THE great Yorkshire show will come early this year after Huddersfield Town sealed a mouth-watering League I play-off final showdown with Sheffield United at Wembley on Saturday week.
Alan Smith’s late goal earned the battling Dons a 2-1 win on the night with the former Leeds player heading home from a corner two minutes into stoppage time, but Town held out to end a nerve-jangling game on a high.
Town, who were 2-0 up from the first leg, have yet to clinch a home play-off victory in eight attempts after Daniel Powell cancelled out Jordan Rhodes’ well-taken 40th goal of the season during a tense first half.
But it is a statistic which will surely be forgiven by Town followers, who remained loyal and loud throughout, if they win at the national stadium in a game to savour.
With left-back Calum Woods passing a fitness test on his toe injury but midfielder Scott Arfield (ankle) missing out, Town made just one change to Saturday’s starting line-up.
Kallum Higginbotham, who impressed after replacing Arfield in the first leg, came in.
MK relegated on-loan Newcastle man Smith to the bench, with Jay O’Shea getting the nod for the XI.
Town fans were making the most of the cardboard clackers provided by the club, but on a greasy surface following a pre-match shower, it was the Dons who had the first chance with Town keeper Ian Bennett smothering Charlie MacDonald’s low angled shot.
The home side were looking a little nervy but conjured a decent chance when Damien Johnson and Rhodes combined to set up Lee Novak, who shot wide.
Johnson was again involved as Town worked hard to break down MK’s attacks and he made a key block as O’Shea put in a low drive before Bennett had to race out to thwart MacDonald as he broke through on goal.
There was an air of tension about the stadium, but it was eased when Town went ahead in the 18th minute.
Rhodes showed nerves of steel to make the most of an assist by Danny Ward who flicked the ball on for his teammate to step round keeper David Martin and roll the ball home.
Rhodes ran straight towards the Kilner Bank who rose as one to acclaim another slick strike by the Scotland international hot shot.
Town were now looking far more confident and a quick break involving Jack Hunt and Rhodes threatened the Dons defence until Ward was ruled offside by a narrow margin.
MK continued to push for a goal of their own, however, and were unlucky when Dean Bowditch’s effort hit Town skipper Peter Clarke and looped over.
Town, having lost both Woods and Arfield to injuries in the first leg, were forced to make another unplanned change in the 35th minute, when Alex Smithies replaced Bennett, who damaged a hand during a scramble prompted by Bowditch’s low cross.
The unfortunate Smithies was beaten within four minutes when Powell’s low drive from 20 yards nestled in the left-hand corner of the net to put a fresh complexion on the contest.
Town were now facing a real test of character.
And they almost came unstuck in the 44th minute, when MacDonald met a cross inside the six-yard box but somehow put his header off target.
There was another moment of tension five minutes into the second half when Tommy Miller lost possession and Stephen Gleeson pounced to set up MacDonald, whose low effort was only just off target.
Town badly needed to rediscover the assurance they had shown at stadium:MK on Saturday, and there was encouragement for the home support when Hunt played a lovely one-two with Higginbotham to set up Novak, who was denied by Martin.
MK Dons manager Karl Robinson made a double substitution on 71 minutes, including striker Jabo Ibehre for defender Adam Chicksen, but Town were still having the majority of the possession and Rhodes came close with a volley across the face of goal.