There was one change to each side from Saturday’s starting line-ups. Daniel Ayala missed out with a knee injury and was replaced by Dael Fry.

Ahmed Elmohamady was also injured in that game, missing tonight with hamstring problems and replaced by James Bree.

Shortly before kick-off there was a minute of rapturous applause right around the ground for former Villa and Bolton player Jlloyd  Samuel who was tragically killed in a car crash this morning, he was just 37.

Villa pressed early, Jack Grealish had a shot from the edge of the box charged down seconds before Albert Adomah set up Lewis Grabban who took just too long to try and pick his spot and the effort was defected for a corner.

When a clearance from Darren Randolph cannoned back over his head off Conor Hourihane there was momentary concern, but the flight of the ball was kind.

It was Boro’s turn to press next, Mo Besic picking out George Friend who skipped past two challenges and cut into the box, but was shown the yellow card for his challenge on Sam Johnstone as the pair contested a loose ball.

The hope with the travelling faithful was that that was a sign of better things to come and when Jonny Howson rose unchallenged in the box to meet a left-wing delivery Boro had a chance; one that was wasted as the header was miscued.

It took strong and determined defending from Fry to keep Grabban off the ball as Villa looked for a release from the pressure Boro were beginning to build.

It was proving difficult to get through, though Villa didn’t look quite as solid as they did at the Riverside.

It did, however, take an excellent block from Friend to deny Hourihane deep in the Boro box, then James Chester shot just wide on the turn from similar range.

Back came Boro, a storming run from Britt Assombalonga took him to the heart of the Villa defence but eventually out of options, crowded out by three defenders.

Villa continued to be forced to play in their own half and were arguably the happier side at the sound of the half-time whistle.

Half-time Villa 0 Boro 0

The nerves of the home fans continued to be stretched, expectation weighing heavily against what they were watching – which was Boro getting closer and closer.

Besic probed, Traore pressed, Howson found space, Clayton kept on driving; still no breakthrough and time was pas passing too quickly.

Suddenly a spurt from Villa, their fans doing their utmost to roar their team on, and Grabban was in like a flash and Boro were grateful for a smart save from Randolph.

Fresh energy flushed through those wearing claret and for a while Boro had to dig in.  

Midway through a second half that was beginning the edge in Villa’s favour, Tony Pulis swopped Assombalonga for Patrick Bamford.

It was Villa, though, who went close as Grabban turned 360 degrees 25 yards out and despatched a thunderous shot that Randolph tipped over.

Change number two wasn’t like for like, as Rudy Gestede, who thought he had played his last game of the season when suffering injury against Hull in February, returned to action. Howson the man to make way.

It took another excellent save from Randolph to keep out an edge of area curler from Grealish in a patch of football where Villa played the best they had over the two legs.

With just over five minutes or normal time remaining Fabio, on for Ryan Shotton in Boro’s final change, swept over a cross only inches away from Bamford and Gestede, then two minutes later Johnstone handled just outside the box when blocking a Traore lob. There were covering defenders, so only a yellow was shown but Boro had a free-kick.

Stewart Downing took it – it thudded against the top of the bar.

There was one more half chance, but Fabio couldn’t get the ball from under his feet to get in a meaningful shot.

Aston Villa Johnstone; Hutton, Chester, Terry (Capt.), Bree, Snodgrass, Grealish, Hourihane (Whelan 84), Jedinak, Adomah (Bjarnason 90), Grabban (Kodjia 78). Subs Bunn (gk); Samba, Hogan, Onomah.

Boro Randolph; Shotton (Fabio 81), Fry, Gibson (Capt.), Friend, Traore, Clayton, Howson (Gestede 72), Besic, Downing, Assombalonga (Bamford 67). Subs Konstantopoulos (gk); Cranie, Leadbitter, Harrison.

Referee Mike Dean. The Wirral

Yellow cards
Villa Snodgrass 34, foul; Hutton 44, foul; Grealish 60, foul; Johnston 87, handball.
Boro Friend 12, foul; Besic 79, foul

Attendance 40,505 (2,000 Boro)

Conditions Mild and dry