HUDDERSFIELD Town striker Jordan Rhodes admitted he is relieved Sheffield Wednesday pipped their arch-rivals Sheffield United to automatic promotion after helping Simon Grayson’s side seize control of this League One play-off semi-final with MK Dons.
Rhodes and team mate Jack Hunt were both on target as United’s Yorkshire rivals built a comfortable first-leg lead ahead of tomorrow’s return at The Galpharm Stadium. And afterwards Rhodes, whose father Andy is a member of Hillsborough’s backroom staff, said: “It wouldn’t have been great (if Wednesday had been in the play-offs) for the family. It would have put my dad in a particularly awkward position so, in that context, I’m delighted Wednesday have gone up.
“But, saying that, everyone has got a job to do.”
With Town now in the box seat to face either United or Stevenage at Wembley, Rhodes added: “My mum and dad were here and my nan and granddad too. They were with the fans behind the goal. Wednesday got their promotion last week and congratulations to them. Hopefully, without taking anything for granted, we can get to Wembley and do the same.”
Alan Smith, who scored the only goal of the game when United visited stadium:mk, once again provided the watching Danny Wilson with food for thought throughout an absorbing contest. Exploiting the space between defence and midfield - just as Stephen Quinn had done against Stevenage the night before - the former Leeds centre-forward caused Town’s back line problems until making way after an hour.
Indeed it was a trademark run - peeling off the shoulder of Sean Morrison - which created the afternoon’s first opportunity although his shot sailed wide.
Town, however, possess a talisman of their own and soon after Smith rose to prominence, Rhodes was inches away from converting Callum Woods’ cross. But the Scotland international did not have to wait long before scoring his 39th of the season after combining with Lee Novak following David Martin’s fine save from substitute Kallum Higginbotham.
Ian Bennett, the former United goalkeeper, equalled his opposite number’s effort when Dean Lewington broke free soon after the re-start.
It proved to be a crucial block when, having seen Novak spurn a simple chance, Hunt doubled Town’s lead with an immaculate finish before Bennett excelled himself again; this time denying Jabo Ibhere deep into added time.
“That was a possible turning point,” Simon Grayson, the Town manager, acknowledged. “Because it preserved our two goal advantage.”
MK DONS: Martin, Lewington, Mackenzie, Chicksen, Gleeson, Potter, Smith (O‘Shea 60), Williams, Powell, Bowditch, MacDonald (Ibhere 76). Not used: McLoughlin, Kouo-Doumbe, Flanagan.
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN: Bennett, Woods (T Clarke 50), P Clarke, Morrison, Hunt, Ward, Johnson, Arfield (Higginbotham 27), Miller, Rhodes (Lee 84), Novak. Not used: Smithies, Robinson.