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Football | English Championship

Danny Ward © Getty Images

Huddersfield through to playoff final

Huddersfield goalkeeper Danny Ward sent his side into the Championship playoff final with two crucial saves in a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Sheffield Wednesday.

David Wagner's team fell behind to Steven Fletcher's goal early in the second half at Hillsborough, but they hit back to grab a deserved equaliser through Tom Lees's own goal.

With neither side able to win it in extra time, it took penalties to settle a tense semifinal second leg and Ward was the Huddersfield hero as his saves from Sam Hutchinson and Fernando Forestieri clinched a 4-3 triumph.

Chasing a return to the top-flight after a 45-year absence, Huddersfield will face Reading at Wembley on May 29 with a lucrative place in the Premier League up for grabs.

"It's an amazing feeling. This team are a special bunch, and it stems back to the backroom staff. It's a special club," Huddersfield captain Tommy Smith said.

"It's been an unbelievable season and this is an incredible feeling. Why can't we go on and win at Wembley?"

Wednesday could have few complaints after being outplayed for long periods, but their second successive season of playoff heartache after last year's final loss to Hull might trigger the dismissal of already under-fire boss Carlos Carvalhal.

Izzy Brown had the best chance to break the deadlock in a first half in which tension on both sides kept clear-cut opportunities to a minimum.

Brown should have done better when he met a left-wing cross from Nahki Wells in the centre of the box but swept his low, left-foot shot inches wide of target.

Wednesday looked brighter after the break and got their reward within five minutes after a move which initially appeared to have petered out on the edge of the box.

Fletcher played the ball back out where it was retrieved by Barry Bannan, whose deep cross back in to the far post found the Scot who steered a perfectly-poised header beyond Ward's grasp.

Crucially, Wagner sent on Collin Quaner in the 71st minute and within minutes the German had set up Huddersfield's equaliser.

Quaner picked up a ball from Rajiv van la Parra on the right side of the Wednesday box and his cross was poked into his own net by Lees under pressure from Wells.

That set the stage for Ward to shine.

He kept out Hutchinson's penalty to start the shoot-out, then, after Jack Payne missed a chance to win it, Ward saved again from Forestieri to send Huddersfield to Wembley.


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