Villains are Boro Heartbreakers
By Robert Nichols
Wednesday 16 May 2018 10:28:00
Browse all Match Reviews articles
Heartbreak for Boro fans last night as our team were unable to topple Aston Villa. Boro's season is finally over as we failed to crack the defensive wall of Steve Bruce's Aston Villa to go out 1-0 on aggregate in the play off semi final. That glancing header by Mile Jedinak at the Riverside proved decisive in a tie of few chances. Boro went down fighting with Stewy Downing hitting the bar in the final minutes but it is Villa that took the applause of the 40 000 crowd and march on to Wembley.

Villa ParkIt was a daunting prospect last night to overcome the 40 000 as well as one goal deficit but Boro had plenty of purple patches in the game. Yet we struggled to get chances on target and break through the superbly marshalled defences of John Terry and co.

Before the game everything was put in context when the two teams joined in a minute's applause for the tragic death of former Villa player Jlloyd Samuel killed in a car crash at the age of just 37.

Then it was straight into the white hot cauldron of the play off second leg with both sets of fans getting behind their teams.

Boro enjoyed some really bright possession in a first half that we shaved. But with a goal deficit to catch up, we needed to get on top. George Friend surged through along the byeline but instead of releasing the ball darted through into the keeper and was cautioned. Traore was again well shackled and took time to settle but gradually the fouls and bookings against him began to mount up. Could he make that decisive impact?

Britt Assombalonga's most dangerous moment was when he tried to run through Aston Villa from the half way line and nearly made it but finally ran out of legs and balance in the box. It certainly fired up the Boro crowd though.

For all Boro's pressing it was Villa that had the shots on target. A string of wonderful saves showed what a fantastic season Darren Randolph has had, once again keeping us in the context. Ahead of him young Dael Fry had stepped in for Dan Ayala and performed so well in such a massive game. He made a couple of mistakes towards the end, perhaps mentally as well as physically tired but surely he will only gain from the step up.

The tie was perhaps a little much for a couple of Boro's players. Mo Besic has played such a big part in our surge to the play offs but maybe his inexperience showed in the two legs. He was not always able to have a clear head and make the vital decisions in the pressure cooker atmosphere. But it is only through playing in games like this and learning from them that his career will develop.

Boro piled on the forwards towards the end. Bamford, big Rudy Gestede and Fabio all came on. What a fairy tale it would have been if Rudy had crowned his comeback with a decisive goal at his former club. Indeed he was involved in setting up Adama a couple of minutes from the end. The chip by the winger was blocked by their keeper making an illegal save outside the box. The only real controversy of the game was that the keeper somehow stayed on the pitch. He and Villa were ridiculously lucky.

With time running out it seemed to be all about Stewy Downing's free kick. The tension was amazing at this point. He struck it so well but just couldn't keep it down enough as the ball slammed against the cross bar and went over the top. That was nearly it.

Fabio created and nearly finished chances as Boro threw everyone forward in the four minute's of added time. But it was not to be and sadly that was that. Many a tear was shed in the Boro seats as the team stood firm against the Villa pitch invasion and applauded our fans. It was a moving moment as shirts were given away before we exited into the cold reality of Villa fans dancing the delight of a Wemberley jig.

No, not to be. The end of the road. At the start of the season this would have seemed a disaster. An expensively built team of promotion favourites. But when you think of where we were in December, without a manager, without a plan or direction. Then in mid April down to 10 men and 2-0 down at Bramall Lane. Well, it has been one helluva effort since then. A brilliant late push. Tony Pulis is of course correct it is really fair and just that the 3rd and 4th place teams have qualified for the final showdown. In the end they proved superior. We now have to take a break and then come back together stronger and more determined than ever to go one better next season. We need to be fired up by the passion of these big end of season games and build on what we nearly achieved rather than tearing ourselves apart.

But that is for next season. This campaign is finally over and we took it to beyond the end and went down fighting. We have tasted the big time atmosphere again. We have also tasted heartbreak and defeat. Now we all need a break.

Up The Boro

Aston Villa 0 (1)- 0 Middlesbrough.

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