It is one of the most nerve-wracking experiences in sport.
Players can go from heroes to villains in a matter of moments in a penalty shoot-out.
They are great sporting theatre. You can also come under fire if you elect not to take a spot-kick.
It was one of the biggest surprises of Sheffield Wednesday’s Championship play-off semi-final defeat to Huddersfield Town that Jordan Rhodes passed up the opportunity to take a penalty.
Some fans branded Rhodes’ decision “unacceptable”. Others labelled it “disgusting”.
After all, Rhodes is a prolific striker who has scored 175 league goals in his career.
Sam Hutchinson, Barry Bannan, Kieran Lee, Jack Hunt and Fernando Forestieri all stood up to the plate but Rhodes has been heavily criticised in some quarters for not taking one.
Head coach Carlos Carvalhal said Rhodes “did not feel confident” and argued the worst thing he could have done was “to force him” to take a penalty.
“It would have been a big mistake to make him take one. It’s one of the worst things you can do to a player,” said Carvalhal.
“The five players who took them were the ones who had practised them best and said that they wanted to take them.”
Former Owls manager Brian Laws admits he was “surprised” Rhodes didn’t step forward.
Laws said: “It is so, so difficult to replicate a shoot-out.
“I think Jordan is brave to have said he didn’t want to take a penalty because he could so easily have gone out and taken it and missed.”
Rhodes had a penalty saved inWednesday’s 1-0 defeat at Leeds United in February.
“It is not an issue to me, having been involved in a penalty shoot-out at Norwich,” said Star columnist Jon Newsome. “There might have been six or seven who wanted to take a penalty and Jordan thought he was not 100 per cent so let them take it.”
Things have been anything but plain sailing for Rhodes since moving to Hillsborough in February. The 27-year-old, who will become a permanent signing this summer, has registered a meagre three goals in 20 outings.
He made a promising start to his Owls career, claiming an assist for Ross Wallace’s match-winner at Wigan Athletic. Rhodes also enjoyed a dream home debut, netting the opener in a comprehensive Hillsborough success over Birmingham City. His only other strikes came in the Owls’ thrashing of Norwich City back in March
Since then, Rhodes has failed to find the back of the net in his last 14 appearances for club and country.
Newsome said: “I’m sure he will not be 100 per cent happy with how things have transpired. He’s a good player and is a goalscorer.
“Hopefully he will have a good pre-season and start banging the goals in and last season will be a distant past.”
Wednesday have, remarkably, scored onl once without Rhodes on the pitch since he signed.
Laws said: “Rhodes is a big threat inside the 18-yard box. I don’t see his threat outside of the box.
“It is easy to point the finger and say he has not been scoring the goals but you can count on one hand the amount of chances he’s had in front of goal. He has been feeding on scraps.
“Nobody is expecting a £10 million striker to come in and create his own opportunities. He needs people to create chances for him.”
Sky Sports pundit Neil Mellor claims the Owls don’t play to Rhodes’ strengths.
The former Wednesday loanee said: “I think the reason why he hasn’t scored too many goals [is because] Sheffield Wednesday don’t commit too many players forward into the penalty area.
“Now if Jordan’s one of maybe two inside the penalty area he’s a lot easier to mark. If all of a sudden there are three or four Sheffield Wednesday players getting into the penalty area. that’s when Jordan’s at his best, finding that little bit of space and that’s where he gets his goalscoring opportunities.”
Although Rhodes has struggled to make a big impact at S6, Laws is backing him to come good.
“Strikers go through barren spells,” he said. “Rhodes needs a good pre-season.
“People forget he didn’t play much in the first six months of the season. He had a lot of catching up to do.
“I think if he gets a good pre-season under his belt and plays games then you will certainly see more from him.
“Rhodes is obviously a confidence player and when he’s confident he will instinctively score goals.
“When he’s not as confident, that’s perhaps when you see his reluctance to take a penalty.
“He didn’t feel confident to go out there and put the ball in the net.”