Steve Bruce is looking forward to another day out at Wembley after Hull booked their third trip to the national stadium in two years.
But Bruce saw his side do it the hard way as they were pushed all the way in an aggregate 3-2 victory over Derby in the Championship semi-final.
Johnny Russell and an Andy Robertson own goal earned Derby a 2-0 win in the second leg, a repeat of the score the Rams had achieved at the KC Stadium during the regular season in November.
Derby had also beaten Hull 4-0 at home but it was the play-off first-leg 3-0 defeat at the iPro Stadium on Saturday – courtesy of Abel Hernandez, a Jason Shackell own goal and Robertson – which proved decisive and earned the Tigers another trip to the capital where they will face Sheffield Wednesday.
Following FA cup semi-final and final trips in 2014 – the latter ending in a 3-2 extra-time defeat to Arsenal – the Tigers are on their way back to London at the end of the month.
A relieved Bruce said: “We are through and we will start preparing for a big day out at Wembley.”
Reaching the final was the minimum requirement for Bruce after his side faded from one-time leaders to miss out on automatic promotion and an immediate return to the Premier League.
“For a club like ours it’s a magnificent achievement [to get back to Wembley]. In that respect we’re really pleased,” the Hull manager added.
Bruce knew that his side nearly threw their advantage away and revealed he had tried to calm their nerves at half time in the second leg.
“We had to erase everything and do the basics,” he said. “Go back to basics was the call and we knew we still had the goal to hang on to. In the second half our defensive side kicked in.”
Derby manager Darren Wassall had gone into the second leg believing in his players who were looking to create Football League history by becoming the first team to come back from a 3-0 first-leg deficit in the play-offs.
“We all believed before the game we could win the game, we believed that we could do it,” he said. “I thought everybody saw tonight that the belief was there.”
But despite fighting their way back into the tie Derby were not able to complete the comeback, leaving Wassall still unsure how they had not done it. “To beat Hull three times, we are the only team to win here. We have won here twice and we still haven’t gone through,” he said.
Asked what the future held for him after the defeat, Wassall added: “I’m going to get back on the coach, very disappointed at going out of the tie, and have a pizza on the way home.”
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