Terry hails Villa spirit with Premier League place just one game away

Belfast Telegraph - - SPORT - BY NICK MASHITER

As­ton Villa win 1-0 on agg AS­TON Villa reached the Sky Bet Cham­pi­onship play-off fi­nal af­ter a 1-0 ag­gre­gate win over Mid­dles­brough.

Steve Bruce’s side claimed a 0-0 draw at Villa Park last night, de­spite a nervy fi­nale, to progress fol­low­ing their 1-0 vic­tory at the River­side on Satur­day.

They will face Ful­ham — who beat Derby on Mon­day — in the fi­nal at Wem­b­ley on Satur­day week as they look to end a twoyear Premier League ex­ile.

Villa’s vet­eran de­fender John Terry said: “It was two very good per­for­mances.

“The boys were dif­fer­ent class. It was im­por­tant we didn’t con­cede. Another clean sheet is very good. The game­plan was su­perb so the man­ager de­serves a lot of credit for that.

“There’s a great team spirit among the boys. One more step and it’ll be the dream.

“Boro are a very good side... (Adama) Traore is a big threat but (Alan) Hutton was su­perb over the two legs.”

Villa play­maker Jack Gre­al­ish added: “We fought hard tonight. Now we’re look­ing for­ward to the fi­nal.

“I put a lot of my good form lately down to this guy (Terry) and I thank him for that.

“It’s all to play for at Wem­b­ley. It’s a one-off game. With the qual­ity in our team, we’ve got enough to go at them (Ful­ham).”

Boro spent around £50mil­lion in search of an in­stant re­turn to the Premier League but sacked Garry Monk af­ter just over six months in charge. Re­place­ment Tony Pulis took them to fifth but they now face another sea­son in the sec­ond tier.

In a game short on clear chances, Conor Houri­hane headed off the line from Boro’s Ryan Shot­ton while at the other end, Darren Ran­dolph saved from Lewis Grab­ban.

Ste­wart Down­ing’s free-kick hit the bar late on for Boro — af­ter Villa keeper Sam John­stone was lucky to es­cape a red card for hand­ball out­side the area.

But Mile Je­d­i­nak’s first-leg header set­tled a tie which Villa rarely looked like los­ing.

Their early en­ergy was con­trasted by Boro’s nerves and the vis­i­tors sur­vived when Houri­hane charged down Ran­dolph’s clear­ance.

James Bree had al­ready shot wide dur­ing Villa’s bright start as they tried to kill the tie off.

Slowly, though, Boro gained mo­men­tum with­out open­ing Villa up in a scrappy first half-hour.

Villa sur­vived a scare with three min­utes left when John­stone was only booked for han­dling Traore’s shot out­side the area and Down­ing hit the bar from the re­sult­ing free-kick. Wem­b­ley way: John Terry cel­e­brates last night’s tri­umph

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