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Dean Ashton praises Jack Grealish for helping Aston Villa improve defensively

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith reacts during the Sky Bet Championship match between Birmingham City and Aston Villa at St Andrew's Trillion Trophy Stadium on March 10, 2019 in Birmingham,...

Aston Villa's promotion charge is back on once again after three wins on the bounce.

Jack Grealish of Aston Villa in action during the Sky Bet Championship match between Birmingham City and Aston Villa at St Andrew's Trillion Trophy Stadium on March 10, 2019 in Birmingham,...

Pundit Dean Ashton has singled out Aston Villa ace Jack Grealish for helping his team improve from a defensive standpoint in recent weeks. 

The 23-year-old, who missed nearly three months of action because of an injury, returned to Dean Smith's starting XI a fortnight ago to help his team beat Derby County 4-0, win the bragging rights against rivals Birmingham City and then see off Nottingham Forest on Wednesday night. 

In his absence, Villa won only two matches and secured only two clean sheets, but upon his return, they have won three games on the bounce, conceding only once and that was a fluke goal by Forest midfielder Jack Colback. 

 

Speaking to EFL on Quest (13/03/2019 at 10:40 pm), former West Ham striker, Ashton explained why the attack-minded Grealish has helped Villa improve at the back. 

"Defensively, Aston Villa look like they are starting to improve," Ashton told Quest. "Mings and Hause as a back two look very, very strong. 

"Also, with Jack Grealish playing, I know he has had a lot of the headlines, both playing and what happened against Birmingham.

Jack Grealish of Aston Villa celebrates after scoring his sides first goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Birmingham City v Aston Villa at St Andrew's Trillion Trophy...

"But actually, with him playing in that midfield role, the full-backs don't have to get so high and it's starting to release midfielders. McGinn especially, Man of the Match against Forest and he was absolutely superb in that comeback." 

There is no doubt that Grealish's presence in the middle of the park and return to the team has helped change Villa's fortunes around in recent weeks.

Smith's side have gone from looking down and out in the play-off race to right back in it because they are now only two points off the top-six.

On Saturday, they play fifth-placed Middlesbrough on home soil and three points will ensure they close the gap on Tony Pulis' side to one point. Added with that, they will move into the top-six because Derby County and Bristol City are not in action. 

Dean Smith manager of Aston Villa looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Birmingham City v Aston Villa at St Andrew's Trillion Trophy Stadium on March 10, 2019 in...

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