Express & Star

Ollie Watkins living the dream as Aston Villa stay on track for Champions League

Ollie Watkins is living the dream after his double at Luton helped keep Villa’s Champions League challenge on track.

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The striker scored twice in the first half before a late Lucas Digne winner earned Unai Emery’s men a dramatic 3-2 win at Kenilworth Road, maintaining their five-point cushion inside the Premier League’s top four.

Watkins now has 16 league goals for the season, a new personal best, just one behind Manchester City’s Erling Haaland in this year’ scoring charts.

A return to Luton, where he first played for Exeter in League Two nearly eight years ago, also provided pause for reflection from a player now in the form of his career.

Watkins, who also turned out for Weston Super Mare in non-league prior to his ascent through the divisions, said: “I was first playing here with Exeter in League Two. I think Luton were top at the time and it was very difficult. That is when I was just trying to make a name for myself.

“I also came here with Brentford and now I am here with Villa, fighting for the Champions League. It is an amazing story and I pinch myself all the time. I am just enjoying it.

“I feel confident. If I miss a chance I am not thinking about it. It is a case of on to the next one.

“My mentality is to fully focus on the next action and believing in my ability. I am established in the Premier League now, right up there with the top goalscorers.”

Watkins, who also hit the post and saw another shot saved by Luton keeper Thomas Kaminski, admitted Villa must get better at seeing games out after almost being stung by the home side’s second half comeback.

Tahith Chong and Carlton Morris both scored in the space of six minutes as the Hatters came roaring back, before Digne won it at the death.

Villa next travel to Ajax in the Europa Conference League on Thursday, before hosting fifth-placed Tottenham in a six-pointer next Sunday.

“Luton made it very difficult for us,” said Watkins. “It is a massive three points but we should not let it get to that. We should see the game out, maybe score a third before they get one.“We have a lot of football to play, with Spurs being a big game. We are just focusing on ourselves. Every game is difficult in this league. Today Luton pushed us to the wire. Last week Nottingham Forest came back to 3-2 and looked like they could come back to 3-3. We ground that out and won the game. No game is easy.”