The opening sentence to my last post is where I want to start again because it's really important. More so now because of what happened to Derby last night. And because of how they set themselves up, I don't think anyone can be really surprised by the outcome. Derby didn't go out to win that match, they went out to not lose and it could have been one or two more.

Oh, the first sentence of my last post ...

As long as we don't treat the real second half like we treated that second half, I think we'll be okay on Tuesday.

We can't go out with that attitude tonight. If we do it is going to make the 90 minutes seem like 180 and it increases the chances of Middlesbrough scoring. And when they score one, like we saw last night, it will give them the energy to go get another. And then it will give them the energy to chase every single ball down.

You see, it wasn't just that Fulham won the match, they also didn't give Derby that much time on the ball. They always had two men up, chasing defenders and always looked to attacking. It was actually fun to watch. For Fulham, it was their FA Cup final and based on the scenes after the match, you'd be forgiven for thinking they won it too.

On that, if we win tonight, I hope we don't invade the pitch and for lots of reasons, but the main one is that we've won nothing, other than the right to play in the final match. If it meant automatic promotion or we could do it at Wembley, I'd say go for it, but it doesn't and we can't.

And while I understand that for many, this is the best season we've ever had and this is the most important game they've witnessed so there will be enthusiasm for it, but we're Aston Villa and we're not a Championship Club, so lets try and act that way. There are bigger things to come and those might not be in my time, but if I've learnt anything in my 40 odd years, it's that anything is possible and what goes around, comes around.

If we win tonight, lets store up that energy for when it's needed and lets not act like a Club that doesn't remember what it's like to be playing in the Premier League.

The manager

Match facts from the BBC

  • None of the previous 15 second-tier teams to win the first leg of a play-off semi-final (current format) away from home have failed to reach the final, but only six of those teams have won promotion.
  • Aston Villa have lost only one of their past 10 home games at Villa Park, winning seven and drawing two.
  • Middlesbrough have won just two of their past nine away games, although four of those have ended level (L3).
  • Steve Bruce has lost only one of his last seven play-off games as a manager (W4 D2).
  • Tony Pulis has only won two of his previous nine away games against Aston Villa as a manager, although those wins have come in the past four trips (D4 L3).