woods; Johnson, Miller, Ward (Lee, 98), Higginbotham (Roberts, 79); Novak (Arfield, 116), Rhodes.

Sheffield Utd (4-4-1-1): Simonsen; Lowton, Maguire, Collins, Hill; Williamson, Montgomery (Taylor, 120), Doyle, Flynn (O'Halloran, 108); Quinn; Cresswell (Porter, 85).

Referee Roger East.

Man of the match Quinn (Sheffield Utd).

Match rating 5/10.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past