Sheffield United Pay Penalty In Play-Off Final

There will be no Steel City derby next year, after Sheffield United missed out on promotion to the Championship on penalties to fellow Yorkshire side Huddersfield.

The disparity between the game itself and the manner of its decider was striking – a desperately dull game decided by a 22-penalty marathon, with all players taking a shot, and the two goalkeepers deciding the destination of the final place in next year’s second tier in a rather different style to what they would have dreamt of the night before.

In spite of the returning Richard Cresswell up front, United posed little goalscoring threat, proving that the moment to define their season was the jailing of Ched Evans – before this, they led rivals Sheffield Wednesday by four points with three games to go.

Now however, it’s the Owls who prepare for life in a new division, whilst the Blades will have to regroup for another shot at promotion from League One.

There were no shots on target at all in the first half, though Sheffield United were on top and had their only real attacking spell in the first fifteen minutes, Cresswell and Stephen Quinn both seeing shots blocked.

But the Terriers were the ones to kick up a gear in the second half; a minute in, Danny Ward – who was competing in his third play-off final in a row, having suffered disappointments with Swindon in 2010 and Huddersfield in last-years third tier final – hit the bar from 20 yards out.

Steve Simonsen in the United goal was excellent when called upon, saving low from Town captain Peter Clarke on two occasions in a minute. Blades captain Michael Doyle had to clear a Tommy Miller shot off the line.

Extra time was similarly poor, so the game went to penalties. Neither team seemed keen to score here either – of the first eight spot-kicks, only two were scored, one on either side, with Alex Smithies of Huddersfield making two particularly fine saves.

Following this inauspicious start, all six takers on both sides found the net – with all outfield players spent, the score was 7-7. Smithies stepped up to just tuck it past Simonsen; with roles reversed, the Blades custodian put his penalty into orbit, many miles over the crossbar, leaving Sheffield United – who had finished the season with 90 points, a record for a team not to achieve automatic promotion – utterly devastated, and both Yorkshire sides in blue and white stripes celebrating their downfall.

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