Two home defeats in four days has been very, very hard to watch. The season is in tatters and all we have left for is to secure our safety. We currently have a 7-point cushion between the bottom three and ourselves but that gap will not last forever if our results do not start improving.
Barnsley now have as many wins away from home this season as we have wins at home and away. Yesterday’s visitors are also thirteen points above us. They play as a team. We play as a bunch of individuals. They wanted to prove something to the players they recently sold to us in the same way that Brentford and Forest did.
Our visitors started strongly but we then started to create chances and look the better team before referee Eltringham intervened by awarding a dubious penalty. As a team that is short of confidence and belief that was the last thing we needed. Having conceded another, we then pulled a goal back just before half time. That should have provided us with a platform and a momentum to seek a win or at the very least a draw from this game in the second half. Sadly, we gave an inept second half performance and it was the visitors who got the crucial next goal that sealed the game for them with over half an hour of the match left. Had we pulled another goal back we could have pressed for a late equalizer but we instead surrendered meekly.
Steve Bruce went back to four at the back for this one but our problems go beyond that. We do not play for each other as a team. Our new signings like other signings before them appear to have been swallowed up by the growing malaise that our club has been subject to over recent years. Players that have impressed and scored goals for fun at the clubs they were bought from see their form drop and their goals dry up when they join us.
The boss has a much bigger job than he and we thought that he had when we went on that early “new manager bounce”. He has to turn this club around by the end of the season and install a positivity in the players we have that can make next season markedly different to this and the last one. We need to make a strong promotion challenge next season but that currently looks to be beyond us.
My player ratings from a game that was frankly nothing other than an embarrassment are:
Sam Johnstone – 5 – Guessed the right way but Armstrong’s firmly hit 25th minute penalty beat him. Bradshaw turned a 43rd minute cross just past his outstretched hand and into the corner of the net for their second. Got down to hold a 78th minute Moncur shot near the post.
Alan Hutton – 5 – The last of a host of defenders to try to clear the ball out of the area on 58 minutes but only succeeded in finding Bradshaw who hit his second of the night. Headed a 67th minute Lansbury cross wide.
James Chester - 6 – Solid enough.
Nathan Baker – 6 – Our return to a back four was a return to his central pairing with Chester which is one of the few positives we have seen this season. Did well enough.
Jordan Amavi – 5 – Made a welcome return to the first team. Started very well but he was unable to maintain that high level of performance throughout the game. Harshly adjudged to have brought down Watkins inside the area to concede the penalty that gave them their opener and needed to try to get closer to Yiadom when he crossed for their second.
Albert Adomah – 5 – His fierce 15th minute shot from outside of the box was tipped over the bar by Davies. Lifted an 84th minute shot well over the bar.
Conor Hourihane – 5 – Headed the ball into the arms of Davies on 32 minutes from around 8 yards. This was still some way below the form and influence on games that he had shown when he was with the visitors.
Henri Lansbury - 6 – Had an 11th minute shot from inside the box saved by Davies and picked up the ball and hit a 21st minute shot that took a deflection before being gathered by Davies.
Jack Grealish – 5 – Showed a couple of glimpses of the ability that he has but not for the first time this season let this game pass him by without looking unduly concerned that it was doing so.
Jonathan Kodjia – 6 – MOTM – Hit a 26th minute shot from the edge of the box that went just wide of the far post before turning in Adomah’s 44th minute cross for our only goal. He then hit a 55th minute shot from the edge of the box a couple of feet wide of the post and made a decent run into the box 10 minutes later but his attempted cross was blocked and put out for a corner off Davies’ leg. Looked likely to give us a late consolation goal on the 90th minute but he lifted the ball onto the top of the net. Needs to look up for colleagues when making runs and to work on his relationship with Hogan.
Scott Hogan – 5 – Headed a 13th minute Amavi cross a couple of feet wide of the far post. He makes some promising runs but was again starved of service.
Birkir Bjarnason – 5 – Replaced Hutton on 73 minutes. Failed to make any impact following his introduction.
Andre Green – 6 - Replaced Lansbury on 73 minutes and looked lively unlike others around him.
Leandro Bacuna – Replaced Grealish on the 76th minute and was not on long enough and did not do enough to gather any rating.
Up the Villa!
I really don't see how they can improve on this year's kit. I know it's just simple but it's an all time classic. I'm wearing it as I type this.
I have plenty of faith in Under Armour to give us something nice.
In the thread Limpid has made about next season position, I have voted for a finish in the playoffs. That prediction is ridiculous, given our sheer lack of consistency, game plan and cohesion under Bruce. However, it is a vote from the heart not the head as I want to think we will pull it together somehow. I said "want to think" but there are definite alarm bells continually ringing about us.
As crap as we have been, we don't belong in this division, it is a matter of time before we make it back up, even if Bruce doesn't see out next season at the helm. We have spent so much money, an embarrassing amount really for the Championship and will most likely spend again in the summer but despite the alarm bells I'll be behind Bruce with my fingers crossed that next season we hit the ground running from the off and as best as possible boss the division. We won't win it, there are much more capable teams in the Championship and the might of the relegated premier league teams to contend with, but my heart is winning over my head. Even though my head totally agrees with many anti Bruce / up the creek posts I read.
Delusion maybe. To think of us being a force in this division we are so far from that, what Brighton and Newcastle have done. If it gets even worse under Bruce Tony is bound to chop n change just like he did with RDM, his investment and pride is at stake regardless of our wants. Who knows who we could even tempt to come here , that could boost us up to the top or near the top. So many variables so many ifs and buts, all from a starting point of utter sh--. But, stupidly, I believe... that Bruce can pull it together next season. I'm likely misguided but my glass is half full, even though the other half was knocked over my shoes by Bruce this season. The worst that can happen is I end up massively disappointed and frustrated, well no change there then supporting our lot is there.
Fed up, staying optimistic just as sick of there always being something wrong with us and this , almost a curse on us. Has to lift sometime. Ah well.
You are dead right !
As you say it's all opinions but I saw all those games and in none did we produce more than a single half of a decent performance (IMO ), and I wouldn't say we managed that much in three of them.
Brighton away in particular is assuming near mythical status - with some - but I watched it back a week or so ago and really we play well for the last half hour.
I can add others where we've done well in bits, Wigan away being my ' pick' because it said it all - only when he made the subs and switched to an attacking style did we come alive- but the approach was quickly buried.
I think the concern is less to do with 'turning it around' and more to do with us not putting in one single decent convincing performance.
Its the performances that are causing the massive disenchantment, and most would say it's not unreasonable to have had some - even one ! - in all those games. Pretty much every side we've played has done so ! Against us !