LIGHTCLIFFE-based sportsman and Huddersfield Town announcer Paul Ramsden reports on the trip from Brighouse to Wembley last Saturday as the Terriers took on Sheffield United in the npower League 1 promotion play off final.
The fact that this was a record eighth attempt by Town to gain promotion via the play-offs with only two previous successes, there was unsurprising nervousness among the 150 supporters from the Brighouse district gathered for the 7.30am departure to North London.
As over 50,000 Yorkshire folk descended upon the capital, Wembley Way was buzzing with pre-match excitement.
Inside the stadium, the pre-match routines were in full swing and in my slot I reminded the Town fans we were playing for the right to visit Wolverhampton Wanderers rather than Walsall, and Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers not Bury or Tranmere.
Disappointingly, the heat and enormity of the occasion seemed to be affecting both sides and the match itself was as tight as many pundits had predicted. Chances were few and far between.
Goalkeeper, Huddersfield born and bred Alex Smithies, after enduring a nervous opening 20 minutes dealing with crosses, did not have a save to make in the whole 90 minutes.
Late Town substitute Alan Lee had the best chance of the match with just 10 minutes of extra time remaining.
Referee Roger East’s whistle brought the two hours of endeavour to an end and the realisation in the stands that a penalty shoot-out would decide which of the two famous football clubs would be celebrating promotion.
Town skipper Peter Clarke won both coin tosses, to choose the end at which the showdown would take place and to choose to take the first penalty.
At 1-1 after four penalties each many fans had joined Town manager Simon Grayson and chairman Dean Hoyle in choosing not to watch proceedings. Scott Arfield and Chris Porter both scored to take the shoot out into sudden death.
Almost unbelievably, both sides converted five spot kicks in a row with apparent ease and confidence. Rhodes, Roberts, Calum Woods, Hunt and Sean Morrison converted for Town with Quinn, Harry Maguire, Kevin Doyle, Michael O’Halloran and Matt Hill successful for Sheffield United.
So after 46 league fixtures, three play-off ties, half an hour of extra time and 10 penalties each, goalkeepers Smithies and Steve Simonsen were about to take their first ever competitive penalties with promotion to the Championship as the prize. Simonsen got a hand to Smithies strike but was unable to prevent it hitting the back of the net. Simonsen blazed his effort high over the bar.
The scenes were amazing to witness.
The trophy presented, your correspondent joined the victorious Town players and directors to applaud the fans for their support for a few minutes I will never forget.
Town can now look forward to many massive matchdays in the second tier and who knows what can be achieved with the support of a chairman the envy of most clubs. In the ecstasy of victory, it was impossible not to feel sympathy for Sheffield United who had finished nine points clear of Town and had not conceded a goal in their three play-off games. Surely, a date should be set for a replay for games of such magnitude.
Old Trafford would have been bouncing for a floodlit replay of winner takes all part II. But, after many near misses, this was Town’s time and the new season cannot come soon enough for supporters young and old when Grayson will proudly take his Terriers to many of England’s traditional football giants.