Dean Smith was full of praise for Conor Hourihane after Aston Villa beat Derby County 3-0 on Saturday afternoon. Villa picked all three points at the iPro Stadium, with Hourihane getting on the scoresheet with a brilliant-taken free-kick.
The 27-year-old was in and out of the side immediately after Smith was appointed manager, having played against Norwich (October 23), being dropped against Queens Park Rangers (October 26) before returning against Bolton Wanderers (November 2) and Derby over the weekend.
Hourihane has now contributed seven goals in 16 Championship appearances for Villa this season and could be a regular in the midfield after impressing Smith with his decision-making and work rate – two things Smith highlighted in his post-match interview.
The Villa manager said to the club’s official website: “In the first half (Hourihane) probably tried to force a few forward balls too much. But in the second half he used the ball really well. The back five can thank those in front of them today, who worked so hard to win the ball back.”
The Republic of Ireland international, who boasts seven appearances for his country, joined Villa from Barnsley in January 2017 and has gone on to make 81 appearances in all competitions, scoring and creating 25 goals.
His Villa side find themselves 11th in the Championship with 24 points from 17 games this season, four short of the playoffs. The Midlands outfit are now eight points clear of the relegation zone.