Dean Smith 'proud' of Aston Villa players as they book Championship play-off final spot
Dean Smith revealed how practice made perfect after Villa prevailed on penalties against Albion to book their place in the Championship play-off final for the second year running.
Goalkeeper Jed Steer was the hero, saving from both Mason Holgate and Ahmed Hegazi to help Villa win 4-3 in a dramatic shootout, after the 10-man Baggies had earned a 1-0 second leg win.
Tammy Abraham thumped home the winning spot-kick after Albert Adomah had missed for Villa, who now face either Leeds or Derby at Wembley on May 27.
Smith revealed how his team had been practicing penalties since qualifying for the play-offs last month.
He said: “They were two great penalty saves. To be honest with you we have been preparing for a long time.
“The day we qualified for the play-offs against Millwall we have practiced every day.
“That meant we had a good idea of who our penalty takers would be. A lot of preparation went into it. A lot of rehearsals.
“That came right down to Jed Steer kicking the ball to our players before we took the penalties. You have to put in the work and it paid off for us in the end.”
Villa, who led 2-1 from the first leg, were pegged back on aggregate by Craig Dawson’s first-half header.
And they were unable to find a way past a resolute Albion defence, even after the hosts had been reduced to 10 men when Chris Brunt saw red.
“To be honest I am annoyed we lost the game,” said Smith. “That is the thing which sticks in my head.
“We had worked on them so I was annoyed with the goal. But we were wasteful at times and that is when it was 11 v 11. When it was 11 v 10 you have give them credit.
“They circled the waggons and made it very difficult. We should have got that goal but credit to the West Brom. They were two tough games.
“If you had offered me this position 15 games ago I would have snapped your hands off.
“As Villa head coach I am very proud. From where we were back in February. That is our first defeat since Brentford.
“After that game you would not have expected us to go on the run we went on. That is a credit to the players and the staff.”