Sheffield Wednesday players celebrate pulling off the greatest comeback in play-off historySheffield Wednesday pulled off the greatest play-off comeback in English Football League history to beat Peterborough United on penalties on an unforgettable night in South Yorkshire.
Substitute Jack Hunt scored the all-important fifth penalty as the Owls, who had trailed 4-0 from the first leg, secured their place at Wembley in the League One play-off final.
Wednesday made the perfect start when Michael Smith slotted home a penalty in the opening 10 minutes to give the home fans renewed hope a miracle could be on the cards, before Lee Gregory tapped in to make it 2-0 after 25 minutes.
The home side continued to pour forward after the break and Reece James got the third with a close-range finish before Liam Palmer scrambled home with the last kick of the 90 minutes to spark pandemonium.
A shell-shocked Posh had scarcely got out of their own half in the second half of normal time but Gregory deflected a Nathan Thompson header into his own net in extra time to put the visitors back in front on aggregate, only for Callum Paterson to poke home at the second attempt to send the tie to penalty kicks.
Dan Butler’s effort hit the crossbar and went over while every other penalty was scored in a shootout befitting the 120 minutes which had preceded it.
Prior to this tie no team had ever overcome more than a two-goal first-leg deficit in the EFL play-offs to reach the final.
Wednesday, who were the first team in EFL history to win 96 points and not go up automatically, will now face either Bolton or Barnsley at Wembley on Monday, 29 May.
How the drama unfolded on memorable night Liam Palmer’s goal in the final moments of time added on sent the game to extra timeThe Owls, who finished 19 points and three places above Peterborough, had left themselves with a seemingly insurmountable mountain to climb after Friday’s 4-0 thumping in Cambridgeshire.
Moore said before the game his team just had to focus on winning and “see what happens”, but surely he could never have envisaged what would unfold.
In front of a raucous crowd, Marvin Johnson was clattered to the ground on the very edge of the penalty area by Joe Ward and Smith confidently rolled home his spot-kick.
Posh were rocked but still came close to a leveller on the night when Kwame Poku showed good feet before drilling a low shot at goal that Cameron Dawson got down well to.
Dawson’s counterpart Norris then flapped at a ball into the middle and Paterson’s blasted cross-shot was converted by Gregory to increase the noise inside the ground even more.
The away side went into a huddle as they sought to regain some composure in the aftermath of the Owls’ second and Ephron Mason-Clark tested Dawson once more before Joe Ward saw a shot blocked, but it was Wednesday who had wrested control of the play once more by the time the whistle was blown on an utterly frenetic first half.
They picked up where they had left off in the second half and Norris made a superb diving save to keep out a spectacular overhead kick from Gregory, and then denied Josh Windass with a more routine stop.
Wednesday continued to pour forward in search of a third and 29-goal Posh striker Jonson Clarke-Harris was frequently left to fill in as an extra centre-back as the visitors’ defending became ever more desperate.
It was just a matter of time until the pressure told and James struck from six yards after Gregory cleverly dummied a through ball.
Moore brought on centre-back Aden Flint to play up front for the final few minutes of time added on and it proved crucial as the defender headed down a deep cross for Palmer to smuggle over the line.
Peterborough had not had a shot for the whole of the second half but retook the lead on aggregate when Gregory unfortunately deflected in Thompson’s header from a Butler free-kick just before half-time in extra time.
Wednesday did not give in though and after Paterson popped up with another leveller, Smith, Will Vaulks, Barry Bannan, Josh Windass and finally Hunt scored from the spot to spark wild celebrations as home fans raced on to the pitch.
What next for Posh after ‘cruel’ defeat?Peterborough were ultimately the fall guys on this surreal night.
Boss Darren Ferguson, in his fourth spell with the club, had looked set to lead them to Wembley and the possibility of his fifth promotion with the club.
The Scot returned in January after Grant McCann’s departure and led the team into the play-offs at the expense of Derby, who lost at Hillsborough, courtesy of a final-day win at Barnsley.
His contract with the club is now up and he said things were “too raw” for him to think about next season.
Ferguson also said the referee’s decision to play eight minutes of time added on at the end, having signalled a minimum of six, was “not right”.
“To lose a game and a semi-final in the manner that we did is very rough. It’s a cruel game at times,” he told Sky Sports.
“I have to congratulate Sheffield Wednesday, Darren and his team. I wish them all the best in the final.”No two games are the same, we knew this is a very rare place in League One in terms of the momentum that the place can give you.
“We made some wrong decisions, and then obviously in the last minute of the game – you don’t want to be sounding bitter, because I don’t – but there’s six minutes [added on] and we play eight. It’s not right, but congratulations to Sheffield Wednesday.”
He added: “We don’t know what the future holds, it’s not the right time to answer that. I’ve got a lot of players in there that are sore, the young ones are going to have to remember this, because it’s a sore night.”
Line-upsSheff WedFormation 3-4-1-2
25Dawson6IorfaSubstituted forFlintat 90+2’minutes20IhiekweBooked at 99mins33JamesSubstituted forVaulksat 88’minutes13Paterson2PalmerBooked at 6mins10BannanBooked at 47mins18JohnsonSubstituted forBrownat 102’minutes11Windass24Smith9GregorySubstituted forHuntat 108’minutesBooked at 120minsSubstitutes3Brown4Vaulks8Adeniran19Bakinson31Stockdale32Hunt44FlintPeterboroughFormation 4-2-3-1
1Norris23WardSubstituted forThompsonat 45’minutes6Kent4Edwards16BurrowsSubstituted forButlerat 45’minutesBooked at 71mins22KyprianouBooked at 16minsSubstituted forJonesat 94’minutes18Norburn11PokuSubstituted forKnightat 80’minutes8TaylorBooked at 87mins10Mason-ClarkSubstituted forTshimangaat 120+1’minutes9Clarke-HarrisSubstitutes3Butler5Knight12Thompson17Jones24Thompson28Blackmore39TshimangaReferee:David Webb
Live TextMatch ends, Sheffield Wednesday 5(5), Peterborough United 1(3).
Penalty Shootout ends, Sheffield Wednesday 5(5), Peterborough United 1(3).
Goal! Sheffield Wednesday 5(5), Peterborough United 1(3). Jack Hunt (Sheffield Wednesday) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the top right corner.
Goal! Sheffield Wednesday 5(4), Peterborough United 1(3). Kabongo Tshimanga (Peterborough United) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the centre of the goal.
Goal! Sheffield Wednesday 5(4), Peterborough United 1(2). Josh Windass (Sheffield Wednesday) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom right corner.
Goal! Sheffield Wednesday 5(3), Peterborough United 1(2). Oliver Norburn (Peterborough United) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the high centre of the goal.
Goal! Sheffield Wednesday 5(3), Peterborough United 1(1). Barry Bannan (Sheffield Wednesday) converts the penalty with a left footed shot to the bottom left corner.
Penalty missed! Still Sheffield Wednesday 5(2), Peterborough United 1(1). Dan Butler (Peterborough United) hits the bar with a left footed shot.
Goal! Sheffield Wednesday 5(2), Peterborough United 1(1). Will Vaulks (Sheffield Wednesday) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom left corner.
Goal! Sheffield Wednesday 5(1), Peterborough United 1(1). Jonson Clarke-Harris (Peterborough United) converts the penalty with a left footed shot to the bottom left corner.
Goal! Sheffield Wednesday 5(1), Peterborough United 1. Michael Smith (Sheffield Wednesday) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom right corner.
Penalty Shootout begins Sheffield Wednesday 5, Peterborough United 1.
Second Half Extra Time ends, Sheffield Wednesday 5, Peterborough United 1.
Josh Knight (Peterborough United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Michael Smith (Sheffield Wednesday).
Substitution, Peterborough United. Kabongo Tshimanga replaces Ephron Mason-Clark.
Jack Hunt (Sheffield Wednesday) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Ricky-Jade Jones (Peterborough United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Jack Hunt (Sheffield Wednesday).
Attempt blocked. Oliver Norburn (Peterborough United) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.