There will be bigger obstacles for Paul Lambert and his players to overcome during the coming months but this was at least a small step in the right direction as Aston Villa got their season up and running with only their second home victory since November. On a night when there were more empty seats than supporters inside Villa Park, Fabian Delph scored the first and any hopes Tranmere had of becoming the second Merseyside club to win here in the space of four days were extinguished when Chris Herd added a second.
A satisfactory evening's work for Villa was complete when Darren Bent emphatically swept the substitute Brett Holman's cut-back into the top corner nine minutes from time. It was Bent's first goal since the start of February and allowed the home supporters in a disappointing but hardly surprising crowd of 15,319 to celebrate the sight of Villa scoring three goals here for the first time since they defeated a Norwich side managed by Lambert on Bonfire night last year.
Although there were few sparks last night, all that really mattered for Villa on the back of Saturday's miserable home defeat against Everton was that they safely negotiated a path past a Tranmere side riding high in League One. "I know from experience these type of games can be tricky so it was really pleasing," said Lambert, who made six changes from the side that lost to Everton. "Any game you win it makes you feel good and the players deserve a lot of credit for bouncing back the way they did."
The Villa manager chose his words carefully in relation to the club's efforts to bring in at least a couple of new faces before the transfer window closes on Friday but it appears that a £2.5m deal for the 22-year-old Middlesbrough left-back Joe Bennett is close. "Hopefully something might happen on that," said Lambert.
Attempts to bolster their forward line with the signing of the Belgium international Christian Benteke have run into difficulties, however, with Genk demanding Villa double their £5.5m offer. It seems likely that a deal will eventually get done, although Villa will not be held to ransom. The player's agent has also made it clear that he believes the Belgium club are behaving unreasonably. "We've got to see where we're at with Genk," Lambert said. "They'll probably throw the ball back in our court."
Although Villa looked a little anxious in the early stages here, they got the breakthrough they badly needed when Delph stabbed a deflected far post cross from Edna Stevens, who was making his first-team debut, over the line in the 38th minute.
Herd prodded in from close range midway through the second half, after Owain Fon Williams failed to hold Stephen Ireland's cross-cum-shot, to double Villa's advantage and Bent added a fine third when he rammed the ball into the top corner from 10 yards. "I think we're a better team than we showed tonight," Ronnie Moore, the Tranmere manager, said.