On the 23rd February, Aston Villa were looking likely to finish the season mid table. It is well documented that manager Dean Smith give some of his players a few home truths after a disappointing performance away from home against Stoke City, it appears that it may well have spurred them on…
Since then, Smith’s side have been in what has to be said, impeccable form. After that 1-1 draw against Stoke, the Villians who have Chelsea legend John Terry in their coaching staff put together a string of 10 successive wins, scoring 23 and keeping five clean sheets.
Part of that success may have been due to the fall out after the Stoke but also in addition to that the return of some key players seemed to happen at a crucial part of the season. The likes of Jack Grealish and John McGill had missed sections of the season with injury problems. Players that any team in the division would dearly miss.
That impressive run was enough for the Birmingham based club to bridge the initial gap of eight points that they found themselves behind of play-off spots and eventually they secured their place in the final four battling to play in the Premier League.
The end of the season saw them drop points against third place Leeds and Champions Norwich, but little did it matter. Having finished fifth in the league once the final whistle blew on the last day of the season, a clash was set with rivals West Brom in the Championship play off semi-final.
It appeared that it may have been straightforward after they won the first leg at Villa Park 2-1 with two goals in four minutes from Conor Hourihane and Tammy Abraham helping them overturn a 1-0 deficit.
Straightforward turned out to be far from the truth though as for much of the second leg they were up against it. A goal from Craig Dawson proved to be the only one in the game as it was taken all the way to penalties for a place at Wembley. The Villa players managed to hold their nerve though and it was Chelsea loanee Abraham with decisive spot kick to spark the celebrations. It may have been a small blessing for the Villians that Dwight Gayle was dismissed in the first leg after picking up two yellow cards, a major miss for the Baggies to say the least. His early finish in the first leg means that he signed off his spell with a goal.
Earlier today Wembley welcomed Aston Villa and their opponents, Derby. In what was a cagey affair, Villa took the lead just before the end of the first half with a goal from Anwar El-Ghazi. The goal came after some sloppy marking from youngster Jaden Bogle. It was a similar story for Frank Lampard’s players in the second half as a calamitous error from the goalkeeper allowed McGinn to claim a second goal for Villa. Kelle Roos failed to grasp a high ball from the air and McGinn’s presence led to him thumbling it into the net. Bizarre to say the least.
A late resurgence for the Rams had fans on their seats, especially after substitute Jack Marriot pulled one back with eight minutes to go but it proved to be too little too late. The better side on the day took to win and a substantial amount of prize money with them into the Premier League.
Another enthralling Championship campaign is now complete with it now confirmed that Norwich, Sheffield United and Aston Villa will be playing top division football next season.
Who are you most looking forward to seeing?
(Image via the Guardian)