The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Si­mon Smed­ley

TWO late goals from As­ton Villa pushed man­ager­less Wi­gan that bit closer to the drop.

James Ch­ester and sub­sti­tute Scott Hogan struck in the fi­nal quar­ter-of-an-hour for in-form Villa, mov­ing them into the top half of the ta­ble and drop­ping the Lat­ics now seven points below the safety line.

Villa have now won five of their last six games, though boss Steve Bruce still wasn’t 100 per cent happy.

Maybe that’s be­cause his team saw off Wi­gan, a club he has twice man­aged pre­vi­ously.

Bruce said: “Credit to Wi­gan, they were re­ally game and caused us lots of prob­lems.

“They changed their shape and their for­ma­tion, and they were on top for long spells.

“Be­ing hon­est, we have got to be bet­ter than we were here, but there is much more re­silience and spirit blow­ing back into this club now.

“We seem to be get­ting that bal­ance right, and we’re also keep­ing clean sheets which give you a plat­form to build on.

“We’re a threat at the mo­ment. We need to keep that go­ing.”

Bruce also saluted £12mil­lion Jan­uary signing from Brent­ford Hogan, who bagged his first Villa goal af­ter an in­jury-in­ter­rupted start at his new club.

“I was start­ing to think we’d lost Scott for the sea­son,” said Bruce.

“But he’s back and he took his goal re­ally well. Hope­fully we can de­velop that part­ner­ship with Jonathan Kod­jia.”

There was al­most an early calamity at the back for Villa, who were be­ing roared on by a ter­rific band of 5,000 trav­el­ling fans.

Mile Je­d­i­nak’s in­tended back­pass to Sam John­stone was too short, but as Omar Bogle nipped in to pinch the ball, the Wi­gan striker ran too wide and even­tu­ally fired into the side-net­ting.

The Lat­ics, de­spite their re­cent woes, had the bet­ter of the early ex­changes, and Gabriel Ober­tan fizzed in a su­per strike from 25 yards that only just missed the tar­get. Michael Ja­cobs saw his curling free-kick beaten away smartly by John­stone, while shortly be­fore the break Andy Kel­lett’s goal-bound strike was de­flected off tar­get by team-mate Bogle.

Villa needed to im­prove in the sec­ond pe­riod, and they did, even­tu­ally break­ing the dead­lock in the 73rd minute when skip­per James Ch­ester nod­ded home af­ter Matt Gilks could only parry Conor Houri­hane's cross into his path.

Six min­utes from time the game was up for Wi­gan when Hogan headed home clin­i­cally af­ter ris­ing su­perbly to meet Al­bert Adomah’s cross.

Th­ese truly are trou­bled times for Wi­gan, who sacked War­ren Joyce dur­ing the week af­ter just four months in charge.

In­terim boss Gra­ham Bar­row wasn’t too down­hearted, de­spite his side only hav­ing eight games left now to save their skins.

Bar­row said: “I was very sat­is­fied for so long, but the first goal was a real sucker punch for us. I was dis­ap­pointed with the way we de­fended that one.

“There was a lot to be en­cour­aged about, though. At least we man­aged to work their goal­keeper.

“We nearly pro­duced, but we didn’t quite do enough at the end of it.

“To be hon­est, this in­ter­na­tional break has prob­a­bly come just at the right time. It’s go­ing to give us the chance to rest up a few bod­ies and maybe just find our­selves again.”

PIC­TURE: Mark Do­herty/ProS­ports

HEAD OVER HEELS: As­ton Villa skip­per James Ch­ester watches as his header sails into the net, while, in­set, Conor Houri­hane and Scott Hogan cel­e­brate the sec­ond

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.