This may now be our worst start to a Premier League season ever but we are a young team that will get better as the season wears on and as we grow more used to playing together and playing the sort of football our new manager is looking for us to play.
Albion have had some years together now and although their managers have changed the way they play the game has not. They have come on in leaps and bounds and are no longer the yo-yo club they once were. They are now a decent outfit that will look for a top half finish this season and may well get it. They have broken the spell we held over them for some decades and some of their fans now apparently see a draw at Villa Park as two dropped points. Enjoy it while you can Baggie Boys but do not get too smug because you are now at your peak and we will only improve in the coming games and seasons to the point where once again you will see a point at home to us as a maximum expectation!
Albion started well and we finished the stronger of the two teams. We had the better of the first half and kept possession well with some nice crisp passing but having scored one having already had one chalked off for offside at the start of the second half they then grew in confidence and strength before our second half substitutions turned things back in our favour. So it ended honours even and that was a fair result for me and one that we can be happy enough with given we came back from a goal down although I would not have said no to a cheeky late winner!
My player ratings from a game that has left us with five points from our first six league games and that showed we now have some real competition for starting places are:
Brad Guzan – 6 – Did well to keep out a Tamas cross come shot at his near post on 64 minutes and blocked a Lukaku shot at his near post on 89 minutes. The least tested of the two keepers today.
Matthew Lowton - 6 – Matthew did not quite step up in unison with the rest of our defensive line when we were trying to play Morrison offside in the build up to their goal but another decent enough display otherwise
Ron Vlaar – 7 – Got his foot to Morrison’s cross for their goal only for it to run onto Long who applied a good striker’s finish.
Ciaran Clark – 6 – Got a deflection on Lukaku’s shot on 84 minutes that beat Guzan and shaved the far post.
Joe Bennett - 7 – A very promising home debut. Looked solid enough at the back and hit a decent free kick from the edge of the box on 57 minutes which beat the wall and just flew wide of the post but I think Foster did have it covered.
Brett Holman – 8 – MOTM - Hit a rasping shot from 30 yards on 26 minutes which Foster tipped over the bar. He then ran into the box on 41 minutes and his shot took a deflection off Jones but Foster did well to get an outstretched hand above his dive to keep it out. Another very good hard working display.
Karim El Ahmadi - 7 – A good solid performance and he played a key role in holding our midfield together.
Fabian Delph – 6 – This was nearer the level of performance that he showed in his early games for us and he seems to be starting to enjoy the responsibility the new boss is giving him.
Marc Albrighton – 6 – A welcome Villa Park following his injury. Might have conceded an early penalty on another day when his arm moved towards a cross inside the box although that would have been harsh it has happened to players before. Kept busy enough until his lack of games led to his being replaced on 66 minutes.
Gabriel Agbonlahor – 7 – Gabby had to start after his superb mid week cup performance at Manchester City and although he failed to get on the score sheet this time he was a handful for the defenders he faced particularly early on. Hit a good early cross on 2 minutes that McAuley managed to get a touch to before Benteke could who had been just behind him and looking to get onto the end of it. Hit another good cross towards the same target 12 minutes later that Olsson needed to head out for a corner. Needs to maintain the sort of level of performance and commitment that he gave in that cup game throughout games but this display was still a step up on much of last season if not such a big one as he had climbed to earn this starting place.
Christian Benteke - 6 – Held the ball up well enough particularly early on but Bent will be challenging for his spot and he will need to continue to hit the ground running with us to keep him and/or Gabby out on a regular basis. Christian did well to use his strength to rob a defender on the wing on 45 minutes but having cut into the box he then hit a shot that sailed over the bar. He was just beaten to the ball by Tamas on 52 minutes after Holman’s cross went through Gabby’s legs and he had looked likely to get us a quick equalizer.
Charles N’Zogbia – 6 - Replaced Albrighton on 66 minutes. I might have been tempted to start him after his goal in mid-week and he played his part in getting us something from this one when he was introduced.
Darren Bent – 7 – Replaced Benteke on 68 minutes and did what we signed him to do score a goal to earn us a point/points. Vlaar got a head to Bannan’s corner on 80 minutes that Clark almost turned in but the defender’s block fell to Bent who threaded the ball past keeper and defenders and into the net. He might even have had another on 87 minutes when Lowton pulled the ball back to him on the edge of the box but he lifted his shot over the bar when he might have been expected to have forced a save. Has to start the next one surely?
Barry Bannan – 6 - Replaced Delph on 71 minutes and looked lively.
Up the Villa and Stay Strong Captain!