Jim O'Sullivan

Villa's Gerry Connors is closely marked by Johnville's Declan Phelan. Photo: Jim O'Sullivan

Villa 0; Johnville 1

Johnville would appear to be winning their annual battle against relegation. For the past number of years they have been extremely close to dropping through the trap door but they have always avoided the drop and last Wednesday night they took another massive step to safety by defeating a Villa team who have won just one in their last 10 games.

Johnville’s powerful striker John Wall was their hero in Connors Park. His powerful header 15 minutes from full-time could see the St John’s Park secure their top-flight status for another season at least. The three points won has moved them onto 16 points and one more victory from their final three games would do.

Goal-shy Villa, stuck on 18 points, will be thankful for their early form and only need a point to be sure of their Premier League place.

Few chances

On a rather breezy and cold night it was clear from the outset that both teams were nervous. The opening salvo came from Wall who tried his luck from long range but Villa ‘keeper Cian McDonagh watched the ball sail high over his crossbar.

The Villa had a half-chance on 19 minutes. Nicky Corcoran played the ball forward into the area but it looked as if Johnville defender Paul Cleary had the situation under control. However, striker Danny Walsh took the ball off his foot only to shoot weakly at Joe Grant.

Johnville midfielder Gavin Phelan was just wide with a super 35-yard free kick on 23 minutes and the visitors, now on top, also carved out a decent chance after 37 minutes. Grant pumped the ball downfield and when it was headed on by Wall into the path of John O’Leary a goal looked on but the former Portlaw player blazed his shot over from the edge of the area.

Red card

Villa were dealt a major blow one minute after the turnaround when central defender Ian Sullivan was sent off after tackling Wall a little late, having been booked in the first half for a rather soft foul on Valdo Bulvas.

The home side were struggling to adapt and Johnville could have opened the scoring on 55 minutes. Bulvas drilled a delightful ball which Wall raced forward to meet but from just inside the area he dragged his effort left across goal.

Villa had a great chance to take the lead against the run of play soon after when Conor McDonald whipped over a cross from the left to the far post but Gerry Connors headed wide.

The all-important goal arrived on 75 minutes. John O’Leary played the ball low down the right flank to Alan Ryan and the tricky right-winger crossed brilliantly from the endline to Wall who powered a header to the roof of the net from 10 yards after peeling away from defender Declan Furlong.

Six minutes later Villa should have been level. McDonald played the ball forward to Danny Walsh who found himself in a one-on-one situation with Joe Grant but shot straight at the goalie. Seconds later Walsh went off injured, so perhaps that was a factor in his miss.

Johnville held on easily enough as Villa ran out of ideas against a determined side.

Villa: Cain McDonagh, Conor Mullane, Ian Nagle, Declan Furlong, Ian Sullivan, Nicky Corcoran, Des Mullett, Paul Omotoso, Gerry Connors, Danny Walsh, Conor McDonald. Subs: Ross Douglas for Connors (81 mins), Ian Hatton for Walsh (82), Neil Henneberry for Omotoso (90).

Johnville: Joe Grant, Declan Phelan, Dan Murphy, John Kennedy, Paul Cleary, Gavin Phelan, Anthony Phelan, Valdo Bulvas, John O’Leary, John Wall, Alan Ryan. Sub: Christian Walsh for O’Leary (76).

Referee: Paul O’Keeffe.