Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce was full of praise for Scott Hogan after the forward netted two goals in Saturday’s 3-1 Sky Bet Championship home win over Barnsley.
Hogan had an unhappy start to life at Villa Park following his move from Brentford last January. He dropped down the pecking order to fourth-choice striker, but is now the club’s danger man after scoring four goals in three games.
The 25-year-old demonstrated he has found his best form in recent weeks by sealing Barnsley’s fate with his two goals in the opening seven minutes.
“I am pleased for Scotty because there is no doubt he has had some dark times,” Bruce said. “He has had three or four injuries, but after scoring a goal against Bristol City (on New Year’s Day) he has come alive.
“He has only been at Villa for a year and we judge people in football after six weeks, which is unfair.
“I’ve said that you need stability and need to give players time to settle. I learnt that very quickly. Coming to Villa is more difficult because of the demands and expectations of playing for a big club.
“We are now beginning to bear fruit for what we have put in place and there are little things that are beginning to please me as we going along quite nicely.”
Hogan’s revival has been a key factor for the midlands club who are now putting themselves into a position to bid for automatic promotion following their fourth successive league win.
Bruce felt midfielder Jack Grealish was also a key figure in the latest victory.
“The emergence of Jack Grealish after a kidney injury is great,” Bruce said. “He was terrific against Barnsley and he looks a good player again despite being a little sloppy late in the game.”
Fellow Irishman Conor Hourihane scored Villa’s third shortly after Dimitri Cavare had pulled a goal back for Barnsley, who remain just above the relegation zone.
Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom was disappointed with the result and felt his side gave themselves a mountain to climb.
“The writing was on the wall when we went two goals behind in the first half,” Heckingbottom said.
“Besides giving Villa too much respect, the goals we conceded were shocking and we were up against it from the start.
“We had four defenders back and Hogan got between two of them to score the opening goal and he was the smallest man in the box when he scored the second. We had a chance for their third and if we make such mistakes we are going to be beaten.
“I know we missed chances in the second half but it is easy to play when you are 3-1 down. I want that no fear mentality from the start of a game.”