Dean Smith happy with Jack Grealish’s focus after off-field issues

Dean Smith praised Jack Grealish’s focus after Aston Villa drew a blank against Burnley.

They were held to a 0-0 draw despite having 27 shots as Anwar El Ghazi and Kortney Hause hit the woodwork.

Matt Lowton cleared Ahmed Elmohamady’s deflected effort off the line while El Ghazi wasted several fine openings after the break.

Villa captain Grealish was banned from driving for nine months and fined £82,499 on Tuesday for two separate driving offences but boss Smith believes he has managed to keep his mind clear.

He said: “It was a performance I expected from him. A lot was made out of the week he has had but he was in court for two driving offences, nothing more nothing less and he handled it as I expected him to, with aplomb.

“Jack’s performances are what we are accustomed to. We had to make changes and with the way Burnley play we had to be good defensively.

“I’m really pleased with the performance, there are loads of positives to take. We changed 40 per cent of the team and our squad was tested but came through with flying colours. It was a performance worthy of a win.

“I’m not concerned (by not scoring). My concern is when you’re not getting chances. We look like a team unlikely to concede goals as well, when you do that you’ll accumulate points.”

Villa, who remain 11th and sit four points behind the top five, were on top from the start but their former midfielder Ashley Westwood did sweep wide after 19 minutes for the Clarets.

The hosts quickly wrestled back control and Lowton nodded off the line after Ollie Watkins deflected Elmohamady’s shot.

Nick Pope then turned El Ghazi’s free-kick onto the bar after 36 minutes and just before the break Hause headed Bertrand Traore’s corner onto the post.

Villa – without the suspended Douglas Luiz and Matty Cash – continued to press in the second half only for El Ghazi to waste several fine openings while Grealish shot over late on.

Emi Martinez saved from Chris Wood and Ben Mee but the Clarets were always more intent on clinging on to what they had.

It allowed them to climb out of the relegation zone by a point after a fourth clean sheet in six games.

Boss Sean Dyche said: “It wasn’t a great result, just a good result. We had to get back to being strong defensively and we have done that.

“In the first half I thought we were in some brilliant moments but we have to tidy up. We have to be more clinical and detailed because we have a base to work from now.

“We have to make it happen rather than wait for it to happen.

“We had a big result at Arsenal (winning 1-0 on Sunday) but doing the basics well has been important to us since we’ve been in the Premier League.

“Now we have to find the balance of opening the team up enough to make sure we score more goals.”