It was the big one. All Aston Villa had to do was not lose to West Brom and we would book a place in the Playoff final for the second year running. Fortunately, I was one of those lucky 2000 fans who got their hands on a golden ticket. This is my matchday experience.
I had originally planned to get the train to the Hawthorns but the possibility of the penalties persuaded me to get the coach. The easier option. The coach departed Villa Park at around 6.10pm and everyone seems in high spirits for the game. The nerves were clear to see but we were all confident that we could get the job done.
As we arrived at The Hawthorns, it was clear the magnitude of the game. The stadium was rocking. Both Villa and West supporters doing their best to get behind their sides.
It was a nervy start to the game. Both sets of fans clearly on the edge of their seats, dreaming about that first goal. Just before the half-hour mark, a goal did come. It was for West Brom who levelled the tie through Craig Dawson.
The first half became very even. Both sides attacked and defended well with very few chances created. Half time came, and at 1-0 down I remained hopeful that we could pinch a goal and take the match in normal time. Punters were confident the game would see over 1.5 goals. Some bookmakers had set the line at 2.5.
What came next was an onslaught. For the large majority of the second half, Villa had the ball in the final third and passed it around well but we couldn’t chisel our way through the 10 man defence in front of the West Brom goal. The baggies managed to take it to extra time.
Just like the second half, Villa continued to completely dominate West Brom. The problem was we really struggled to break them down. The prospect of penalties was fast becoming more likely by the minute. Sam Johnstone kept the baggies in it late on with a sensational save. He denied Albert Adomah from close range.
After a long 120 minutes of football, penalties finally came and we all know that it is just a lottery. The man of the moment Jed Steer gave us a huge advantage by saving the first 2 penalties. Conor Hourihane and Mile Jedinak scored our first 2. After a heart-wrenching shootout, Tammy Abraham stepped up and sent the Villa fans into a frenzy.
The atmosphere was fantastic from both sets of fans. I have heard a few say they haven’t heard West Brom as loud as they were last night. It was clear there was a lot on the line.
The celebrations that followed Tammy’s penalty were excellent. The West Brom fans appeared to take the defeat better than our other City rivals as they exited the Hawthorns. The policing in and around the ground from my experience seemed like everyone was able to enjoy the game.
See you all at Wembley Villans.