Aston Villa made light of manager Dean Smith’s touchline ban with a 2-0 win at home to Newcastle on Saturday that added to the pressure on the Premier League strugglers.
Ollie Watkins’ early goal put Villa ahead, with Bertrand Traore doubling their lead shortly before half-time.
Victory at Villa Park saw the Birmingham club move up to eighth place in the table.
“I thought we were good especially in the first half,” Smith told Sky Sports. “We overplayed a little in the second half and could have scored a couple more.”
Smith was in the stands as punishment after accepting a FA disciplinary charge for using abusive and/or insulting language towards referee Jon Moss during Villa’s 2-0 defeat by Manchester City on Wednesday.
The Villa boss asked the officials if they had got juggling balls for Christmas after City midfielder Rodri ran back from an offside position to tackle Tyrone Mings and pass for Bernardo Silva to score the opening goal.
“We have had three tough away games and we only got one point, there were some debatable decisions in the Manchester games but today we did well,” said Smith after Saturday’s success.
- Bruce ‘encouraged’ -
Newcastle’s fourth league defeat in a row – and fifth in all competitions after they were knocked out of the FA Cup by Arsenal – left them in 16th place, seven points clear of the relegation zone.
Magpies manager Steve Bruce made four changes to the side beaten by Arsenal, with Javier Manquillo, Fabian Schar, Isaac Hayden and Jeff Hendrick all returning.
Allan Saint-Maximin was back in the squad after an eight-week absence due to the coronavirus and he was joined on the substitutes bench by Ryan Fraser, after serving a one-match ban.
Despite this latest defeat, Bruce said he’d seen enough to be “encouraged”.
“Unfortunately we’ve gifted them a goal and after that it was difficult,” Bruce said.
“There were large parts of it I was pleased about. Certainly the addition of Allan Saint-Maximin and Ryan Fraser. I have seen enough to be encouraged. Yes we have to accept defeat but there was enough there to work on.”
Villa took the lead in the 13th minute when, after Matt Targett’s cross was sliced into the air by Schar, Watkins jumped ahead of Newcastle goalkeeper Karl Darlow to head home.
And they were 2-0 up in the 42nd minute when Traore’s shot went in off the underside of the crossbar following an excellent cut-back from Jack Grealish.
Bruce sent on Fraser and Saint-Maxim in place of Andy Carroll and Manquillo with 19 minutes left.
But they could not turn the tide and Villa almost made it 3-0 instead, only a fine save by Darlow denying Trezeguet.
“We are not alone, there are other teams in difficult runs, it is how we handle it,” said Bruce. “Keep working hard and that is the only way you will change it.”