GRAHAM HILL says the victory over Rotherham shows Villa do not need 11 men to show that they are currently one of the best teams in the Championship
IF any there was a perfomance that singled out Villa as promotion – never mind play-off – candidates, the victory at Rotherham was it.
On paper, this game looked to be the easiest one of the run-in to the end of the season.
Boss Dean Smith would not have gone into the match thinking that of course.
And it was a good job he didn’t – it turned out to be the toughest.
Reduced to 10 men, a goal down and the setback of a missed Tammy Abraham penalty, things looked bleak at half-time.
With Tyrone Mings dismissed, Villa had lost one of their trusted generals.
But Villa did not just rise to the occasion, they dominated the second half.
It was seriously impossible to tell which side were a man short.
Fans have long been saying John McGinn does the work of two players, and here he did just that.
It was a non-stop display from the Scot whose reputation continues to grow.
But he was not the only star performer. In fact, after the break it was difficult to pick out a player who did not impress.
Jonathan Kodjia came off the bench to show that he is still very much part of Villa’s plans.
Jack Grealish led from the front again with an outstanding goal. And when Mings came off, Mile Jedinak joined the returning Axel Tuanzebe to keep Rotherham’s chances to a minimum.
And Smith deserves credit for what must have been a rousing half-time talk. He is growing into this job more and more.
But the clear message from the game was that, even with 10 men, Villa were simply too good for Rotherham.
And the fact that they are probably the most consistent of all the top six teams right now – Bristol City might argue with that – suggests they can realistically aim for a Wembley final next month.
But even now, nothing is certain. Villa probably need 75 points to secure a play-off place, and 72 might do it. That means they still need another six points at least.
It means Saturday’s clash with Bristol City – who have a game in hand over Villa – becomes the latest in a series of crucial matches.
Mings will not be playing but Villa seem to have enough cover right now if the Rotherham win is anything to go by.
Villa are also showing that they can recover from going behind and that is an asset that will be crucial in the coming weeks.
It would be ideal if Villa could visually seal their top six fate before they play Leeds and Norwich.
But the momentum is there – and right now Villa look unstoppable.