Conor Hourihane: Aston Villa have the experience to handle play-off heat

Conor Hourihane reckons Villa’s experience will ensure they handle the heat of their play-off showdown with Middlesbrough.

Hourihane
Hourihane

The Republic of Ireland international is one of several players in Steve Bruce’s squad to have triumphed in the play-offs before, after captaining Barnsley to promotion from League One two years ago.

Villa travel to Boro for a semi-final first leg on Saturday, with the return leg at Villa Park a week today.

Hourihane said: “It’s about handling the occasion. Not getting caught up in the fact it is the play-offs. Ultimately, it is a game of football.

“We will have done our homework and we have experienced players, without a doubt. The names speak for themselves. We’ll be ready. We are all looking forward to it.”

Midfielder Hourihane is targeting more happy memories at the Riverside following Villa’s 1-0 win there in December, a result which proved among the most pivotal in their season.

A run of five games without a win, prior to that game, had seen Villa slip to ninth in the table and ramped up the pressure on boss Bruce.

The subsequent victory, in Tony Pulis’s first game in charge at Boro, kick-started a seven-game winning streak which cemented their place in the top six.

Hourihane added: “We had a big win up there earlier in the season which probably turned our season around a bit.

“It put us on the start of a good run. We have happy memories up there. We want to put in a good performance, get a good result up there and take it back to Villa Park on Tuesday night.”

Boro were only confirmed as Villa’s play-off opponents in the final seconds of Sunday’s final round of league fixtures.

“We expected it would be them. It’s turned out it will be them,” said Hourihane. “They’re a good side but we will be ready for it. They have players with good experience too.”

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