Middlesbrough boss Tony Pulis was upset Aston Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone was not sent off after handling outside the area late on in Tuesday’s Championship play-off semi-final second leg.
A goalless draw at Villa Park was enough for Steve Bruce’s side to secure a 1-0 aggregate win and a meeting with Fulham at Wembley on May 26.
But Pulis was focused on a controversial moment three minutes from time when the Villa No 1 saved a goalbound effort from Adama Traore outside his 18-yard box.
Middlesbrough boss Tony Pulis wanted Aston Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone sent off
Referee Mike Dean chose not to send off Johnstone, instead giving him a yellow card, with Stewart Downing hitting the crossbar from the resulting free kick.
Pulis said: ‘I think it’s a disappointing decision from one of our top officials.
‘It irks me a little bit but the teams who finished third and fourth are going to Wembley and that’s justification of what they’ve done over the season. We’ve just fallen short.
‘In both games you need things to go for you and tonight there are one or two decisions which have not gone for us.
Johnstone was cautioned when he handled outside the area in the dying minutes
Steve Bruce claims Aston Villa were a ‘mess’ after their relegation from the Premier League
‘I have a fabulous chairman, everyone wants to do things for you at the club. We have to improve next year.’
Bruce admits he inherited a club in a ‘mess’ after taking Villa to the final.
Villa were relegated from the Premier League in 2016, losing their top-flight status for the first time in 29 years.
They came fourth in the Sky Bet Championship this season and Bruce, who was appointed in October 2016 with Villa 19th, knows it has been a long slog.
He said: ‘Eighteen or 19 months ago this club was in a mess but the experienced players have done the job for us and we’re delighted about that.
Jack Grealish is surrounded by Villa fans after securing their play-off final spot on Tuesday
‘As a one-off it’s fantastic if you go up through the play-offs, although I would love to have been second and sitting on a beach now.
‘It was always going to be tough but what has got us through is our defence over two games.
‘If any team deserved to win the game tonight I think it was us.’
Mile Jedinak’s first-leg header ultimately settled the tie on Saturday as the sides slugged out a scrappy stalemate at Villa Park.
Villa captain John Terry told Sky Sports: ‘It’s unbelievable and incredible. The support from the lads, the dressing room is incredible.
‘There is a great team spirit among the boys. One more step and it’ll be the dream.’
Stewart Downing hit the bar for Middlesbrough late on but they did not register a shot on target.
Villa came close through Lewis Grabban and Conor Hourihane and were comfortable against a poor Boro side.
Lewis Grabban sees an effort saved by Darren Randolph during the draw with Middlesbrough
Grealish tested Randolph with a curling strike in the second half of the second leg at Villa Park