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Villa 2 Burton 1: Ross McCormack snatches victory for Villa

Despite putting in a weak shift overall, Ross McCormack rewarded Steve Bruce’s faith in him by converting a Jordan Ayew cross with 10 minutes to go as Villa crawled to an important three points.

Queens Park Rangers v Aston Villa - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

It doesn’t matter how ugly it may be. 3 points are 3 points. It’s now two scrappy wins in a row for Steve Bruce, whose Villa look to have recovered from a momentary dip in form earlier this month.

Villa’s afternoon started well - early periods of sustained pressure were soon rewarded with a goal. Leandro Bacuna, who missed a sitter just minutes before, redirected a bullet header into Burton’s goal from a cracking Albert Adomah cross. Just when it looked like a sunny Boxing Day at Villa Park might turn into a memorable fixture, however, Burton asserted their unwillingness to be defeated without a fight.

Villa lost its rhythm as Jonathan Kodjia counterattacks became the only method of attack until Burton equalized. A move down Villa’s lefthand side enabled Burton to float a ball into the box, which former Villa academy prospect Jamie Ward finished acrobatically. A well deserved goal for Burton was then followed by even more pressure, as Ward once again found himself through on goal but Mark Bunn was able to save his curling effort to keep Villa level going into halftime. Ross McCormack had a penalty appeal waved away and Gary Gardner went down in a heap, but the final minutes of the half after Bunn’s save on Ward went largely without incident.

In need of creativity, Steve Bruce pulled Gary Gardner at half time in favor of Jack Grealish. Villa started the second half on the front foot. Jack Grealish made an immediate impact as he played a one-two and found himself alone with the goalkeeper - his shot was slowed but trickled towards goal, where Jonathan Kodjia poked it over the line from an offside position. Kodjia and Albert Adomah were then presented with a golden opportunity in front of goal, but Kodjia whiffed completely and Adomah blasted his shot over as it remained 1-1.

Mile Jedinak was replaced Jordan Ayew a few minutes thereafter in a puzzling move, but Bruce’s unconventional substitution was rewarded as Ayew made his way to the byline and fizzed a ball across goal. Ross McCormack converted at the back post to give Villa the lead with just over 10 minutes to play. Gabby Agbonlahor entered as Villa attempted to protect a perilous lead in the closing stages, which went according to plan until the final seconds, when Mark Bunn made a superb save to ensure Villa’s 3 points on Boxing Day. Either way, Bruce and Villa got the job done.