By Graham Hill
DEAN Smith believes the end of Villa’s 12-match unbeaten had a false feel to it.
Villa went down to Championship title winner Norwich as they suffered their first defeat since February.
But Smith rested key players including Jack Grealish, John McGinn, Tammy Abraham and Tyrone Mings with the play-off two-legged semi-final against West Brom in mind.
And while Villa had enough of the game to have won it, Smith knows the final result might have been different had his first choice team being out there.
He rejected suggestions that tinkering with the team might disturb Villa’s momentum.
But he did not want to risk picking up injuries – while McGinn was left out as he was on 14 bookings and another one would have seen him ruled out of all of the play off games including a potential Wembley final.
Smith told reporters after the game: “In my head, I don’t really see this game as a loss, although the statistics will say it is.
“The idea was to get through injury-free.
“We’ve rested four players. We’re going into two games against West Bromwich Albion that we’re all looking forward to.
“There’s an awful lot of confidence around Villa Park and you can feel it. The players will relish the games.”