Aston Villa manager Dean Smith has thrown down the survival gauntlet to Aston Villa after their last-gasp win over Watford. Tyrone Mings’ winner – when Ezri Konsa’s drive hit his leg – in the fifth minute of stoppage time earned Villa a 2-1 victory which could have huge importance at the bottom of the table.
Villa trailed at the break to Troy Deeney’s header but Douglas Luiz hauled them level midway through the second half before the late drama. The win lifted Villa out of the Premier League’s relegation zone and above the Hornets, who drop into the bottom three. Smith’s side are now 16th, two points clear of Bournemouth, after taking four points off drop rivals Watford and Brighton in their last two games.
He said: “We have to keep concentrating on the next game. The next one in the Premier League is against Bournemouth – another team below us. Catching the teams above you and overtaking them, that’s the players’ job at the moment. Teams of mine finish the season better and I’m expecting a better points haul in the second half.
“It’s the biggest win at this moment because it’s the latest one. We have to concentrate on each game. With Watford being around us and giving us a good hiding at their place I said before the game it would be a different Villa team they faced. It was an important one because Villa Park is an important place for us in this league.”
Meanwhile Eddie Howe saluted a huge win for Bournemouth and admitted he is “desperate” to keep them in the Premier League, after the Cherries eased some of the pressure on their manager with a crucial 3-1 victory over Brighton.
Bournemouth’s woeful recent form, 10 defeats from 12 matches, has raised questions about Howe’s future for the first time in his 11 years in the dugout. But strikes from Harry Wilson and Callum Wilson, either side of a Pascal Gross own goal, secured a much-needed win to lift them to 18th, level on points with West Ham and safety.
It was a victory which also illustrated that the players are still playing for the manager who guided the club all the way up from League Two.
“It feels big at the moment but time will tell. We knew how big tonight was, in so many different ways,” said Howe. “I’m really pleased but cautious at the same time to not build it up too much then go flat again. We really want to kick on from this point. A lot of clubs up and down the country maybe wouldn’t have been given the time and support we’ve had. We have to recognise that.
“I haven’t seen the table and I don’t really want to. It’s all in our hands, it’s all about us. If you don’t get wins, you’re going to get relegated. Tonight was a real positive but we have to try to win our next game. It’s been a difficult period but it’s what you’re in it for, the highs and the lows. Don’t get me wrong, you hate the lows. But we’re desperate to retain our Premier League status, desperate to stay here.”