Celebrations: Dean Smith and Jack Grealish.
practice makes...

Villa were working on penalties for four weeks before last night's play-off win, Smith says

His side netted four of their five penalties against West Brom to secure their place in the final on 27 May.

ASTON VILLA MANAGER Dean Smith has revealed his side have been practicing penalties for nearly four weeks in preparation for the play-offs.

That time spent on the training ground proved invaluable for Villa, who secured their spot in the play-off final by beating West Brom via penalties on Tuesday night.

The second leg had finished 1-0 to the Baggies, cancelling out their Midland rival’s 2-1 advantage from the previous encounter last weekend, meaning the tie was settled with a shootout. 

Conor Hourihane, Mile Jedinak, Jack Grealish and Tammy Abraham all converted their spot kicks, with Albert Adomah’s effort proving to be the only blot on Villa’s copybook.

Even goalkeeper Jed Steer’s practise proved invaluable for his side, and he saved two of West Brom’s four penalties.

Speaking after the game, Smith revealed the lengths his team had gone to, in order to prepare for a potential penalty shootout.

“To be honest, we’ve worked very hard; from the day we knew we were in the play-offs, we started working on penalties,” the Villa manager told Sky Sports.

“We’ve been doing this for four weeks: we had a plan of who would take them, and the goalkeeping coach works very hard with Jed Steer in terms of which way the opposition would go.”

“There were about three or four of them who wanted the fifth penalty. Tammy Abraham is a prolific finisher and he’s shown that tonight.”

Villa will now play either Leeds United or Derby County in the showpiece event in two weeks time. The former are one goal ahead from the first leg, and with home advantage in the return meeting, Marco Bielsa’s side are heavy favourites to face Villa.

“Everybody knows the rewards by going and doing it [getting promoted] and it’s going to be tough because they are two good teams, Leeds and Derby,” said Smith. 

“Albion put up a really good defensive performance over the two games, made it difficult and that’s why it ended up going to penalties.”

Under Smith — a boyhood Villa fan himself — there has been a huge improvement in recent months, which has seen the former European champions surge up the table, thanks in part to a club-record 10-game winning run.

“I’m not that emotional, to be honest,” Smith insisted at full-time. 

“I’m very proud of the lads, but the disappointing thing is that I can’t believe we lost the game tonight. I felt we should have won the game in normal time but our quality wasn’t good enough in the final third.

“We’ve had a lot of the ball all game again, but that’s job done, I suppose, in terms of getting to the next game at Wembley.”]

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