REPORTS FROM THE NATIONALS
Penalty prize for Huddersfield
By William Johnson
Huddersfield Town (0) 0 Mansfield Town (0) 0
aet; Huddersfield win 4-1 on pens
Almost three hours of tension enveloped the Millennium Stadium yesterday before an exhausted Huddersfield Town squad could celebrate their return to the Second Division.
There were no goals in this thrilling Third Division play-off final but more excitement than in the two higher-profile finals which preceded it. Both teams could have won it in normal time; both could have won it in extra-time.
Only Huddersfield looked like winning the penalty shoot-out though, and clinched their big prize with a spot kick to spare after Wayne Corden and Liam Lawrence had missed the first two attempts for Mansfield, who had qualified for this finale by overcoming Northampton in similar fashion.
After club captain Rob Edwards, the busy Danny Schofield and hard-working Anthony Carss had safely converted for Huddersfield it was left to Lee Fowler to administer the final act of thedomestic season.
"I'm thrilled to bits," said Peter Jackson, Huddersfield's manager, who admitted to being physically and mentally drained at the end of a campaign which began with only eight players turning up for duty last July.
"It is a huge money-spinner for us and hopefully I will be able to bring in some new players in the summer. We are all delighted but we have to feel sorry for Keith Curle and his team because it is a terrible way to lose."
Mansfield manager Curle said: "Everybody's down at the moment and it's my job to lift them. But I'm proud of all of them."
Curle's men came close in the last minute of normal time when substitute Colin Larkin's drive into the Huddersfield net was ruled out by a linesman's flag against substitute Laurent D'Jaffo whose inviting nod back was seen to have been from behind the goal-line.
Mansfield threatened on several other occasions, notably when Corden stung the fingers of goalkeeper Paul Rachubka, who again also saved well from Corden.
But Huddersfield also had their moments. Andy Booth erred badly when clean through on Kevin Pilkington. His chipped shot went several feet wide of an unguarded net.
Booth also headed over from close range, while Schofield had a close-range shot blocked by Tom Curtis and Carss saw a shot on the turn miss by inches.
They almost broke the deadlock when Anthony Lloyd brought the save of the match from Pilkington.
Huddersfield lost their influential defender Efe Sodje near the finish with a worrying neck injury which required hospital treatment.
Spot-on Huddersfield earn instant return
BY TOM DART
Huddersfield Town 0 Mansfields Town 0
(aet; Huddersfield win 4-1 on pens)
WHEN the imminence of Euro 2004 prompted the Football League to swap the Nationwide League first and third division play-offs final dates so that the curtain would fall on the domestic season with a basement battle, they could not have expected that they would be saving the best until last. As in the previous two days, goals were in short supply. Excitement, though, was abundant as Huddersfield Town secured an immediate return to the second division, beating Mansfield Town 4-1 on penalties when the game had finished goalless after extra time.
A year ago, Huddersfield were in administration. Yesterday, they were in delirium. “I'm absolutely thrilled to bits with what we've achieved this year,” Peter Jackson, the manager, said. “Nine months ago, when only eight players turn up, you think you've got a difficult job.”
Jackson hopes that Huddersfield's rise back to the League's upper echelons could be as rapid as their descent to its depths. “If we get off to a good start, who knows what might happen?” he said. Five years ago, when he was dismissed as manager, they were a top-half first division side. In the wake of Doncaster Rovers' promotion, Huddersfield's triumph is a slice of good news for Yorkshire amid the headline-grabbing implosions of Leeds United and Bradford City.
The Millennium Stadium was half-empty but this was a full-blooded event, electrified by nervous energy. There was enough drama to make fans' stomachs churn like washing machines on a spin cycle. If the pot of gold at the end of the first division final, said to be £30 million, is like scooping the lottery jackpot, money-wise this is more like winning £50 from a scratchcard. Yet there was more end-to-end action than in the earlier ties combined.
It was not so much because the smaller prize made the players less inhibited, but because both teams were entertaining and progressive. Also, both were smarter in attack than at the back — notwithstanding the immense performance of Efetobore Sodje, the Huddersfield defender. He was carried off on a stretcher at the end with a neck injury and taken to hospital as a precaution.
A draw with Cheltenham Town meant that Huddersfield were overtaken on the final day of the normal season by Torquay United and finished fourth on goal difference, with Mansfield in fifth, six points behind them. “After the Cheltenham game, people were in tears but we've picked ourselves up,” Jackson said.The task of rebuilding morale now belongs to Keith Curle. “More than cruel. That hurts,” the Mansfield manager said.
His team scored all their penalties in their semi-final shoot-out against Northampton Town but here they wilted. Liam Lawrence chipped the ball on to the bar after Wayne Corden's tame effort was saved by Paul Rachubka. Huddersfield took four penalties and scored them all.
Spot-kicks were required thanks to some lame finishing and laudable goalkeeping. It summed up the general indecision that Mark Clattenburg, the referee, had to re-toss the coin before the shoot-out because neither captain had called heads or tails.
This, however, was not the prototype “game in need of a goal”. Both sides attacked with such impatience that it was as if they thought that they were losing. Colin Larkin, a Mansfield substitute, lashed the ball into the net at the end of 90 minutes but celebrations were terminated by the referee's whistle. It was ruled that the cross from Laurent D'Jaffo had gone out of play.
Extra time was no less adventurous, the highlight being a marvellous save by Kevin Pilkington, of Mansfield, from Anthony Lloyd's long-range drive. But penalties it was, as the domestic year signed off with compelling cruelty. Finally, we can describe 2003-04 as “last season”. The new campaign starts on August 7 and it will be Huddersfield eagerly anticipating the release of the fixture list on June 24. They can look to the future with excitement; this, though, was an occasion not to forget.
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN (3-5-2): P Rachubka — D Mirfin, E Sodje, S Yates — A Holdsworth, A Carss, J Worthington (sub: L Fowler, 85min), D Schofield, A Lloyd (sub: R Edwards, 112) — A Booth, P Abbott (sub: J McAliskey, 91). Substitutes not used: P Senior, N Brown. Booked: Sodje.
MANSFIELD TOWN (4-4-2): K Pilkington — B Hassell, R Day, A John-Baptiste, A Eaton — L Lawrence, L Williamson (sub: N MacKenzie, 98), T Curtis, W Corden — C Disley (sub: C Larkin, 60), J Mendes (sub: L D'Jaffo, 69). Substitutes not used: J Coates, D Artell. Booked: Eaton.
Referee: M Clattenburg.
Huddersfield back from near extinction
Adrian Milledge at the Millennium Stadium
Tuesday June 1, 2004
Huddersfield Town continued their rise from near extinction by claiming promotion to the Second Division after a penalty shoot out. It marks a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the club.
Relegated a year ago and in administration with debts of £20m, there were just eight players on the books when Peter Jackson began his second spell as manager.
The final, which was played-out to partisan but good-humoured fans and superbly refereed by Mark Clattenburg, featured two old-fashioned wingers, one on each side, who plied their trade with skill.
For Huddersfield, Danny Schofield's meanderings must have been as baffling to the Stags' defenders as his close control and quick feet. Mansfield's version, Wayne Corden, was more direct but just as dangerous: two diagonal crosses drilled low into the Huddersfield six-yard area were inches away from a decisive prod.
The Huddersfield goalkeeper Paul Rachubka was beaten in stoppage time but Colin Larkin's effort was disallowed because a linesman ruled the ball had gone out of play before Laurent D'Jaffo set up the chance.
And so to extra-time. Often a chore for the uncommitted, this was a bonus. The penalty shoot-out, invariably the making of these encounters, was an anti-climax that was settled, appropriately, by Lee Fowler, who comes from Cardiff.
So, for the second time in as many days, a side sporting blue and white striped shirts prevailed courtesy of a penalty. There, though, the similarities ended.
Huddersfield finish with a flourish
Third Division Play-Off: Huddersfield Town 0 Mansfield Town 0 (aet; Huddersfield win 4-1 on penalties)
By Conrad Leach at the Millennium Stadium
01 June 2004
It would not feel like the play-off final weekend if there was not a penalty shoot-out in one of the three games. That it happened in the most entertaining and open match of the lot was no reflection on how these two sides approached the 49th and final game of their exhausting campaigns.
Both teams had their chances to settle affairs in normal time, let alone extra time, but thanks to a combination of excellent goalkeeping and bad finishing they were doomed to try their luck from 12 yards.
As it was, Huddersfield kept their nerve and converted all four that they had to take, with Lee Fowler converting the decisive one. Keith Curle's Mansfield side, who had won their semi-final on penalties, missed two of their first three and face another season in the Third Division.
Meanwhile Peter Jackson can continue in the higher division the rebuilding work he started at Huddersfield when he took over a year ago.
It was less than Mansfield deserved for their spirited approach to a game that could have finished with them in the Second Division for only the third time in 12 years. However, the Terriers would argue that they had the moral right to promotion. They finished in the play-off places only on goal difference and were some six points ahead of Mansfield.
Huddersfield had started with intent when Pawel Abbott's header floated just wide of an open goal after seven minutes, and he continued to be their main threat in front of goal. Nine minutes before the break Abbott, the man who replaced Jon Stead when he joined Blackburn in January, worked himself two yards of space but smashed his shot at Kevin Pilkington and was not quick enough to the rebound. Two minutes after the interval, Danny Schofield slipped him a pass but although he got a foot to it, Pilkington was quick off his line to close down the danger.
Huddersfield's increasing amount of possession began to tell on their opponents, who were tiring with 20 minutes left. Yet the pattern of missing good opportunities to score had been set and continued with Schofield when he was denied by a last-ditch block.
That was the cue for a sustained bout of goalmouth action in the last 10 minutes when either side could have scored.
Firstly Abbott set up Booth, who saw his chip drift just wide with the goalkeeper stranded, and the former Sheffield Wednesday forward then headed over from close range with the match in injury time.
Mansfield also had chances in stoppage time. Firstly Wayne Corden was denied by a diving save and then Colin Larkin had the ball in the net only for an offside flag to cut the celebrations short.
The arrival of extra time did not kill the game off, as Anthony Carss curled his shot just inches wide of the upright and then his Huddersfield teammate Anthony Lloyd was on the verge of celebrating the winning goal only for Pilkington to produce a full-length diving save. However, he did not have to wait much longer to produce those celebrations in full.
Huddersfield Town (3-5-2): Rachubka; Mirfin, Sodje, Yates; Lloyd (Edwards, 112), Carss, Worthington (Fowler, 85), Schofield, Holdsworth; Booth, Abbott (McAliskey, 91) Substitutes not used: Senior (gk), Brown.
Mansfield Town (4-4-1-1): Pilkington; Hassell, Day, John-Baptiste, Eaton; Lawrence, Curtis, Williamson (MacKenzie, 98), Corden; Disley (Larkin, 60); Mendes (D'Jaffo, 69) Substitutes not used: Coates (gk), Artell.
Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne and Wear).
Latest | June 2004