Aston Villa cranked up the heat on their promotion rivals with another impressive away win.
Scott Hogan scored his second goal in as many games to give the visitors an early lead at the City Ground.
And there was to be no way back for Aitor Karanka’s men as the Spaniard endured a miserable first game in charge of the mid-table Championship side.
This was a hard-fought and well-earned win for Villa who rattled the crossbar through the returning John Terry in the first-half.
Jack Grealish curled inches wide after the break and man-of-the-match Robert Snodgrass was also denied by goalkeeper Jordan Smith.
But one again Villa came up trumps in a high-pressure away clash after watching Derby County and Cardiff City both record wins before they kicked off.
Gregg Evans was at the game. This is how he rated the players:
Didn’t have a lot to do except for pull off an important save to deny Dowell late on. Good job he’s well prepared and was alert throughout. An easy evening for him.
When he got forward he looked dangerous but those times were few and far between. Hoofed it clear too often but largely kept the tricky Clough and McKay quiet.
Came back into the side and settled in with ease. Rattled the crossbar with a header in the first-half and made some important headers and clearances. So dominant late on when Villa needed him.
Had a few shaky moments in the second half but was largely comfortable when he was getting out of tight positions. Cleared the danger when he needed to and read the game superbly at times.
Some of his passes went astray and he didn’t get forward too often. But by and large he was solid and rarely breached. Looks really comfortable at left-back.
Set up Hogan for the opener, teed up Terry who hit the bar, forced Smith into a fine save, and was a general nuisance with his exceptional deliveries. Is now a vital part of Villa’s attack after turning it up in recent weeks.
Made two important blocks in the first-half that summed up his display. Was neat and tidy in possession and looked fresh and fired up after missing the last two games through illness, Subbed at the break.
Won fouls and battled away in the middle. Slowed the game down at times (maybe on purpose) and was always a threat from set-pieces. Showed good strength at times and really worked hard.
Saw a lot of the ball and tried to use his skill to good advantage but it didn’t quite come off for him. Still. he was a threat whenever he got forward.
Was strong and purposeful in attack. Won so many fouls, created opportunities and went close with a curling effort after the break. A big improvement on the last time he was here!
Took his tally to two goals in two games this year with a fine finish early on. Didn’t see much of the ball after that but stuck at it and made clever runs that weren’t spotted. If he can score the match-winner every week they’ll be no compaints.
BJARNASON (for Whelan, 46): 7 Slotted into the deep midfield role and did a decent job. Moved the ball quickly and won his fair share of duels.
DAVIS (for Hogan, 81): 7 Had the ball in the net but it was ruled out for offside.
TAYLOR (for Adomah, 90+1): 7 Helped see out the game.
Bunn, Elphick, Lansbury, Onomah.
Smith, Lichaj, Mills, Mancienne, Traore, Osborn, Cash (Bridcutt, 80) Dowell, Vaughan (Ward, 80) Clough (McKay, 64) Brereton. Subs: Henderson, Darikwa, Bouchalakis, Walker.
Hogan (18) - Villa.
Barnsley (home) Saturday, 3pm.