Nottingham Forest finally clinch Premier League return as Huddersfield heartbroken in play-off final

James Garner celebrates for Nottingham Forest

Nottingham Forest have secured their long-awaited return to the Premier League thanks to a 1-0 win over Huddersfield Town in the Championship play-off final.

Forest have been outside the top-flight since 1999, but have enjoyed a revival under Steve Cooper. After finishing fourth in the Championship, they beat Sheffield United on penalties in the play-off semi-final and then met a Huddersfield side who had overcome Luton.

Huddersfield had finished one place above Forest in the Championship table. However, it was Cooper’s side who won the Wembley showpiece after a tense 90 minutes.

The first chance of the game, after the 10th minute, fell to Forest. A free kick from James Garner on the left was inviting for Ryan Yates, but his header missed the target.

Another opportunity fell to Yates about 10 minutes later, this time with his feet. However, he fired over the bar.

At the other end, Huddersfield’s liveliest moment yet came when Sorba Thomas raced down the left wing and played the ball across goal. However, Forest keeper Brice Samba claimed comfortably.

By this point, there had still been no shots on target in the match. Huddersfield began upping the pressure, though, and soon after, Danny Ward had an effort blocked after a corner.

But it was Forest who took the lead in the 43rd minute. Garner fired the ball ambitiously from outside the area and as Yates tried to divert it goalward, Levi Colwill turned it into his own net.

The first genuine shot on target of the match, given the opening goal came off a defender, came shortly into the second half. Yates’ effort from distance was comfortable for Lee Nicholls, though.

Huddersfield were putting some pressure on in the opposite direction, but Forest’s defenders were standing up to it well.

As the hour-mark approached, Manchester United loanee Garner tried to curl one from outside the box again, but Nicholls got his hands on it comfortably.

Nottingham Forest survive two Huddersfield penalty appeals

Huddersfield had appeals for a penalty when Harry Toffolo went down in the box under a challenge from Jack Colback. However, referee Jon Moss – on the last outing of his career – signalled a Forest free kick instead due to it being judged as a dive.

VAR was in operation for the final and Paul Tierney upheld Moss’ original decision.

Another Town player went down in the box soon after, when Lewis O’Brien was brought to the deck by Max Lowe. Once again, the officials were unmoved.

Forest’s nerves were tested when they were forced to change goalkeeper Samba in the closing minutes due to injury. Ethan Horvath replaced him ahead of six minutes of stoppage time.

Within them, O’Brien whipped an inviting low delivery towards the far corner, but no Huddersfield attacker could connect.

Therefore, they ended the game without a shot on target. In turn, Forest could celebrate a top-flight return more than two decades in the making.

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