Birmingham: A long, traumatic season for Steve Bruce could yet deliver a happy ending of sorts as Aston Villa moved to within 90 minutes of a return to the Premier League.
For Bruce, who has been through such a distressing time after losing both parents in the past three months, it would be a remarkable achievement if he can see this gruelling campaign through and mastermind his fifth promotion to the top flight.
Fulham await at Wembley on Saturday week after Villa frustrated a Middlesbrough side that were left to rue the goal that Mile Jedinak headed in at the Riverside in the first leg.
On an evening gripped with tension from start to finish, the real drama arrived late and left Tony Pulis bemoaning Mike Dean’s failure to send off Sam Johnstone after the Aston Villa goalkeeper, dashing from his line, handled outside the area to prevent Adama Traore’s shot from looping over his head in the 88th minute. Although John Terry was trying to get back and cover, it was questionable whether the Villa captain would have been able to retrieve the situation, yet Dean decided only to show a yellow card to Johnstone.
Stewart Downing’s shot from the free-kick that followed clipped the crossbar and with that Middlesbrough’s hopes of returning to the Premier League at the first time of asking were extinguished. (Guardian News & Media Ltd)