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Advantage Villa in promotion play-off thanks to emphatic Jedinak header

Steve Bruce’s side take a one goal advantage to Villa Park ahead of next week’s second leg.

Mile Jedinak celebrates with team-mates after taking the lead on Saturday.
Mile Jedinak celebrates with team-mates after taking the lead on Saturday.
Image: Alex Livesey

Updated at 7.45pm

VETERAN AUSTRALIAN MILE Jedinak’s header proved the difference as Aston Villa beat Middlesbrough 1-0 in their Championship play-off first leg clash on Saturday.

The 33-year-old midfielder, who joined Villa from Crystal Palace in 2016, headed past Darren Randolph in the 15th minute to give Villa the upper hand heading into Tuesday’s second leg.

Derby lead Fulham by the same scoreline but have to travel to London for Monday’s second leg of their semi-final.

It turned out to be a dour battle between sides managed by two of the more experienced managers in the business — Middlesbrough’s Tony Pulis and Villa’s Steve Bruce.

Pulis will curse his players for not putting a player at the back post which could have prevented Jedinak’s header going in from a corner.

Villa poured on the pressure searching for a second goal with another header from Jedinak being turned round for a corner by Randolph and Albert Adomah’s shot hitting the side netting.

Scotland international Robert Snodgrass went close with a header as Middlesbrough tried desperately to weather the storm.

Middlesbrough v Aston Villa - Sky Bet Championship Play Off Semi Final:First Leg Conor Hourihane and Jack Grealish celebrate taking the lead. Source: Alex Livesey

The hosts finally got an effort on target in the 37th minute, but Britt Assombalonga’s header was well saved by Sam Johnstone.

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Ireland international Randolph produced an equally good save to touch Snodgrass’s sublime curling effort from outside the penalty area onto the post.

Middlesbrough, who finished fifth in the table, seven points below Villa, barely produced a chance in the second-half with just Fabio’s header seven minutes from time forcing Johnstone into a save.

However, Villa held on and Bruce remains on course to maintain his dreams of a fifth promotion to the Premier League and the third time through the play-offs.

The match was preceded by a moving moment when former Middlesbrough goalkeeping coach Leo Percovich was greeted by the Riverside crowd.

Two of his daughters were killed in a car crash in Brazil in December and he returned to Middlesbrough to thank Boro fans for their support.

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