Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday play out forgettable draw in Championship first-leg play-off

Huddersfield Town 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0: The two Yorkshire clubs head into next week's second-leg with the tie hanging in the balance

Ian Whittell
The John Smith Stadium
Sunday 14 May 2017 13:53
Nahki Wells is put under pressure inside the Sheffield Wednesday half
Nahki Wells is put under pressure inside the Sheffield Wednesday half

A forgettable goalless draw offered little clue as to which Yorkshire club has the better chance of reaching the Wembley play-off final and claiming the estimated £170m prize that promotion to the Premier League carries.

That figure - made up of £95m for being in the top flight next season and at least £75m in parachute payments in years to follow - perhaps explained why the game started in cagey fashion, and continued in precisely that manner.

But Carlos Carvalhal and Wednesday will surely be the more satisfied of the two sides as they emerged unscathed ahead of Wednesday’s second leg at their Hillsborough home.

Wednesday, well-disciplined and confident after a solid end to the league season, were rarely troubled in a drab first half and the game did not even produce a corner until Huddersfield won one after 39 minutes.

Sheffield Wednesday attempt to defend a free-kick

There was only one first half chance worthy of note, started by an incisive pass from the impressive Huddersfield playmaker Aaron Mooy, on loan from Manchester City.

The move ended with Elias Kachunga putting the ball into the area for on-loan Chelsea forward Isaiah Brown who snatched at the opening somewhat and clipped his off-balance shot just over, via a faint touch off the bar.

That 23rd minute effort was all Huddersfield had to show from a first half that saw David Wagner’s side enjoy great superiority in possession but fail to test the Wednesday keeper Keiren Westwood.

Mooy had an early shot from the edge of the area which passed well wide of the goal and another promising early attack fizzled out when Nahki Wells and Kachunga got in each other’s way.

Chris Lowe bids to get away from Kieran Lee (Getty )

The tie, between local rivals, also featured some predictably robust moments with Huddersfield full-back Tommy Smith the game’s first yellow card, just before the half-hour, for upending Steven Fletcher.

Wednesday’s Ross Wallace, no shrinking violet, soon followed him into the book for hacking at the heels of Chris Lowe in a particularly feisty passage of play.

And, satisfied to play purely on the counter-attack, Wednesday almost carved out an opening just before the break when Wallace’s probing far-post cross picked out the run of Jack Hunt who failed to bring the ball under control.

After an opening half in which the two teams failed to muster a solitary shot on target, Huddersfield at least opened the second with greater tempo although it was the visitors who threatened first.

Ross Wallace found space on the right in the 51st minute and his cross was bound for Adam Reach until covering Huddersfield forward Kachunga made an excellent defensive header over his own bar.

Carlos Carvalhal issues instructions from the sideline

Finally, after 56 minutes, came the game’s first moment of real attacking quality as Jonathan Hogg pushed the ball forward for Wells who spotted Westwood slightly off his line.

The Huddersfield forward, the scorer of four play-off goals with neighbouring Bradford four years ago, attempted a well-weighted chip but Westwood back-pedalled sufficiently to tip over.

Wednesday responded quickly, although Reach’s left-foot shot was always passing wide of the home goal by some distance, but it was the home side that was beginning to assert real control for the first time in the tie, forcing a succession of corners.

Unfortunately, the clearest half-chance carved out in that period fell to defender Smith who shot over, under pressure from Daniel Pudil, after being picked out by Mooy.

Westwood was also forced into the second meaningful save of the game, after 71 minutes, when he deflected a Wells shot behind after another energetic attack down the Huddersfield left.

As Sheffield looked increasingly content to settle for the away draw, Wagner threw on German forward Collin Quaner in search of the goal Huddersfield surely would have felt they needed from their home leg.

The substitute’s physical presence should have offered Huddersfield a more direct route to goal but, instead, they survived a scare after 84 minutes when Barry Bannan collected the ball in midfield and, for once, had enough space to send a 25-yard shot just over the target.

Huddersfield (4-2-3-1): Coleman; Smith, Hefele, Schindler, Lowe (Holmes-Dennis 90); Hogg, Mooy; Kachunga (Quaner 78), Brown, van La Parra; Wells (Cranie, 90).

Substitutes not used: Coddington, Whitehead, Hudson, Payne.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Westwood: Hunt, Lees, Loovens, Pudil; Wallace (Jones 66), Lee, Bannan, Reach; Fletcher (Rhodes 68), Forestieri (Winnall 73).

Substitutes not used: Wildsmith, Palmer, Sasso, Nuhiu.

Referee: Paul Tierney​

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