Ashley Westwood shows his worth to Aston Villa against Southampton

The 26-year-old midfielder bagged a brace - his first goals in nearly two years - as Villa fell to a 4-2 defeat at home to the Saints.

Ashley Westwood proved a rare bright spot for already-relegated Aston Villa on Saturday as they fell to their 10th straight defeat with a 4-2 loss at home to Southampton.

The Saints were ahead on 15 minutes through Shane Long’s close-range header, before the Irish striker set up Dusan Tadic to make it 2-0 six minutes before the break.

Westwood reduced the deficit in the closing stages of the first half with a low finish from the centre of the box, but the visitors restored their two-goal advantage with 20 minutes left when Tadic fired a deflected shot into the bottom corner from just outside the area.

Westwood again handed Villa a lifeline five minutes from time, collecting the ball on the left of the box before drilling a shot past Fraser Forster for his second goal of the game, but Sadio Mane killed off their hopes of a comeback with a stoppage-time header.

Needless to say, few Villa players gave a good account of themselves in a hugely one-sided affair, but the oft-criticised Westwood was a clear exception.

Vs Southampton GoalsTotal ShotsShots OntargetTotal Key PassesTotal PassesPassing AccuracyTotal CrossesAccurate CrossInterceptionsBall RecoveriesTouchesMins Played
Ashley Westwood 2 4 3 2 48 83% 5 2 4 7 71 90

Along with his brace, the 26-year-old midfielder recorded four shots, two key passes, five crosses and a team-leading 71 touches over the course of the 90 minutes, while also completing 40 of his 48 passes – eight of which were long balls.

He also put in a solid defensive shift in the centre of the park, making four interceptions, seven ball recoveries and blocking a shot to help limit the damage.

Having been a frequent target of criticism from fans this season, it was a much-needed performance from the former Crewe Alexandra captain and offers some hope that he could be an important contributor in the Championship next term.

While his effort has never truly been questioned, his straightforward style of play means he has found it especially hard to stand out amid Villa’s dismal campaign and often looked like a man without a role compared to the industrious but error-prone Idrissa Gana.

As neither a true playmaker nor defensive midfielder, his quiet efficiency simply seems to go unnoticed most of the time, but his performance against Southampton offered a clear glimpse of how useful he can be to a rebuilding Villa.

If he stays beyond the summer, there is every reason to believe that he could have a big role to play in the club’s bid to bounce back to the Premier League at the first time of asking – regardless of who the new manager turns out to be.

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