Town fight back to win 4-3 on penalties and set up a mega-millions Wembley showdown against Reading
DANNY WARD was the hero as his shootout save from Fernando Forestieri saw Huddersfield set up a Championship play-off final against Reading.
The clash went to the a dramatic shoot-out after Tom Lees’ late own goal chalked off Steven Fletcher’s bullet header for the hosts.
Keiren Westwood thought he had done enough when his stop from Jack Payne’s penalty had cancelled out Sam Hutchinson’s earlier miss.
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But it was the Terriers’ day after Liverpool loanee Ward dived to his right to deny Argentina-born Italian Forestieri as David Wagner’s men prevailed 4-3 in the lottery.
It cruelly denied Owls boss Carlos Carvalhal a second successive play-off final at Wembley, after last year’s final defeat to Hull at the Home of Footballl.
Ross Wallace enjoyed one of the highlights of his career in the unforgettable play-off semi-final against Brighton at Hillsborough a year ago by scoring a stunner.
But this time his night was one to forget.
The Scot looked to be in tears as he came off injured with five minutes played, replaced by Adam Reach.
And it was Reach who created the first decent chance of the game, hitting a snapshot volley repelled well by Danny Ward, back from suspension after missing the stalemate first leg.
Huddersfield really should have taken the lead on 26 minutes when Nahki Wells crossed in for Izzy Brown, but somehow the Chelsea loanee hit his shot the wrong side of the post from six yards.
Wells was screaming for a penalty shortly before the break after going down under Keiren Westwood’s challenge – but ref Andre Marriner was having none of it.
The teams headed in goalless at the break and fans will have been preparing themselves for a penalty shootout already – just as Reading and Fulham supporters would have the night before.
But just like that clash at the Madejski, the deadlock was broken shortly after half-time in simple style.
The excellent Barry Bannan whipped in a cross to the back stick and there was Fletcher to plant a sublime header past the helpless Ward, sparking wild celebrations from the home support that had Hillsborough literally rocking.
But those fans were silenced on 73 minutes as Town levelled.
Sub Collin Quaner raced down the right and crossed in with virtually his first touch, and it was the unfortunate Lees who turned through his own net as he tried to clear under pressure from Wells.
Quaner and Wells linked up again with five minutes to go as the German fed the forward whose shot was repelled by Westwood.
Yet neither side could find another way through in the regular 90 so off to extra-time it went, with charismatic Terriers defender Michael Hefele geeing up with away support.
And it was the long-haired German who came to the visitors’ rescue in the first period, excellently blocking Fernando Forestieri’s goal-bound shot after sub Jordan Rhodes had gone close.
Town edged the second period as Wells wasted a good chance by blasting into the side netting as a penalty shoot-out loomed.
Huddersfield almost had a perfect set of spot-kicks until Payne was denied by Westwood on the fifth, ruling out Hutchinson’s gaffe.
But when Forestieri saw his effort repelled by Ward, the game was up for the Owls as Wagner and his heroes ran off in celebration at the prospect of meeting Reading in the showpiece final a week on Monday.