Aston Villa won their third game on the bounce last night with a comprehensive 3-1 win over Nottingham Forest in the Championship.
The Villans followed up wins over Derby County and Birmingham City with a dominant display against Martin O’Neill’s side.
Dean Smith has overseen a mini-revival that has thrown Villa firmly into contention for the top-six. On last night’s performance, they are a match for anyone.
Villa are heavily reliant on certain players shining.
Jack Grealish is obviously one of them, but his midfield team-mate is perhaps more instrumental for the Villans.
Conor Hourihane has been a mainstay in the team throughout the 2018/19 campaign but the past few weeks he has really come to the fore.
The presence of Grealish and John McGinn alongside him make up a formidable midfield trio.
Against Forest, the ex-Barnsley man glided around the pitch, breaking up play, laying the ball off and largely being very pro-active with the football at his feet.
The 28-year-old has contributed seven goals and nine assists for Villa this season and is clearly integral to the way Smith wants his team to play.
Grealish might earn the plaudits for the fancy flicks but Hourihane is the steely influence alongside him that can open things up.
Having a player next to Grealish that can do the ugly stuff is a must and Hourihane is that man.
The youngster is desperately important for Villa, but the Republic of Ireland international is the key to the club reaching the Premier League.