ASTON VILLA may have lift-off and are closing in on the league leaders.
But their 1-0 Sky Bet Championship win over rock bottom Bolton left a lot to be desired.
Steve Bruce’s men struggled to assert themselves on their winless visitors and only took a 38th minute lead through a fit-again Jonathan Kodjian penalty.
And Villa finished with 10 men after Neil Taylor was sent off in the 88th minute for his dangerous tackle on Adam Le Fondre.
This was Villa’s fourth successive victory in a run of seven unbeaten games.
But struggling Bolton, still with only two points, slumped to their ninth defeat and 11th game without a win.
That’s equal to their worst start to a season in 1902-03.
Villa immediately set the pace as Bolton resignedly dropped on the defensive with Gary Madine their solitary striker.
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There was a glimmer of hope for Bolton when Sammy Ameobi gained possession but Sam Johnstone quickly smothered his drive.
And Villa failed miserably to test Trotters’ keeper Mark Howard with a single effort in a low-key opening half hour.
The result was a much better display than expected from the Whites.
Jem Karacan and skipper Darren Pratley, in particular, worked hard in midfield to nullify Villa’s limited attacking options.
In the 37th minute Kodjia had an amazing miss.
⚽ Ian Wright’s Premier League Sunday Tips ⚽
Former striker Ian Wright selects his top tips for Sunday’s action.
“The boffins at Sun Bets tell me there has never been a Premier League game end 0-0 between these sides too so expect goals.
“I’m going to have to go with Jurgen Klopp’s men as on paper they are the much better side.
“12/1 on a 3-1 away win is very tempting.”
A through-ball from Ahmed Elmohamady found Kodjia completely unmarked but the Villa striker, with only Howard to beat, casually shot wide.
In Villa’s next attack, Kodjia was brought down by Mark Reevers on the by-line and referee Jeremy Simpson immediately awarded a penalty.
Kodjia took the spot kick and converted for his first goal of the season as manager Bruce had his back to the action.
Despite the goal Villa struggled to take full control. Davis was given a harrowing time by both Wheater and Reevers, who both received yellow cards for tackles on the youngster.
John Terry had Villa’s best chance of a second goal but the defender failed to make a clean contact with a Robert Snodgrass free-kick.