Boss Dean Smith hailed Jed Steer’s career turnaround after Aston Villa reached the Sky Bet Championship play-off final following a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory at 10-man West Brom.
Goalkeeper Steer saved Albion’s first two spot-kicks from Mason Holgate and Ahmed Hegazi as Villa won 4-3 on penalties after losing 1-0 on the night and drawing 2-2 on aggregate.
Tammy Abraham scored the winning penalty – after Albert Adomah missed his chance to win it – to send Villa to their second successive play-off final after last year’s defeat to Fulham.
Craig Dawson’s first-half header forced extra-time but Baggies skipper Chris Brunt was sent off with 10 minutes of normal time left.
Steer spent the first half of the season on loan at League One Charlton before being recalled after Orjan Nyland’s season-ending Achilles injury in December.
Smith, who revealed his attacking intentions prior to the game, said: “It’s amazing what can happen and how opportunities arise. Orjan was doing well but snapped his Achilles and the phone call went in to get Jed back and he’s been brilliant for us.
“They were two great penalty saves and we had prepared for penalties since the day we qualified for the play-offs. A lot of preparation went into it, you have to put in the work and it went for us.
“There’s still one to go, we can be proud of getting to the final. We’re one game from getting to the Premier League.
“The top six in this league is really tough this season, they made it very difficult for us in both games but we deserved it.
“It’s a challenge, we keep throwing challenges at these boys and they keep on accepting them and doing well.”