By Graham Hill
ASTON VILLA 4 DERBY COUNTY 0
ON the face of it, this was a result down to just one man – Jack Grealish.
But what you can say is that fans favourite Grealish provided the catalyst for Villa’s biggest win of the season.
Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane, Tammy Abraham, they all had outstanding games.
On any other day, they would have been headline makers themselves.
But you can see exactly why Villa boss Dean Smith has missed having Grealish in his side.
One look at the attention Grealish was getting reveals all. He was an immediate target for Derby County – the Villa star seemed to pick up where he left off as the division’s most fouled player.
But the much-changed Rams were not good on the for it to have any effect.
Because Grealish took the knocks and bounced back to make an incredible contribution to the game.
Not only that, his work rate freed up others to play to their best.
It is hard to pick a player who did not have an above average game, while some excelled.
And as for THAT goal from Grealish, he fully deserved the adulation from the Holte End after one of the best strikes ever seen at Villa Park.
The accuracy and technical delivery from Whelan should not go without mention, but the volley will live long in the memory.
Before that, Grealish set up the opening for Hourihane’s opener. And let’s not forget Abraham’s contribution. The on-loan Chelsea striker set up two goals for Hourihane and scored Villa’s second for his 21st of the season.
Now Abraham will set his sights on 25 goals – a feat last achieved in a league campaign when Andy Gray did it in 1977.
Of course, the frustrating this is wondering what might have been had Grealish been back sooner – or not injured at all.
Villa have been careful not to rush him back – understanable as it would have been pointless to play him only to aggravate the injury.
Now Smith will hopefully be able to use a 100 per cent fit Grealish between now and the end of the season.
And with the likes of Bristol City, Derby and Nottingham Forest still to cement their place in the top six, a good run in from Villa could yet mean the play-offs are a reality.