Huddersfield Town and Peterborough United: The story of the semis
You don’t always get what you deserve in life. Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes things don’t quite work out as they should. In truth, the concept of a team “deserving to win” is a slightly odd one. Nevertheless, Huddersfield Town and Peterborough United both deserved to go to Old Trafford after each proving their superiority over all but two clubs during the League One season and then showing their mettle in the pressure cooker play-off atmosphere.
Huddersfield were first up, starting well at Dean Court against a Bournemouth side that looked inferior in the early stages of their opening encounter. Kevin Kilbane glanced the visitors in front from a corner and Lee Clark’s side appeared to be cruising. But Bournemouth hit back, winning a penalty when veteran Town keeper Ian Bennett dashed out and clipped Rhoys Wiggins. Danny Ings stepped up to level for the Cherries but Bennett made a fine save. Donal McDermott’s excellent long-range effort in the second half salvaged a draw for the hosts, who played extremely well after their nerves wore off, and the two sides went north for the return game all square.
Similarly, Peterborough were dominant in the early stages in their own trip. Milton Keynes Dons struggled to impose themselves on a Posh backline that is not noted for its solidity. Sure enough, after Craig Mackail-Smith’s 33rd goal of a scintillating season had given Darren Ferguson’s side the lead at the interval, they fell apart at the other end of the pitch. Losing both goalkeeper Joe Lewis and key defender Gabriel Zakuani to injury before the second half kicked off, Peterborough began making mistakes. Tommy Rowe’s misdirected header began the decline and substitute keeper Paul Jones watched three goals fly into his net. The lifeline came in controversial circumstances with a bizarre refereeing decision giving Grant McCann the opportunity to haul Posh back into the tie from the spot. Peterborough returned to London Road with a one-goal deficit to make up.
The third of the four semi-final games was an absolute classic of the highest order. Bournemouth came from behind twice to lead 3-2 in extra time against a Huddersfield side that threatened to be sunk by the sheer weight of expectation at the Galpharm Stadium before a dramatic twist. Lee Peltier’s header gave Huddersfield the lead and the two sides then traded goals before half time, Steve Lovell’s penalty providing Bournemouth with an equaliser only for Danny Ward to put Town back in front.
With an hour gone, Huddersfield looked in control. Then Lovell collected the ball from McDermott on the left, cleverly skipped past Bennett and expertly lifted his finish high into the net in front of the jubilant travelling fans. When Ings placed a header beyond Bennett’s reach in extra time, things had turned around completely. But Antony Kay headed Huddersfield level and an enthralling contest ended with a penalty shootout. When Liam Feeney saw his poor effort saved and Anton Robinson’s fierce drive hit the bar, Kay stepped up to spark a joyous pitch invasion. Huddersfield Town had reached the final.
Peterborough had averaged exactly three goals per game at London Road during the league season, so hopes were high among the Posh faithful that their first-half deficit could be overturned. When McCann struck a superb free kick over an admittedly ramshackle wall and low into David Martin’s net after just 11 minutes, those hopes went even higher. As the saying goes, Milton Keynes Dons didn’t turn up. Their young strikeforce of Sam Baldock, Daniel Powell and Angelo Balanta failed to spark and Posh made the vast majority of the running as they so often do on their own turf.
Ten minutes after the break, a calamitous mix-up between visiting centre-backs Gary MacKenzie and Sean O’Hanlon offered George Boyd a sight of goal and the rebound was turned home at the second attempt by Mackail-Smith. Peterborough could even afford to have a third goal prevented by referee Colin Webster when Boyd was fouled before Lee Tomlin struck the ball into the far corner of Martin’s net. A different kind of game, certainly, but there were similar scenes to the previous night in Yorkshire as Webster’s whistle became the signal for thousands of Posh fans to flood onto the field of play.
Two good teams; two exciting semi-finals; one enticing final in prospect. Huddersfield Town and Peterborough United deserve their trip to Old Trafford. Now they must each offer their credentials to deserve a place in the Championship.