HAPPY TRIP FOR VILLANS AT LAST
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.”
GAME OVER: Jonathan Kodjia, left, has just struck the late winner for Villa