James Chester’s first goal for Aston Villa enabled the Birmingham club to record a 1-0 Championship home win over Derby – their first victory in 11 games and a first in 2017.
The change in fortunes is a major relief for Villa and their manager, Steve Bruce, following five successive defeats.
For Derby it was a familiar outcome at Villa Park where they have now lost on each of their last 10 visits.
It was, however, far from a conclusive win for Villa.
As usual they found themselves under strong pressure in the last 20 minutes defending a lead carved out by Chester’s 25th-minute strike.
Their anxiety was increased two minutes into added time when Leandro Bacuna was sent off following a coming together with a linesman.
Early in the proceedings only the brilliance of goalkeeper Scott Carson kept Derby in the game. He produced a superb save to keep out a goalbound header from Villa’s skipper and man of the match Chester.
Typically Villa made most of the early running with Derby dropping a blanket defence to keep out the home side.
Alarmingly Villa’s defence was prone to mistakes which allowed Derby to look menacing on the break. Darren Bent, who earlier in his career was Aston Villa’s most expensive capture, had a couple of goal attempts blocked.
Increasingly it became a game of frustration for Villa. They were often badly disjointed with Jonathan Kodjia completely out of sorts against a resolute Derby defence.
But in the 25th minute Villa finally achieved a break through. Following a right-wing corner from Henri Lansbury the ball bobbed around and it was a determined Chester who forced the ball into the net from very close range as Carson was simply unable to intervene.
With an anxious Bruce visibly kicking every ball the home side found themselves on the defensive as if they were only too happy to hang onto their slender advantage.
With their own defensive shackles removed Derby appeared to be a more dangerous side with Tom Ince proving troublesome with some snappy right-wing raids.
Derby had strong appeals for a penalty rejected for a tackle by Nathan Baker on Bent as the Rams striker moved on Villa’s goal.
Two minutes into the second half Villa very nearly increased their lead. Bacuna produced a right-wing cross which the diving teenager Andre Green headed against the post.
It was a let off for Derby but in the same incident skipper Keogh sustained a leg injury which forced him to leave the field to be replaced by Chris Baird.
Villa’s skipper Chester certainly earned the plaudits. It was only his timely intervention which cut off Johnny Russell’s low pass to the waiting Bent.
But it was Villa’s Scottish international defender Alan Hutton who embarrassingly wasted an excellent chance to increase the Birmingham club’s lead.
Finding himself in unfamiliar territory in front of goal with only Carson to beat he meekly shot straight at the keeper.
As it was, Villa had to endure some relentless pressure with Sam Johnstone rising to the occasion.
With the pressure on Villa growing with every minute Ince very nearly equalised in with a low shot which went across the face of Villa’s goal with no one able to get a touch.