A welcome piece of history for Aston Villa came with the near-certainty their season will be extended into the Championship play-offs.
In defeating Millwall thanks to Jonathan Kodjia’s goal, Villa established a new club record of 10 consecutive league victories and eclipsed their previous best of nine set way back in 1910.
Every season, the Championship sees a club make a perfectly-timed dart from the pack into the top six.
Aston Villa secured their tenth consecutive league win a row, which is a new club record
That record had stood since 1910 but on Saturday it put Villa in the playoff driving seat
Jonathan Kodjia’s first half goal proved to be the difference against Millwall at Villa Park
This time around, Dean Smith’s Villa have recovered from a torrid start to 2019 and, thanks to their superb winning run, are now almost assured of their play-off place.
It could give Villa a chance to atone for their Wembley defeat to Fulham in last season’s Premier League promotion final and, on current form, nobody will fancy facing them.
Villa were a long way from clinical here, but with Millwall notoriously difficult to beat and scrapping for second-tier survival, victory should be accepted by any means.
David Martin was also outstanding in the Millwall goal and, in the end, the only reason Villa didn’t enjoy a more comfortable afternoon.
The London club remain deep in relegation trouble though their saving grace is a home game in hand, albeit one against play-off chasers Bristol City.
There was an early clue to the kind of gameplan Millwall wanted to adopt when Martin was given a ticking off for time-wasting by referee Tim Robinson inside the opening 10 minutes.
And given that, it came as little surprise that Villa made most of the early running. Mile Jedinak chanced his arm with a 30-yard free-kick that sailed over the bar, while Anwar El Ghazi headed Jack Grealish’s outswinging corner wide at the back post.
Mind you, Millwall knew they had it in them to snatch a goal that could prove crucial in their survival bid and it took a fine save by Jed Steer to keep out Jed Wallace’s rising shot from 25 yards.
But in the main the story of the first-half was consistent Villa pressure, some of which Millwall invited upon themselves.
Jake Cooper went into the book for a cynical chop on Kodjia as he skipped forward dangerously.
Shane Ferguson then played a careless pass just inside his own half that Kodjia pounced on and his electric pace suddenly had him in the clear. Martin raced out to him and was sufficiently off-putting as Kodjia knocked the ball too far past him and couldn’t recover.
But the forward, in the Villa side because Tammy Abraham injured his shoulder in the act of scoring at Bolton on Good Friday, quickly made amends.
Some of Villa’s build-up play was clunky but the lead-in to the goal was smooth as John McGinn worked the ball to Grealish and he moved it wide right to El Ghazi.
The Dutchman drilled in a low cross and there was Kodjia, stealing in ahead of his marker, to finish his eighth goal of the season at the front post.
Millwall’s plan A had seemingly been blown out of the water and they spent the remainder of the first-half soaking up pressure as best they could.
Grealish’s shot from the edge of the area almost deflected into Kodjia’s pass but Martin smothered and the Millwall stopper also caught El Ghazi’s free-kick.
Nonetheless, Millwall have a battle-hardened cussedness about them and so Villa knew they probably needed a second goal.
It almost arrived when Kodjia jinked his way between two defenders only to fire across the face of goal.
Smith introduced Andre Green and Conor Hourihane on the hour mark to try and inject some urgency into a sluggish second-half and Green rifled into the side netting after Grealish’s pass.
They then swapped roles, with Green cutting back a cross for Grealish to shoot but Martin blocked it with his legs. El Ghazi then drove inside from the left to force Martin into another stop.
And Martin’s exceptional afternoon continued when his reflexes kept out a stinging Green effort in the last 10 minutes, before reaching down a hand to deny El Ghazi after McGinn had played him clear.
But Villa managed to beat Martin once – and that ultimately proved enough.