Thursday 24 October 2019

Smith backs Villa to finish the job at Hawthorns

Aston Villa boss Dean Smith. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

John Percy

Aston Villa head coach Dean Smith has ramped up the pressure on West Bromwich Albion by insisting they will have to go on the attack in the second leg of the Championship play-off semi-final tonight.

Smith is predicting a drastically different encounter to Saturday's first game and claims West Brom will have no option but to be braver in front of their own fans.

Albion had just 31 per cent possession at Villa Park - with only two shots on target - in an attempt to contain the home team.

Villa responded late on with two goals in four minutes to take a slender advantage into the rematch at the Hawthorns, where West Brom's hopes have also been dealt a blow with the suspensions of Dwight Gayle and Hal Robson-Kanu.

"I expect a different game, that's for sure," said Smith. "Our mindset for the last 14 games has been to go into it and try to win.

"The players know my mindset, I think if you go and sit back you invite a lot of pressure on your goal, and I'm not comfortable with that. The quality of the players we've got, we can score a lot of goals, so you've got to utilise that.

"The players will know from me and the staff that nothing is over. We've got to go there and put in a really good performance.

"I didn't feel it was a good performance on Saturday. If we play to our normal standards we'll be a right threat."

Albion have beaten Villa and Leeds this season without leading scorer Gayle, however, and Jay Rodriguez has still scored 22 goals.

Caretaker manager James Shan has called on supporters to make the Hawthorns a cauldron as he bids to recover the first-leg deficit.

"The local rivalry is hopefully going to fuel the intensity of that atmosphere," he said. "It's important the fans have some patience with our performance.

"We have got a game plan that we are looking to execute, and we need to make sure they are right behind us from minute one until the final whistle.

"There's one goal in it, we are one step away from going to Wembley and one step away from history. They can definitely be that extra man, and can definitely be a lift for the players."

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