Steve Bruce: Characters are key on Villa's big night

Jackson Irvine of Hull City is tackled by Robert Snodgrass of Aston Villa during the Sky Bet Championship match between Hull City and Aston Villa at KCOM Stadium

Aston Villa booked their place in the Championship play-off final following a 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough. They're in the driving seat here, having won the first leg of this semi thanks to a solitary strike from Mile Jedinak, and they've got play-off specialist Steve Bruce in their corner.

With the game in the balance, Sam Johnstone stormed out off his line and ended up handling the ball outside the box, saving the goalbound effort.

However, Boro winger Stewart Downing almost forced extra time when he sent a free kick against the bar in the 88th minute of the second leg.

There is no doubt the Manchester United loanee was lucky to stay on the pitch.

Villa will now face Fulham in the final at Wembley Stadium on May 26. Scott Hogan was also on the bench. But he could still win the game for them, and I'm sure he's desperate to do that against his old club.

"It irks me to say this as we have just lost, but the team who have finished third and fourth are the teams who have gone to Wembley and, over a season, here is justification".

Robert Snodgrass of Aston Villa arrives during the Sky Bet Championship Play Off Semi Final First Leg match between Middlesbrough and Aston Villa at Riverside Stadium

A stirring minute's applause for former Villa full-back Jlloyd Samuel following his tragic death provided some perspective ahead of kick-off.

So, the first 90 mins are done and dusted with Aston Villa taking a slender lead back to Villa Park on Tuesday with a hard-fought 1-0 win.

"We've given ourselves a chance, we've given ourselves a small advantage, but we've been around long enough to know that we can't get carried away with it, that's for sure".

Villa came close through Lewis Grabban and Conor Hourihane and were comfortable against a poor Boro side.

But his hopes of a fifth promotion from the second tier remain intact - and over the two legs Villa's progression was merited.

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