Dean Smith has leapt to the defence of midfielder Conor Hourihane after his two-goal salvo earned Villa a 4-0 win against Derby this weekend.
They looked an incredibly able side on Jack Grealish’s return, with Hourihane instrumental in the stunning first half performance. He bagged a brace but could have had a hat trick as Villa sounded a warning to the teams above them.
It was a nice return to form for Hourihane, who has come under fire in recent weeks. He was given some stick after his performance against West Brom, but has put that behind him and moved forward.
Manager Dean Smith knows the former Barnsley man has had a tough ride, but is delighted with the way he’s bounced back.
“He got a bit of stick coming off the pitch against West Brom. I wasn’t aware of it at the time. I thought they were giving Jacob Ramsey a big round of applause for going on,” he told AVFC.com
“It was nice that we could stick by him (Hourihane). He put in a very good performance at Stoke and then backed that up with a superb two goal performance – and he missed a good chance for his hat-trick.”
Smith revealed that Hourihane is far more important to the side than some give him credit for, in terms of goals and assists.
“I was retally pleased for him. He’s our second top goal scorer. He’s our highest assist-maker too. He has a lot of abilities that sometimes go unseen in the eyes of supporters. But he’s well respected within the dressing room.”
The 28-year-old has six goals and nine assists for Villa in the Championship this season.
Hourihane got a lot of stick after West Brom, but that’s been building for a few weeks. When a team is underperforming, fans need a scapegoat. In this instance, it was the former Plymouth man.
He responded well though, shown faith by his manager and repaying it in style. He’ll be delighted with the praise from the gaffer too.