Daily Star Sunday



The Midlands strugglers failed to conjure up a single shot on target at Southampto­n where they crashed to another costly defeat in their battle to beat the drop.

They remain only a point above the relegation zone and afterwards fuming Smith did not hold back with his stinging criticism.

Asked how he felt, the Villa manager – whose underdogs face holders Manchester City in a week’s time at Wembley – said: “Embarrassm­ent.

“We never showed enough desire to get on the ball and to compete.

“It’s a massive surprise. The thing that hurts me the most was the lack of a fight.

“There was no competitiv­e edge from us. I’m sitting here and will take full responsibi­lity. This was the lowest of the lows but it’s the players who have let themselves down with their performanc­es.

“I’d spoken beforehand about us having 13 cup finals to play this season but some have of them just played themselves out of another cup final next week.”

And Smith says the Villa players can expect a painful post-mortem into this sorry display that will leave no room for confusion about where some of them stand.

He added: “There will be some cowering behind the scenes when we do a debrief, that’s for sure.

“They have to show me what they’re about. They certainly didn’t today.

“There’s too many training ground players. If you want to play in the Premier League you’ve got to perform on a match day.”

However, there are no such problems for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampto­n after their third home victory of the campaign fired them 10 points clear of relegation.

Veteran hitman Shane Long opened the scoring after eight minutes with his ninth goal in 12 matches against the Villans – a remarkable strike rate given his career ratio is a mediocre one in every 4.6 outings.

The hosts fully deserved that lead but, despite being on top throughout, had to wait until time added on to seal the result through Stuart Armstrong’s breakaway effort.

Hasenhuttl had called on the home fans to turn St Mary’s into a nasty fortress and his celebratio­ns with the faithful at the final whistle underlined that they had more than delivered on that front.

The Austrian coach said: “It was tight until the end but it was a great performanc­e from everyone – the players and the crowd.

”We tried to create and play quick. This is what the crowd want to see. It was exactly the afternoon we wanted.”

As for Saints looking in decent shape to stay out of any end-of-season dogfight, he is refusing to take anything for granted.

Hasenhuttl said: “Thirty-four points is maybe not going to be enough so we need more. I don’t think about being safe but we have now stretched the distance away from the bottom three, which is good for us. We have taken six points against Villa and today was one of our best home games.”

Long, 33, is in talks about a new contract with his current deal expiring in June.

More displays like this and it will be a no-brainer for the club to keep the Republic of Ireland forward who again outshone his strike partner, England hopeful Danny Ings.

Hasenhuttl hinted as much before admitting he had no idea about Long’s love of putting Villa to the sword.

“We are speaking to the player about his contract,” added the former RB Leipzig chief.

“Shane has shown again today that he can score goals as well as work hard for us.

“I wasn’t aware of his record against Villa.

“No, he hadn’t told me. The past doesn’t really matter. What matters is what happens today.”

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