Dean Smith lauded Tammy Abraham and Orjan Nyland after he celebrated his first game in charge of Aston Villa with a 1-0 win over Swansea at Villa Park.
Abraham, on loan from Chelsea, struck what proved to be the winner in the eighth minute with a superb header from Ahmed Elomohamady’s cross.
Norwegian keeper Nyland, who has struggled to make an impact since his close-season £3million arrival, then emerged with credit after making a number of top-quality saves.
The majority of the near-capacity crowd of 42,336 were delighted with just Villa’s second league win in 11 games but they had to endure an anxious final 30 minutes when Jay Fulton, Connor Roberts, Mike van der Hoorn and Bersant Celina all tested Nyland.
Smith said: “Tammy is a handful and he knows better than me that he should have been walking away with the match ball.
“Tammy put in a hell of shift up front on his own and proved that he is a fine player.
“In the second half I thought our energy levels dropped and allowed Swansea to get onto the ball in little pockets.
“My goalkeeper made some very good saves. The clean sheet is a big thing for us having conceded a lot of goals this season. Nyland can take a lot from this game.”
On the club’s prospects this season, Smith – a boyhood Villa fan – added: “It’s a tough league but a tight league.
“The win gives us an opportunity to move forward. We now have two away games but the players know what I expect.
“It is always a good start when you get three points. I thought we were very good in the first half, certainly the first 30 minutes we stuck to the game plan.
“We won the ball back in key areas but didn’t convert the opportunities created.
“It was great to give the fans the win. It was one of the biggest crowds of the day including the Premier League. It just shows what can happen at this club if we have a plan to more forward.”
Swansea manager Graham Potter had mixed feelings about the outcome as the Welsh club failed to improve their record of only one win in the last seven games.
Potter, who has the youngest side in the Championship, said: “We are disappointed with the result but it was a challenging atmosphere.
“We had a lot to deal with in the first half. The players responded well and created several good opportunities but Villa had chances to put the game to bed.
“It wasn’t until the second half that we attempted to get back into the game. It was a good experience for my young side.
“Based on our overall performance I feel we can do better. But it is a case of work in progress.”