The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Jonathan Veal

STEVE BRUCE could not help him­self from fear­ing the worst be­fore As­ton Villa fi­nally brought an end to their travel sick­ness.

Bruce saw his side regis­ter a first win on the road of 2017, beat­ing Rother­ham 2-0 thanks to a Will Vaulks own goal and Jonathan Kod­jia’s late strike.

Although the vic­tory – their third in a week af­ter a rot­ten run of form – was thor­oughly de­served, the Millers threat­ened to make Villa pay for missed chances with a late rally be­fore Kod­jia’s goal made the game safe.

“It was an aw­ful six weeks, I can’t deny that,” Bruce said. “But when I look back at the Ipswich and Not­ting­ham For­est games, we did enough to win. We had 50 shots on goal, and I thought it was go­ing to be some­thing sim­i­lar here.

“We have missed so many op­por­tu­ni­ties, we could have been three up in the first half. In the end it took an own goal to make the break­through.

“I was al­ways con­fi­dent we could get one be­cause of the law of av­er­ages, but there was a nag­ging worry that it might be an­other one of those af­ter­noons. We have done enough to win the game.”

One of the most guilty par­ties in front of goal was Conor Houri­hane, who missed three good op­por­tu­ni­ties. The for­mer Barnsley mid­fielder is be­gin­ning to make his mark at his new club, though, and Bruce is im­pressed.

“You have seen why we have bought him, he has been like that for 18 months and he has now got to take that to the big­ger level and that is play­ing for us,” he added.

“I have known him since he was a kid at Sun­der­land. On an­other day he could have scored two or three.

“The fans ap­pre­ci­ate him, he is a good foot­baller, he has got good abil­ity. He will be a big player for this club.”

There was no like­lier place for Villa’s away drought to end than at New York Sta­dium, the home of the coun­try’s leaki­est de­fence, and Villa were good value for their win.

They should have wrapped up the three points in the first half but Lewis Price made good saves to deny Houri­hane and Al­bert Adomah, while there was some heroic de­fend­ing from Ai­men Be­laid to deny Adomah again.

The break­through even­tu­ally came mid­way through the sec­ond half when Villa broke down the right and Adomah’s cross was skewed in at the far post by Millers de­fender Vaulks.

Bruce’s men missed sev­eral chances which gave Rother­ham hope be­fore the game was made safe by Kod­jia late on, con­demn­ing the Millers to a 26th de­feat of the sea­son and leav­ing them 18 points from safety and hurtling to­wards League One.

“Hand on heart they were bet­ter than us and de­served the win,” said in­terim boss Paul Warne.

“My job and re­mit off the chair­man is to win as many games as I can and send the fans home happy. The lads gave me ev­ery­thing but it wasn’t enough to get the goals to win the game.

“I don’t claim to be a su­per­man­ager. The lads are giv­ing me ev­ery­thing they have got, but we haven’t pos­si­bly got that lit­tle bit of class.

“I am proud of the way they played at the end but I am dis­ap­pointed with an­other de­feat. We are do­ing ev­ery­thing to stop the rot so as long as peo­ple can ap­pre­ci­ate it.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

GAME OVER: Jonathan Kod­jia, left, has just struck the late win­ner for Villa

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