Jonathan Kodjia comes up trump as Villa beat Fulham
Jonathan Kodjia came to Aston Villa's rescue with a vital 80th-minute goal to earn the midlands club a crucial 1-0 Sky Bet Championship home win over Fulham.
The mundane game had previously been drifting to a goalless draw but the win gives Villa a massive boost and means they have collected seven points from three games since the recent appointment of Steve Bruce.
Kodjia's third goal in successive games also inflicted Fulham's first away defeat of the season and gave Villa their first back-to-back wins for the since May 2015.
Villa, with three changes from their side which won at Reading, made their customary quick start but Fulham's defence retreated to avoid any real trouble.
This caution appeared to be fully justified as they gained in confidence to break out with Lucas Piazon emerging as a potential threat.
Scott Parker was the cool head for Fulham in a midfield role and several good moves were engineered by the Londoners' captain.
The result was that following the initial flourish Villa struggled to create any real clear-cut chances.
It was not until the 18th minute that Villa managed to carve out an opening when Alan Hutton's high cross to the far post was headed wide of the post by Leandro Bacuna.
With Fulham content to lay back, some frustration began to creep into Villa's play. Their lack of sharpness up front played into the hands of Fulham who were quite content to play a waiting game.
All of Fulham's play continued to revolve around Parker who played with cool authority aided in no small way by Villa's apparent casual attitude.
There was certainly no urgency or thrust from either of Villa's strikers, Kodjia or Rudy Gestede, but in their defence they lacked the service to generate any trouble for Fulham's rearguard.
Fulham's attack hardly sparkled in this period. On-loan Chris Martin, who had previously scored in successive games, was rarely in the picture as he was dominated by Villa's tall defender Nathan Baker.
In a miserable first half neither side appeared capable of breaking the deadlock to the frustration in particular of the home fans.
The second half continued in the same vein and required a vital spark to bring it to life. Villa's best chance of going ahead came in the 65th minute when David Button, under no real pressure, was able to fingertip Jordan Ayew's free-kick over the bar.
In an attempt to inject more strike power Villa drafted in their expensive signing Ross McCormack in the 73rd minute and it worked for Villa with Kodjia notching his fourth goal of the season.
On one of the few occasions Fulham's defence was caught wrong-footed substitute Albert Adomah produced a quick cross from the right which Kodjia hooked home from close range.
A minute later Villa should have put the issue beyond doubt but Ayew, who had struggled all afternoon with his shooting, flashed a shot well wide of the post after making a snap breakaway.