Villa boss Bruce heading to Norwich with automatic promotion on his mind

Conor Hourihane celebrates after scoring Villa's second goal against Reading. Picture: PA

Conor Hourihane celebrates after scoring Villa's second goal against Reading. Picture: PA - Credit: PA

Steve Bruce returns to Carrow Road this weekend insisting his Aston Villa side are still in the hunt for automatic promotion.

Villa had an easy 3-0 home win over struggling Reading on Tuesday which left them fourth in the table, seven points behind second-placed Cardiff, who have a game in hand – and play leaders Wolves tomorrow night.

Bruce, an old hand at the Championship play-offs, said: ''We have to win on Saturday but the top two play each other.

'There are going to a few twists and turns.

'Obviously Fulham are there or thereabouts. The way they are performing at the moment, and to have the run they have had, is remarkable.

'There are seven games to go and there is a chance we can win promotion and remember, we take on Cardiff at home next week.

'After a difficult couple of weeks there was a freshness about the team and I was very pleased with the performance against Reading,

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'If we can go up automatically, then great. If we can't then let's go through the play-offs. If we play like we can do with a big crowd and big support, I think that will suit us.'

Villa outplayed Reading for almost the entire game and the Royals, who were reduced to 10 men for the last hour, succumbed to second-half goals from Birkir Bjarnason, Conor Hourihane and Scott Hogan.

One-time Norwich City target Hourihane's 62nd-minute goal was something of a milestone as he became the first Villa midfield player to reach double figures in season since it was last recorded by David Platt in 1991.

Bruce said: 'He has more goals and assists in the Championship than any other player. For £1million from Barnsley this is terrific. Well done to him.'

Bruce was pleased with the result against Reading and added: 'It was a frustrating first half when we had 74 per cent possession and it was a case of when we scored.

'It took a wonder goal from Bjarnason – a really great goal – who had his best game for Villa.

'He was excellent and I am pleased for him because he has had to adapt.'