Conor Hourihane has enjoyed fine form against Derby County this season, and he’ll be looking to make it a hat-trick of performances at Wembley.
There have been a number of key players this season, who have all had a genuine impact on Aston Villa reaching their second successive Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Final. Jack Grealish, John McGinn, Tammy Abraham, Tyrone Mings, Jed Steer, amongst many others, have all been integral in the Villa Park outfit reaching the lofty heights of Wembley once more.
Conor Hourihane is another of these players who has had an almighty influence across the season, scoring eight goals and assisting eleven.
But out of all of the players that have influenced this season, nobody has influenced the home and away fixtures against Play-Off Final opponents Derby County more than Conor Hourihane.
Aston Villa scored three goals at Pride Park the first time the sides met in November, and four at Villa Park – which saw the return of the previously injured Jack Grealish and his first foray into captaincy. And whilst Jack garnered the headlines for that game, it was Conor Hourihane’s influence across the two games that saw Aston Villa walk away two-time victors.
The first of the two meetings, at Pride Park in Derbyshire, looked as if it was labouring towards a scoreless draw until goals from John McGinn and Tammy Abraham put the Villans up two goals to the good. Hourihane, who had been enjoying a good game up until the 84th minute, went one better when he stepped up to take a free-kick.
One for the highlight reel – as many of Hourihane’s goals usually are – the Irish midfielder struck the ball beautifully, curling it beyond the Derby County wall and past the outstretched limbs of Scott Carson in the net.
He walked away with a 7.7 match rating from that game, and an 85% pass success ratio to boot.
In the return fixture at Villa Park, Hourihane was the best player on the pitch by a country mile, racking up a 9.3 match rating and followed closely by the other two goalscorers, Grealish and Abraham who both finished with an 8.5.
He scored two strong goals, one in the 9th minute of the game and the other in the 44th, and had an added opportunity to bag a hat-trick within the 90, but was denied by Scott Carson. Alongside this, Conor Hourihane boasted an 89% pass success rate.
The home fixture was Hourihane’s best performance of the season, whilst the away fixture was his seventh best – showing just how well he has played against next Monday’s opposition.
The Ireland international, who has appeared in 50 games for club and country this season will be looking to make it a hat-trick of outstanding performances against the Rams in the Play-Off Final and his previous form again them means that he’s likely to start against Lampard’s men.