THEY might not admit it now, but when Adama Traore and Albert Adomah swapped clubs in August 2016, there were plenty of Middlesbrough fans who felt their club had got the worst side of the deal.

Traore, who moved for a reported £6m, was an untried 20-year-old who wasn’t deemed good enough to make a single Premier League start as Villa crashed out of the Premier League the previous season. Adomah, who cost slightly more at around £6.5m, was a proven performer who had just played a pivotal role in Middlesbrough’s successful promotion campaign.

Why had Aitor Karanka agreed to let Adomah go? And why had he been so keen to land Traore in return? Almost two years on, and while the answer has been delivered on both scores, the pair will have contrasting ends to the season. While Traore will head off on his holidays, having been unable to inspire a successful play-off push, Adomah will take on Fulham at Wembley. Unlike Middlesbrough, he could be back in the Premier League next season.

Adomah has done what might realistically have been expected of him at Villa Park. A seasoned Championship campaigner, whose performances rarely dip too far below his median level, he has carved out a regular starting spot on the left-hand side of Steve Bruce’s preferred midfield. Prior to last night, he had scored 14 goals in 39 appearances this season. Steady, unspectacular, but nevertheless effective.

Traore’s statistical impact does not match that of Adomah. The winger went into last night’s play-off decider having scored five goals in 34 league outings, but after his performances under Tony Pulis in the last few months, you’d struggle to find many Boro supporters bemoaning the decision to sign him. Unlike with Adomah, you don’t always know what you’re going to get from the Spaniard. On his day though, he is capable of doing things that are completely beyond the compass of the player he was brought in to replace.

You won’t find Chelsea and Tottenham sniffing around Adomah, but the Premier League giants are both interested in Traore, who could yet command a fee in excess of £30m if he leaves Teesside this summer. As a result, the challenge facing the winger at kick-off at Villa Park was to ensure last night’s appearance was not his last in a Boro shirt. By the time the final whistle blew, it was hard to avoid the conclusion that it might have been.

Having been enveloped so completely during Saturday’s frustrating first leg at the Riverside, could Traore break free of his shackles second time around? For the vast majority of another disappointing evening, the answer was no.

Once again finding himself up against Alan Hutton, Traore spent the first half-an-hour struggling to get onto the ball. With both sides adopting a cagey approach in the opening stages, most of his work came close to the halfway line rather than deep inside the Villa half, and on the few occasions when he found himself in possession, he was closed down before he had an opportunity to make an impact.

As had been the case at the weekend, Hutton was onto him before he had chance to find space, but as the first half wore on, so the subtle changes in his approach to the game became apparent. On Saturday, Pulis had bemoaned the length of time it took Traore to lay off the ball. Last night, his passes were much quicker, often first-time balls rather than coming after two or three touches.

His first surge past Hutton came to nothing midway through the first half, but when he repeated the trick five minutes before the interval, his cross from the right-hand side forced Villa full-back James Bree to hurriedly head the ball behind for a corner.

Four minutes later, and a similar burst was halted illegally when Hutton was forced to grab his shirt and pull him back. It was the first time Hutton had been in danger of being outdone in 135 minutes, and the Scotsman’s infringement earned him a booking. Suddenly, Traore could sense blood.

Sadly, the second half also passed without him being able to land a telling blow. Hutton continued to keep him in check, and on the few occasions when Villa’s 33-year-old full-back found himself in trouble, Adomah scuttled back to provide some additional protection.

Adomah also began to get on the front foot, and when he delivered a dangerous low cross on the hour mark, Lewis Grabban stole ahead of his marker to steer in a low shot that Darren Randolph saved. It was the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock all night.

Traore’s frustrations were summed up 15 minutes before the end, as he turned away from Hutton, only to find Adomah nicking the ball away from his foot. He had tried everything he could, but in truth, it never really looked like being enough to unlock Villa’s exceptionally well-drilled defence.