Huddersfield Town 1 Luton Town 0: Jordan Rhodes and Sorba Thomas send Terriers to Wembley

HOME play-off matches for Huddersfield Town - whether it be at the John Smith's Stadium or their former Leeds Road abode -  had previously provided limited cheer for Terriers followers.

Huddersfield Town's rock-solid keeper Lee Nicholls shows his reflexes against Luton Town. Picture: PA
Huddersfield Town's rock-solid keeper Lee Nicholls shows his reflexes against Luton Town. Picture: PA

Ahead of Monday night, nine games had yielded no victory in normal time or extra time, although there was penalty joy against Bournemouth in 2011.

Here, there was also ecstasy without the need for those dreaded spot-kicks. In the pivotal second leg between the Championship's highest achievers, pound for pound, in 2021-22,

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Huddersfield were the ones left still standing at the end.

It is they who have the chance of turning a magnificent season into a truly magical one and have a final date on May 29.

Not that it was easy, far from it. But this is a side who have found a way on countless occasions this term and believe in themselves even amid adversity. They are also so wonderfully hard to beat.

A run of just two defeats at league or play-off level since the end of November emphatically conveys that.

Second best in the first half, Town rallied on the restart, but lacked that one killer moment.

It finally arrived eight minutes from time from the hosts' two likely' lads.

Summoned from the bench earlier, Sorba Thomas delivered an inch-perfect free-kick and Jordan Rhodes - on for the injured Danny Ward towards the end of the first period - was lurking at the back stick from just his sort of range.

He deceived Amari'i Bell and his finish was deadly. His last play-off goal for the Terriers was almost exactly ten years to the day against MK Dons - in a 4-1 semi-final aggregate win - and this one possessed far more weight and importance.

It helped secure Town's second Wembley play-off final date in five years and third in a decade. There was a joyous pitch invasion at the end, with Luton manager Nathan Jones left unamused by the antics of some celebrating home fans, labelling them a 'disgrace' afterwards.

On the night, there was justice for the hosts. Six minutes before their breakthrough, Huddersfield should have been awarded a stonewall penalty after keeper Matt Ingram, on an emergency loan from Hull, bundled over Harry Toffolo.

Rhodes's strike ensured there was no need for recriminations on that count.

After being inhibited and relatively off-colour by their high standards in the first half at Kenilworth Road three nights earlier, the sight of Huddersfield not learning those lessons when they are usually so attentive was disconcerting in the extreme in the first half.

Town are usually good and quick learners. But they were cowed by a slick Luton side who brought far more to the table then they did in the league fixture in West Yorkshire just over a month ago.

The fortunate thing for the Terriers is that they did not trail by at least a goal at the break.

Luton broke forward quickly with Harry Cornick posing problems, while former Leeds midfielder Robert Snodgrass was given far too much space to pull the strings in a number ten role.

Ultimately, it was Thomas who provided the game-breaking moment.

Despite moments of drive from particularly Lewis O’Brien, Harry Toffolo and Duane Holmes, Town were far too passive and also deep for the first period.

A tame free-kick which flew over moments before the interval from Danel Sinani summed things up, with a tough half compounded by an injury to Ward.

Mercifully, Lee Nicholls was in sound order in goal yet again. He made one huge early save to block Cornick’s point-blank effort, although the Hatters really should have scored after being

found by Kai Naismith, afforded an ocean of space down the left.

Cornick had threatened even earlier with a cross-shot which flew wide, while Nicholls fielded efforts from distance from Snodgrass and James Bree twice, while Allan Campbell went close to bundling the ball home following a wicked delivery from Bree.

The questions belonged to Carlos Corberan at the interval unquestionably. Although his relief at his side not being behind would have been palpable.

Judging by the more imposing start to the second half from his side, words had clearly been said after a first half when comfortably their best chance came when Toffolo tested the reactions of Ingram after one of his trademark surges forward.

There was intent from the hosts, but no substantive chances, with the first opportunity coming at the other end when Bell powered a header wide under pressure from Pipa after a good cross from Campbell.

Sorba Thomas was then thrown into the fray to try and conjure something for Huddersfield with the impression starting to gather that one moment of quality might be enough to win a finely-poised tie.

Lees had the ball in the net from Thomas’s delivery, but the strike was ruled out for a foul on visiting captain Sonny Bradley.

Nicholls then showed sharp reactions to beat off Cornick’s angled drive, with the breakthrough still proving obstinate in coming.

That is until Rhodes had his moment. A stellar moment in his second coming.

Huddersfield Town: Nicholls; Lees, Hogg, Colwill; Pipa, Russell, O’Brien, Toffolo; Holmes (Sarr 86); Sinani (Thomas 61), Ward (Rhodes 41). Substitutes unused: Blackman, Anjorin, Ruffles, Eiting.

Luton Town: Ingram; Burke (Mendes Gomes 86), Bradley, Naismith; Bree, Campbell, Snodgrass, Clark, Bell; Cornick (Adebayo 90), Hylton (Jerome 65). Substitutes unused: Isted, Potts, Lockyer, Kioso.

Referee: P Bankes (Merseyside).