Mixed bag for Villa’s top six rivals

By Graham Hill

VILLA’S play-off rivals had mixed fortunes on Tuesday night – and there were contrasting results as far as Dean Smith’s side were concerned.

There is now talk of Villa being able to overhaul West Brom in fourth place if current form continues the way it has.

But Bristol City might just be thinking the same thing now after their sensational run out Lee Johnson’s side right back in the reckoning.

At least Baggies can say they have probably done enough to earn a top six finish.

But Derby are still sweating on making the play-offs. They lost to Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park and that leaves their hopes in the balance.

And Middlesbrough are still not out of it yet, they won at struggling Bolton last night to stay in touch.

This weekend could see some more twists and turns though.

Frank Lampard’s Derby side are at home to Bolton which should see the Rams claim all three points.

But Villa Park is likely to be staging the biggest game in terms of the top six – they play host to Bristol City in front of a sell out crowd.

Winning that would send out a huge statement but Lee Johnson’s side are in great form even if they almost let a 3-0 lead slip at home to Albion on Tuesday.

Middlesbrough are at home to Hull – but that could go either way considering Boro’s recent form.

WHAT THEY SAID

Derby boss Frank Lampard said after the Blackburn defeat: “We were poor and they deserved to win.

“They were more energetic

“It could’ve been 7-5, couldn’t it?! Both teams had numerous chances but they’ve got a really experienced, quality squad and I was so pleased with the boys to have won that game.

“The way we blitzed them for the first 20 minutes was big, obviously at that point we could’ve gone on to score two or three more.

“That was the difficult thing because we’d had a couple of warnings of their quality and it was always going to be nervy whenever they scored their first, with it coming so early with so much time and giving them belief.”

Caretaker Baggies boss Jimmy Shan admitted he does not whether he will still be in charge against Preston on Saturday: “I’ve no idea.

“It’s been asked to step in and take care of team affairs until further notice. Win lose or draw that’s the message from the powers that be above me. That’s for them to answer.

“If you’re going through the five games, we’ve won three, there were elements of performances that needed improving.

“Sometimes results paper over the cracks, we work diligently over the cracks.

“The performance against Millwall wasn’t good enough. We were outfought and weren’t dominant with the ball.

“We had 20 minutes when we were horrific, we allowed Bristol to dominate us and have intention.

“After that, they still had some moments, but we limited them. Second half we were in total control, the moments they created, were from our lapses in concentration and we opened the back door. The Dasilva chance is an example of that.”

Bristol City boss Lee Johnson admitted it was a nervous finish at Ashton Gate against Albion: “I’ve been on the bed with the doc with his stethoscope on me! I said to the boys, ‘please just let me enjoy 20 minutes where we’re 3-0 up with 20 minutes to go.’

“But it’s a massive win for us. What a game, what an unbelievable game. In terms of an advert for the Championship – I think Sky Sports have got their money’s worth for sure.

“It could’ve been 7-5, couldn’t it?! Both teams had numerous chances but they’ve got a really experienced, quality squad and I was so pleased with the boys to have won that game.

“The way we blitzed them for the first 20 minutes was big, obviously at that point we could’ve gone on to score two or three more.

“That was the difficult thing because we’d had a couple of warnings of their quality and it was always going to be nervy whenever they scored their first, with it coming so early with so much time and giving them belief.”

Middlesbrough boss Tony Pulis said after the Bolton victory – after six defeats in a row: “I’m pleased for the players, we’ve been on a run of six games without winning but they’re not games we deserved to lose.

“They got their rewards because they took two of the many chances we created.

“Even in the second half, what was it, two or three times we were through with only the keeper to beat. We got two goals and a clean sheet so I’m delighted.”

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