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Winners of frantic Championship Playoff Final secures last Premier League place

The winners of what was a frantic Championship Playoff Final secures the last remaining available Premier League place this Sunday evening.

Huddersfield Town and Nottingham Forest faced off at Wembley Stadium with a place in the big time up for grabs as well as the Β£170m prize money.

Helped by a strong second half to the season, the two clubs finished in third and fourth place respectively in the second tier league table, and will feel that they deserve the opportunity to join Fulham and Bournemouth in promotion.

For 2020/21, the Terriers and Reds finished in 20th and 17th position respectively. This time around however, there was a time when Forest occupied bottom spot in the division. It just goes to show how unpredictable the Championship can be.

Between December the 4th and March the 11th, Huddersfield put in a 17-match unbeaten streak in the league, and lost just two of their 28 matches at this level.

Meanwhile, since Steve Cooper’s first game in charge on the 25th of September, Forest have earned themselves 76 points from 38 games, the best return in the Championship regular campaign over that period.

The East Midlands outfit also conceded five goals fewer than any other team during that time, while the two clubs lost fewer games than Fulham and Bournemouth over the same amount of time.

The playoffs weren’t as straightforward as you’d think for both clubs either with Huddersfield being pushed all the way by Luton Town, needing a late Jordan Rhodes goal in the second leg at the John Smith’s Stadium to prevail 2-1 on aggregate.

The drama was saved for Forest’s reverse fixture with Sheffield United, Cooper’s team looks on their way when winning 3-1 on aggregate at half time at the City Ground before the Blades took the game to extra time, even almost winning the tie in the final seconds of the added 30 minutes.

It was Forest goalkeeper Brice Samba saving three penalties to earn his team a spot at Wembley.

So then, how did the final play out, take a look for yourself below…

2′ Early free-kick in a central area for Town after Sorba is dragged over.

6′ First five minutes have flown by at Wembley, with both sides starting quickly and trying to get control of the contest. No real chances for either team yet.

10′ No signs of this one slowing down. Really bright start to this game between two quality sides.

11′ Free-kick for Forest after a foul by Naby Sarr on Zinckernagel. Chance for the opposition to cross. Header wide by Yates.

20′ Still all square. Town have broken well when possible, but we’re yet to have a clear chance on goal. Just that Yates header wide for Forest that’s troubled us at this stage.

24′ Great pressure on the break from Town with Lewis O’Brien and Sorba Thomas leading the forward charge. We look dangerous when we shift through the gears and carry the ball toward the Forest defence.

25′ Late foul by Zinckernagel on Lewis O’Brien, who’d turned on the pace and left him for dead in midfield. No yellow, but Jon Moss has had a word.

30′ Half an hour gone at Wembley and it’s still an end-to-end encounter. No sign of nerves or slowing down from either team.

35′ Great break from Sorba Thomas after a nice ball out from the ball by Naby Sarr – excellent skill from the winger to beat his man! His cross is cut out by Samba before it can reach Ward, though.

38′ Some break from Danny Ward all alone to win Town a corner! That’s Huddersfield’s first of the game.

41′ Bright few minutes for Town, who’s had Forest under pressure at the back – they’re defending well though.

GOAL! Huddersfield 0-1 Nottingham Forest (Colwill OG, 42)
Forest have taken the lead here at Wembley, just minutes before the half time whistle! James Garner looks up and takes aim from around 25 yards, with Jack Colback ducking to allow the ball to fly over him and to Ryan Yates, who is being marked by Levi Colwill, who swing a leg to try and divert the ball away, but does the opposite and puts the ball into his own net!

Sky Sports’ EFL Editor Simeon Gholam at Wembley: “Massive goal for Forest that, just before the break. 12 years since a side came from behind to win one of these in the Championship.

“Can Huddersfield respond after the break? Work for them to do.”

Don Goodman on Sky Sports Football: “The first goal in this is a massive one. Just six teams have overturned it in the past.”

Sky Sports’ Lewis Jones at Wembley: “Forest have won 23 of 29 games when scoring first this season (D3 L3). They are a tough team to peg back. A complete change of plan needed by Huddersfield, who have coped well for the majority but one lapse has cost them.”

Work to do for Town in the second half after a late Forest goal gives them a narrow advantage at the break.

46′ Danel Sinani is bundled over and it’s an early free-kick for Town.

53′ Corner for Forest after good tracking back from Toffolo against Spence out wide.

54′ Booking for Forest, Zinckernagel cautioned for a number of challenges – the latest on O’Brien. Free-kick in a dangerous area for Town.

73′ Harry Toffolo has been brought down in the Forest area, but is booked for simulation. VAR is checking the incident – he appears to have been caught.

74′ VAR decides that it isn’t a penalty, despite the clear contact on Toffolo’s ankle.

Sky Sports’ EFL Editor Simeon Gholam at Wembley: “VAR might be having a look at this one…

“Certainly a grain of contact there, but not enough for a penalty. Moss’ decision is upheld.”

Sky Sports’ Lewis Jones at Wembley: β€œA big call that from the officials. Jon Moss and his VAR Paul Tierney have come to the conclusion there wasn’t enough contact from Colback to merit the foul. A 50-50 call for me. If it’s given, it’s not getting overturned but it’s not enough of a clear and obvious error to overturn. This is the world we live in now.”

77′ Sam Surridge writhes around on the deck after clattering into Lee Nicholls as the goalkeeper caught the ball. It’s a heavy coming-together, but he should be fine to continue. Maybe just a little tactical, that.

83′ NO PENALTY! Big shouts from the Huddersfield end once more, as Max Lowe tangles with Lewis O’Brien in the penalty area, leaving the midfielder in a heap on the deck.

84′ Break in play as Samba goes down requiring treatment.

Don Goodman on Sky Sports Football: “They have a good case for a penalty, but I’m not sure they are even going to look at this. For me, that was clearer than the other one a few minutes ago.”

Sky Sports’ Lewis Jones at Wembley: β€œI was looking forward to watching the showman Brice Samba strut his stuff today but despite looking likely to bag a clean sheet, he has been a bystander. Huddersfield still with no shots on target. Do they know their season is on the line?”

87′ Is there going to be a late twist? Huddersfield haven’t threatened whatsoever, but could just have something left in the tank…

90+3′ CHANCE! Lewis O’Brien curls a low shot towards the far post that neither Jon Russell nor Jordan Rhodes can get on the end of to poke home! Is that the final opening for Huddersfield?

90+5: The whistles are coming thick and fast from the Forest end. We are potentially less than two minutes from seeing their historic top flight return.

FULL TIME! There goes Jon Moss’ final whistle – Nottingham Forest have done it – they are a Premier League team once more! Just one goal did it in the end: Levi Colwill’s first half strike into his own net after James Garner’s wicked ball into the area from 25 yards! History is made.

Sky Sports’ EFL Editor Simeon Gholam at Wembley: “The job is done for Nottingham Forest! After 23 years away, they are back in the Premier League. A whole generation of fans will never have seen them in the top flight, but they will play there next season for the first time since 1999.

“What a job Steve Cooper has done, they were bottom of the table when he was appointed in late September, and now he has led them back to the top table.

“Commiserations to Huddersfield, too. Such a brilliantly unexpected season. But they just did not turn up today in any shape or form and barely laid a glove on Forest.”

Post-match stats

– Nottingham Forest will begin next season as a Premier League side for the first time since 1998-99. Their gap of 23 seasons in between Premier League campaigns is the longest for any club.

– Since the construction of the old ground in 1923, Huddersfield Town are the first club side to fail score on four consecutive visits to Wembley Stadium.

– Nottingham Forest have been crowned champions/promoted in nine of their 12 matches at Wembley Stadium, winning here for the first time since 1992 in the Full Members Cup final against Southampton.

– The team that finished in fourth place in the Championship have earned promotion in four of the last nine campaigns, having not done so at all in 15 straight seasons between 1998-99 and 2012-13.

Nottingham Forest captain Joe Worrall on Sky Sports Football: “I’m just so proud of the players, of the staff, the fans. We’ve been fantastic all season and were really unlucky not to go up automatically, in my opinion. We’ve played with honesty and we play the right way.

“We’ve been really good, and it’s not just this season – I’m not saying we’ve been good in the past seasons because we’ve been sh**e – but it has been a long time coming. This club hasn’t been in the top flight for a long time and I’ve seen a lot of good people come and go, who have all added to this football club. It’s such an honour to captain Forest.

“We don’t mind suffering. We have suffered for a long time off the pitch, so half-an-hour is nothing compared to what we have suffered for so many years. I just want to say a big thanks to everybody who has helped us. I’ll forget names if I attempt to name everyone, but we’ve been really good value this season and I’m just so proud, especially for the manager. He’s such a nice bloke.

“He has failed twice in the play-offs before and I’m absolutely made up for him. You can see it in his eyes when he talks to you in the dressing room and around the place. He calls me on my days off and he’s just checking up on me. These little things that people don’t know about show how he such a nice, genuine man.”

Stuart Pearce talking to Sky Sports: “Forest will be a massive credit to the Premier League next season. Credit to Huddersfield, but over the 90 minutes the better side won.

“The atmosphere inside the stadium is incredible. I never played in a Forest team at Wembley with this type of atmosphere. You can see what it means to this football club. They have waited so long for this. I’m very proud of their achievement.”

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