Aston Villa came from behind to seize the early initiative in their Championship play-off semi-final against West Bromwich Albion at Villa Park on Saturday afternoon, and after the final whistle their fans took to social media to react to the man who came off the bench to inspire the comeback.
The Villans went into the tie with many judges expecting them to get the better of their rivals over the two legs and secure their place in the final at Wembley for the second season in a row, but it didn’t all go completely to plan in the opening 90 minutes of the tie.
Villa were being outthought tactically by West Brom in the opening periods of the match up, and when Dwight Gayle capitalised on a mistake from the home side, it looked like it could be a long afternoon for the Villa faithful.
The match stayed that way until the second half when Villans boss Dean Smith brought on Conor Hourihane, and it was he who lashed home an equaliser from the edge of the box to send their fans wild.
They were at fever pitch moments later when Kieran Gibbs brought down Jack Grealish in the box, giving Tammy Abraham the chance to convert from the spot and give Villa an important lead, heading into the second leg of the tie at The Hawthorns on Tuesday evening.
The introduction of Hourihane had a massive effect on the tie, and could be the difference between the Villans making it back to Wembley or not.
The Villa fans were well aware of the contribution the Republic of Ireland international made in the contest, and he was the centre of their thoughts when they flooded onto social media after the match, expressing their relief at the win and their desire to see the game changer start the second leg.
Here are some of their messages:
Think Smith learned a valuable lesson today: Hourihane needs to start these playoff games. As we face some of the best teams in the league, we need his mobility, movement, vision, and, not to say; his left foot. Also: Green’s eagerness and tempo off the ball lifted our game #avfc
— #12Andy (@EisernNorvillan) May 11, 2019
Escaped a bullet today. Didn't start as I'd have hoped & gave the Baggies a shade too much respect. @OfficialTM_3, Whelan & McGinn have had better days & we gave away too much silly possession. Hourihane made a massive difference but what did stand out is we are a team. #AVFC
— Kevin Hughes (@kevinhughes348) May 11, 2019
So happy for Hourihane, many times the scapegoat this season, what a player he is!! #avfc
— Luke (@iLukasx100) May 11, 2019
That wasn’t our best, but we got over the line. This one isn’t done but what a boost to have Gayle out for them. He was a nuisance. Hourihane goal was just 👏. Great atmosphere at the end as it was subdued in parts. #AVFC
— Tom Fox (@TomFox90) May 11, 2019
Worst we’ve played for months, they were no great shakes either, just got everyone behind the ball, Hourihane coming on changed the game, serves Gayle right getting sent off, time wasting & feigning injury all the time W⚓️ #avfc
— Phil Hodson (@Hodsie) May 11, 2019
El Ghazi was probably our best player and Hourihane made such a difference when he game on as we started passing the ball more quickly #avfc
— Lee Bickerton (@Lee_Bickerton) May 11, 2019
I will admit. I’m not Hourihane’s biggest fan but made a massive impact when he came on🔥🦁 #avfc
— Chels (@chels15avfc) May 11, 2019
Whelan is a good out and out player but he hasn’t got what hourihane has which is passion and flare Conor has to start next game simple as that #avfc
— swingey (@dane_swingewood) May 11, 2019
So pleased for Hourihane considering the abuse he got by some earlier in the season…critics will say he drifts in & out of games, but his commitment can never be questioned #avfc
— DOMINIC HUNT (@domhunt73) May 11, 2019
Hourihane is a baller. #avfc
— Josh Houghton (@JoshHoughton6) May 11, 2019