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Steve Bruce: 'End of Championship playoff semi-final was agony'

16 May, 2018, 08:13 | Author: Joan Malone
  • Steve Bruce explains how a change in Aston Villa's recruitment policy is helping them in the play-offs

The two teams will be competing for a chance to play Fulham in the final at Wembley after the Cottagers overturned a first leg deficit to beat Derby County 2-1 on aggregate, winning 2-0 at home on Monday evening.

The club's last trip to Wembley was under different circumstances - the FA Cup Final in 2015 - where they faced Arsenal.

For all his impressive performances this season, which has seen him linked with a move to the Premier League, Adama Traore truly failed to pull it off when it mattered most for his side.

There was a lack of goals here but no shortage of drama on a raucous night at Villa Park, with Stewart Downing's 88th-minute free-kick coming within the width of the crossbar of forcing extra-time. In the 87th minute, as Middlesbrough were pouring forward in search of an equaliser, Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone appeared to step out of his penalty area and make a save with his hands in an illegal position.

The young winger needs to start taking games by the scruff of their necks if he is to prove himself worthy of the big-name links.

Wolverhampton Wanderers and Cardiff were promoted automatically from the League Championship.

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Aston Villa: Johnstone; Bree, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane (Whelan 85), Grealish, Adomah (Bjarnason 90); Grabban (Kodija 79).

They came fourth in the Sky Bet Championship this season and Bruce, who was appointed in October 2016 with Villa 19th, knows it has been a long slog.

Middlesbrough ultimately came up short, however, and it is Villa, who were relegated from the Premier League two years ago, who have a shot at redemption.

And Bruce said he was delighted to secure the win for Villa's long-suffering supporters.

"If there was any team that deserved to win, I felt it was us".

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