Express & Star

Analysis: Injury-ravaged Aston Villa refuse to give up on fight for glory

So great was the focus on players Villa had lost, it could have been easy to forget those still present.

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Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins applauds the fans at the end

Saturday afternoon’s win at Fulham should end any danger of that.

At the moment Unai Emery most needed his remaining big guns to fire, they all did to earn Villa a victory which launched them back into the Premier League top four and delivered confirmation their challenge for Champions League football is a long way from done.

Ollie Watkins scored twice, Emi Martinez made his latest points-preserving save and Pau Torres, in his first start for two months, played with such composure it reminded you just what Villa have missed in his absence.

In midfield, meanwhile, John McGinn made up for the loss of Boubacar Kamara with a performance full of grit, skill and cunning.

Kamara, ruled out for the season with a serious knee injury sustained in the previous weekend’s defeat to Manchester United, has long been considered the one player for whom Villa had no replacement.

For 90 minutes on Saturday at least, McGinn made a mockery of that notion. In the closing stages, as his team held on to a lead halved by Rodrigo Muniz’s 63rd-minute goal, the skipper took charge, frequently winning possession, carrying the ball and earning cheap fouls.