Southgate gets closer look at Villa

By Graham Hill

ASTON VILLA 2 BLACKBURN ROVERS 1

DEAN Smith reckons his Villa side are starting to feel unbeatable after recording a fifth straight win.

The Villa boss praised his team’s ‘new found resilience’ after strengthening their top six portion with victory over Blackburn Rovers.

And it was a performance staged in front of England boss Gareth Southgate – who said a week ago that Jack Grealish would not be in his plans unless he was playing regular Championship football.

But Southgate was back at the club he captained two decades ago to check on the form of Grealish and another England prospect Tammy Abraham.

That suggests Southgate is prepared to see Grealish’s current form for himself – and maybe a call-up is not too far away.

Abraham grabbed his 22nd goal of the season to end his mini drought after just eight minutes when he converted from close range.

It also proved he had shaken off the calf strain that kept him out of action for England’s Under-21s last week.

Tyrone Mings made it two just after the hour mark to seal the points – but Rovers made Villa sweat with a 74th minute goal when Charlie Mulgrew’s 74th-minute free kick was only parried by home keeper Jed Steer and former Amari’i Bell followed up to score.

But Villa stayed in control and must now beat their former boss Steve Bruce at Sheffield Wednesday next week if they are to make it six wins in a row.

They will head to Hillsbrough in confident mood though after a month of March that could hardly have gone any better.

Villa boss Smith told BBC Radio WM: “These players have got a newfound resilience where, even when they’re 1-0 up, they’re confident and feel like no one is going to go and score goals against them and break them down.

“It’s taken a mistake for Blackburn to score and that’s a credit to the players and how they’re playing at the moment.

“We’ve had a fabulous March and getting that win puts us in a good position and some momentum towards April and May, now.”

Abraham converted a relatively easy finish after being set up by Anwar El Ghazi and John McGinn.

He might have had another one just before the break when the ball crossed the line in a scramble also involving El Ghazi but it was ruled out for offside.

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