Nottingham Forest return to the top division of English football after a 23-year exodus, after a 1-0 win over Huddersfield Town in the Football League Championship Playoff Final at Wembley.
Huddersfield defender Levi Colwill was four years from being born when Forest were last relegated from the Premier League, but it is his own goal that sends them back.
Under no pressure at all, Man Utd loanee James Garner fired a vicious dipping shot from distance that evaded all but the unlucky Terriers defender.
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Garner was Forest’s key player in the first half. He had almost created an opener with an excellent free kick a few minutes earlier but Ryan Yates didn't have quite enough spring in his step to get his header on target.
Garner’s assist came minutes after a brave, thunderous tackle on the edge of his own box to snuff out a half chance for the Terriers.
Huddersfield had been passive by design in the first half, conceding space and 70% possession, but in the second they were forced to attack with more conviction. In truth though, the Terriers created almost nothing of note in the second half despite a much improved showing.
Forest defended courageously, but never desperately, as Huddersfield besieged their goal but never managed to open them up.
Winger Samba Thomas was the notable exception, looking dangerous every time he had the ball.
In the sterile first half, he produced two genuinely brilliant moments, ghosting past Forest defenders on the left touchline and whipping in dangerous crosses.
Two decisions by Jon Moss will remain the 'what might have been' moments for Huddersfield.
With 20 minutes to play, and Huddersfield ascendant, Harry Toffolo made a late run into the box and appeared to be fouled by Jack Colback.
Moss initially waved play on but VAR was consulted and refused to overturn the decision. Replay certainly appeared to show contact but Toffolo was shown a yellow card for simulation.
10 minutes later, it was Lewis O'Brien going down under contact of Forest substitute Max Lowe. Once again, Moss waved play on and once again the replay seemed to show a foul.
But, with ten minutes remaining, Huddersfield had plenty of time to find an equaliser but created almost nothing of note.
Forest held out, and earned their promotion, as well as the massive financial prize that goes along with it.
A miracle season, which began with them bottom of the league and manager Chris Hughton sacked, ends with a return to the Promised Land.
The penalty shouts: In a match of few key moments, the two penalty appeals for Huddersfield in the second half stand out as decisive.
While neither the Colback tackle on Toffolo, nor the Lowe tangling with the legs of O’Brien were stonewall penalties, either could have been given with little genuine protest.
The fact that Huddersfield created so little else means that these two moments will not swiftly be forgotten.
For Forest too, these were truly heart-in-mouth moments. The Reds had barely threatened in the second half and Huddersfield had been the better side. Had either of the penalties been awarded (and converted), it is very easy to imagine that it would have been the Terriers returning to the top flight.
Player of the Match
James Garner: Garner was in all the key moments for Forest.
The free-kick for the Yates chance was top class, and the shot which created the goal, while admittedly under no pressure, was the perfect decision in the moment.
His dipping shot was simply too hot to handle for Huddersfield and if Colwill hadn’t scored, Yates would have.
His brave tackle on Danny Ward was also the smart move in the moment. Despite the risk of sliding in the box, Garner shut down one of Huddersfield’s very few dangerous moments fearlessly.
Beyond the brilliant moments, Garner showed for the ball throughout and showed a clear understanding of when to slow things down and when to increase the tempo.
Forest could do worse than to sign him on loan again next season.
Huddersfield: Nicholls 4, Pipa 5, Toffolo 6, Hogg 6, Thomas 8, Sarr 4, Sinani 5, Ward 6, Colwill 5, Lees 5. Subs: Rhodes 5, Holmes 5, Russell 7
Forest: Samba 7, Spence 6, Worrall 7, Colback 6, Davis 6, Zinckernagel 6, Johnson 6, Yates 7, McKenna 6, Cook 6, Garner 8. Subs: Horvath N/A, Lowe 5, Surridge 5
13’ CHANCE NOTTINGHAM FOREST - James Garner floats in a delicate free-kick and Yates is unmarked but he can’t get enough on his header to direct it on target.
35’ GREAT RUN SAMBA THOMAS - Huddersfield’s winger receives the ball on the touchline and flicks it by the onrushing Forest defender before racing into space. His cross is intercepted by Samba.
37’ HUGE TACKLE GARNER - Danny Ward receives the ball on the left edge of the box but as he looks up to deliver his cross, Garner comes sliding in with a thunderous challenge to shut down the opportunity.
43’ GOAL NOTTINGHAM FOREST - Garner shoots under no pressure from the left and his wickedly-dipping shot evades all but Huddersfield defender Levi Colwill, who turns it into his own net.
73’ YELLOW CARD HUDDERSFIELD - Harry Toffolo makes a late run into the box to pick up Thomas’ cut-back and goes down under the challenge from Jack Colback, it looks like a penalty but referee Jon Moss waves play on.
83’ PENALTY? NO, PLAY ON - Forest substitute Max Lowe gets his legs tangled with Lewis O'Brien. The Huddersfield players appeal but once again, Moss waves play on.
90’ BRICE SAMBA CAN’T GO ON - Forest lose their goalkeeper to injury in the shadow of full-time, can they hold on?
90+6’ FULL TIME - Nottingham Forest are promoted to the Premier League and Huddersfield face another campaign in the Championship
Huddersfield: The Terriers managed just four shots in a match which both sides (obviously) were desperate to win. The fact that Carlos Corberan set out his team so passively in the first half meant that a huge amount of time was wasted and no longer available when Forest got the opener.
It is a tried and tested formula in finals, but it was clearly not the right choice for a Huddersfield side that - Thomas apart - offered so little on the counter. The fact that they were able to play far more fluently after changing systems suggests that might have been the better choice from kick-off.
Forest: Forest's back three made 204 passes in their Playoff Final win. Joe Worrall was the top passer on the pitch, with 83 pass attempts. This reflects both Steve Cooper's successful tactic of using his backline as the key engine of ball distribution and the fact that those defenders were constantly available and open to receive a pass and reduce the pressure on their teammates. Forest won this match with both heart and head and that is reflected by the passing of their backline.
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