‘It’s a good habit to have’ – Targett enjoying Villa’s run of late goals
Matt Targett believes Aston Villa are now proving they possess the resilience and fitness levels to finally see off teams after reaching the Carabao Cup final.
Villa earned a reputation, following their return to the Premier League this season, for losing or drawing games late on from winning positions, doing so against Tottenham, Crystal Palace, Arsenal, Burnley and Liverpool.
But, over the past three matches, Dean Smith’s side have secured a late point at Brighton, beaten Watford with a last-gasp goal and on Tuesday evening Trezeguet notched a stoppage-time winner against Leicester to secure their place at Wembley on March 1.
“It’s nice to always score late,” said Targett, who set Villa on their way to a 2-1 victory on the night – and a 3-2 aggregate success – with the 12th-minute opener.
“We’re getting into a bit of a habit for scoring late goals. It’s a good habit to have. It means we’re finishing the game strong.
“It’s probably to do with our fitness levels, I would say. We’re a fit team, we do lots of work on the training ground. To finish games strongly is always important.
“Towards the start of the season we were giving away a lot of leads late on, so it’s nice to turn that around.”
Targett claims Smith is urging his players to always push for a winner.
“We go into every game trying to win,” he said. “It’s not in the manager’s nature to settle for a draw. He always wants to win so we will continue to try and win every game.”
Targett, a £15.6million capture from Southampton in the summer, has also started to develop an understanding with captain Jack Grealish which has made Villa a threatening force down the left.
With Villa employing three centre-backs, it has allowed Targett to operate as a wing-back and provide either a foil that allows Grealish to cut inside, or an outlet on the overlap, as was the case against the Foxes, enabling the 24-year-old to score his second goal for the club.
“I enjoy playing with Jack,” Targett said. “He brings the best out of me. I think we complement each other nicely.
“Sometimes teams look to double up, or put three players on him, so if I’m down the outside then I know I can take at least one of those players away. I’ll try to help him out, and he helps me out too.
“The system provides me with more of a licence to get forward. With three centre-backs behind you and two midfielders, you’re pretty much acting as a winger. The formation complements my game so nicely.”
Regardless of the opposition at Wembley on March 1, be it Manchester City or Manchester United, Targett is looking forward to hopefully collecting a winner’s medal to show off later in life.
“This is massive for me, a chance to play in a cup final and win some silverware,” he said.
“When you look back on your career you always want to show your kids, your grandchildren that you’ve won trophies, so it would be special.
“We know we’ll be underdogs, but we were against Leicester, too. It’s a final, 90 minutes of football, and whoever we get we’ll be ready.”