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Conor Hourihane: Play-off hangover still hurting Aston Villa

Conor Hourihane believes a play-off final hangover may have contributed to Villa’s sluggish start to the season.

Conor Hourihane says that Villa's play-off final defeat is still hurting the club.
Conor Hourihane says that Villa's play-off final defeat is still hurting the club.

Villa host Rotherham tonight aiming to end a five-game winless run which has seen them fall into mid-table and ramped up the pressure on boss Steve Bruce.

Hourihane, who bagged an injury-time leveller in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Blackburn, is confident a team which includes several new faces will eventually find its stride but admitted some players may have taken their time to get over the disappointment of last season.

Villa came within a whisker of winning promotion only to be beaten by Fulham at Wembley.

Hourihane said: “The play-off final was hugely disappointing. It might take a bit of time to get going after that.

“A lot of the players are still here. It’s not easy.

“We have seen teams in the past who have lost play-off finals and start slowly. We have not started as quickly as we would have wanted but we have not been as slow as some. It’s about finding the right balance.

“Blackburn was another point on the board and we are only five points off the top.

“Players leave, others come in. It takes time to gel.

“We have a bit of a boost now from Tammy (Abraham) and Yannick (Bolasie) – good quality players.

“Hopefully the way the game finished on Saturday gives everyone a boost going forward.”

Hourihane fired home a 25-yard free-kick in the third minute of stoppage time at Ewood Park.

It was the Republic of Ireland international’s first goal of the season and served a reminder of his talent, after a period when he has had to make do with appearances off the bench.

The 27-year-old became the first Villa midfielder since David Platt to hit double figures in a season when he netted 11 times over the course of the campaign.

“I always fancy myself with free-kicks around the box,” said Hourihane.

“I have scored a few down the years. When a free-kick comes about, I put my hand up and the lads said ‘OK, have a go’.

“I fancied it and fancied there was a gap. There were a couple of minutes left so it was a case of: ‘just go for it.’ Luckily enough it went in.

“I knew I had hit it well. You always get that immediate reaction.

“I have seen it back and it started off quite wide of the post.

“I didn’t realise it started that wide. I practised from that position on Friday, so practice does pay off!”

Villa will make their return to the Birmingham Senior Cup when they visit non-league Coleshill Town on Monday, October 8.

The tie will represent the first time Villa have played in the competition, which they first won in 1880, since the 1997-98 season.

A team of under-23s players will make the short trip to Warwickshire.

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