Hero Ward sends Huddersfield to Wembley

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Keeper Danny Ward was Huddersfield’s shoot-out hero. AFP

The most lucrative match in British football history will be between Huddersfield and Reading following a thrilling win for the Yorkshire side yesterday.
Huddersfield goalkeeper Danny Ward sent his side into the Championship play-off final with two crucial saves in a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.
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’ own goal.
With neither side able to win it in extra time, it took penalties to settle a tense semi-final 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.
The Wembley clash has never been worth so much – this year the winner will pock an estimated $260 million for reaching the elusive Premier League.
“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 play-off 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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