KIDS looked baffled, grown men were reduced to tears and elderly folk shook their heads in disbelief after Steve Simonsen sent the 22nd penalty of an epic shoot-out into orbit.
Sheffield United’s supporters did not know whether to laugh or cry at the home of English football after watching their team lose a play-off final for the fourth time in their history without scoring a goal.
As someone who lives with a die-hard Blades fan, I fully appreciate the pain, anguish and torment you must have and are still feeling after seeing your boys agonisingly miss out on promotion at the final hurdle once again.
In the regular season, United consistently out-performed Huddersfield Town and emerged as the better team, finishing one place and nine points ahead of their West Yorkshire counterparts.
But, in a one off match, Huddersfield deservedly prevailed on penalties, highlighting the fine margin between success and failure when it comes to the play-offs.
The tournament is a tremendous spectacle for television but is it the fairest method to decide promotion? I have my doubts. It just seems so harsh that United, having accrued 90 points from 46 matches, a total which would have taken them up in nine out of the last 10 seasons, have missed out.
Mind you, Huddersfield experienced exactly the same thing last year. Under Lee Clark, the Terriers ended up third in the table, 16 clear of sixth-placed Bournemouth but required penalties to go through to the Old Trafford final where they were well beaten by Peterborough United, who finished one place and eight points worse off than Town. You just don’t always get what you deserve in football.
After a desperately disappointing result, United, in the words of chairman Kevin McCabe, can ill-afford to “wallow in self-pity”. They have to dust themselves down and be ready to go again come August 18.
In many ways, United are fortunate because they possess a top-class manager in Danny Wilson who has won over the detractors by turning the team into a stylish, passing outfit.
He has managed to shed their long-ball image and find a winning formula. There won’t be a huge amount of cash for Wilson to play with in the transfer market so he will to wheel and deal smartly. Shrewd free transfer buys and loan signings are likely to be the order of the day.