Aston Villa booked themselves a place in the Championship Playoff Final at Wembley Stadium against Fulham following a goalless draw at Villa Park against Middlesbrough.
Steve Bruce made just the one change following the 1-0 victory at the Riverside on Saturday with James Bree replacing the injured Ahmed Elmohamady.
Despite having a lot of the ball, Middlesbrough very rarely threatened at Villa Park as Alan Hutton once again marked former Villa winger Adama Traore out of the game.
Villa had the only real effort worth talking about in the opening 45 minutes. 6 minutes before the break the ball ricocheted its way to James Chester who could only pull his effort wide of the goal. Some Villa fans called for a penalty as Chester’s shirt was shred.
The next big chance fell to the home side on the hour mark. Albert Adomah raced down the left and found on-loan Bournemouth striker Lewis Grabban in the middle of the goal but Middlesbrough goalkeeper Darren Randolph was quick off his line to deny the striker from close range.
Middlesbrough continued to dominate large parts of the possession but struggled to make any real impact on the game.
Villa went close again with 15 minutes to go as Jack Grealish, who was a constant threat in both games, worked himself some space to shoot from the edge of the area but once again Randolph was there to deny Bruce’s men with a flying save.
In the last few minutes of the game, Middlesbrough finally caused Villa problems but there was plenty of controversy surrounding it.
Traore found his way through and tried to lift the ball over Sam Johnstone, who appeared to handball outside the area to give away a free-kick. Referee, Mike Dean, only felt it deserved a yellow card and awarded Tony Pulis’ men an opportunity late on.
Former Villa winger Stewart Downing stepped up but his effort could only rattle the crossbar with the final whistle coming just moments later.
It was hard to watch at times but Villa got stuck in and will know they will need to be better against Fulham at Wembley but I guess you can only beat what is in front of you.
We are two thirds there and all that separates Villa and a return to the Premiership is 90 minutes against Fulham at Wembley Stadium. Before you start placing any hasty bets on the game, you may want to make use of the betting tips on sites like topfootballtipster.com or see what people are saying on the football forum footballforums.net and make an informed bet based on that.
Johnstone (7), Bree (7), Chester (7), Terry (7), Hutton (8), Snodgrass (7), Hourihane (7), Jedinak (9), Grealish (8), Adomah (6), Grabban (6).
Subs: Kodjia (6), Whelan (6), Bjarnason (6).
Steve Bruce: “We’ve just shaded it over the two games. We’ve got a goal from a set-piece which has won two games, basically. There’s not much in the teams but I don’t think they’ve had a shot on target in the two games. That stood us in good stead, obviously.”
Tony Pulis: “We’ve had good spells in both games, but we had to create a little bit more and score goals. That’s been the difference really, a set play has cost us over the two games.”