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John

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.       

Substitutes:

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!

John Lewis

John

We still await our first win in 2017. Any lingering promotion hopes that might still have persisted in the most optimistic of Villa fans minds (my own included) were extinguished along with our unbeaten home record yesterday.

This was a game that we had hoped to win albeit not with any great confidence but it was one we had not expected to lose. It was the first of four home games in our next five matches that could have begun a run of home wins. Ipswich were in as miserable a run as we were when they arrived at Villa Park but as Forest found last weekend Villa are currently the team to play when you are a football club on the crest of a slump and looking for a rare win. 

We started the game brightly but had nothing to show for that at half-time and if you fail to find the net when you are on top as we were in the first half then the thought persists that you may well have missed the boat. The second half was a different story. We were not so dominant as we had been in the first half and did not create chances or half chances in the same way as we had during the first 45 minutes. One stumble gave Ipswich an opportunity to win a game and it was a chance that they took to win a game that up until then neither team had really looked like winning.

The visitors scored with their only on target shot during the whole game. We seem to have rediscovered the habit of losing games in the last few minutes having done so against Forest and now Ipswich. We are also crying out for goals because you need them to win matches. We have an average of under a goal a game from our 30 league games to date and have lost 2 more games than we have won.

We are now 16 points off sixth spot but only 7 points clear of the bottom 3 so it is now sadly clear where a focus needs to be. We were unfortunate that one mistake cost us so dearly yesterday but you don’t always get the rub of the green when you are losing games as often as we are at present. This team may well look better when they have had chance to dwell but as I recall we were saying the same thing at the start of this season!

For me this three at the back system is not working for us and it was not the way to go yesterday given the team we were facing had very limited ambitions outside of their own half. Four at the back would surely have been enough. Hutton is no attacking wing back and Taylor looks more of a defensive back than a wing back that will run at people. By bringing Elphick back we are also disrupting a central defensive pairing that had been working well. The onus was on us to bring the game to them, to make chances (which we did) and to put one or more of them away (which we did not). We already have a changed team that are short of confidence so are we asking a bit too much of them to also ask them to adapt to a different way of playing?    

My player ratings from a game which we resigned ourselves to another season in the Championship are:

Sam Johnstone – 6 – Held onto a near post shot from Ward on the 48th minute, had no real chance with their winner and that was about it for him on an otherwise untroubled afternoon.      

Alan Hutton – 5 – A surprisingly rapid return to the starting line-up. Performed in the manner we have come to expect from him. He did hit one of his best crosses in a Villa shirt on 36 minutes that was just above Hogan and that Kodjia was not quite able to get on target despite an acrobatic attempt to do so.        

James Chester - 6 – Solid, assured and seldom put under pressure by the visitors. Ran alongside McGoldrick and did not get a challenge in on him before he squared the ball through Baker’s legs and past Hourihane for Huws to steal the game for the Tractor Boys from close range on 83 minutes.  

Tommy Elphick – 5 – Slipped, lost his footing and was left floundering on the ground like a fish out of water as McGoldrick collected the loose ball in the build up to their late winner.     

Nathan Baker – 6 – Nathan has been playing so very well alongside Chester but is less comfortable on the left of three central defenders although he gets on with it and did even make the odd foray down the flank yesterday. Failed to get a header on target from a nice 79th minute Hourihane free-kick and had a header blocked a minute later.

Neil Taylor – 6 – Looked quietly competent on his debut but I could not help thinking that if we are looking to play wing backs we had one who looks ideally suited to that role left sitting on the bench.

Conor Hourihane – 6 – Conor has not settled into the team quite as quickly and as seamlessly as we had hoped but there are some positive signs of what could grow into a good long term productive partnership with Lansbury taking shape. Hit a solid low shot from the edge of the box which produced a good one handed save at the post from Bialkowski on the 9th minute. Hits a nice dead ball and let us hope he finds the back of the net against his old club on Tuesday which could prove the making of him as a Villa player.       

Henri Lansbury - 7 – MOTM – Our most effective player by some distance yesterday. He makes us tick on those occasions that we do so. Hit an 8th minute shot that Bialkowski pushed past the post for a corner.    

Birkir Bjarnason – 6 – Hit a rasping shot that thudded against the crossbar on 21 minutes after Hourihane had found him unmarked just inside the box in a central position with a free-kick from the left edge of the area. Worked hard and this was his best performance for me to date in our shirt.   

Jonathan Kodjia – 6 – Was the go to guy who was fed the ball and expected to run at defenders yesterday and he did that well enough on occasions. Worked himself into a shooting position inside the box on the 42nd minute but Bialkowski got down well to save his attempt. Found by Adomah just inside the box in the last minute of stoppage time but his shot was gathered at his near post by Bialkowski. Needs to look up for others who may be in a better position more often and play alongside his new strike partner rather than behind him.   

Scott Hogan – 6 – Placed a shot just wide of the post on 32 minutes. Did not get a lot of service and I had expected to see him look more of a threat than this but it is very early days for him.      

Substitutes:

Albert Adomah – 5 – Replaced Hutton on 67 minutes. Failed to make the impact we had hoped for yesterday in a game that I would have started him in to give him more time to do so.     

Andre Green – Replaced Taylor on 77 minutes. Not on quite long enough to gather a rating.      

Leandro Bacuna – Replaced Elphick on the 89th minute and was also not on long enough to get any sort of rating.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

John

This was a game of two halves. We scored twice in the first half, might have put the game beyond doubt and were a constant threat to the visitors who appeared to be there for the taking but we then snatched a draw from the jaws of victory. I suspect that our players thought that they would be able to comfortably coast through the second half but Simon Grayson’s half-time words stung Preston into second half action and they dominated the second half as much as we had controlled the first.

They got into our faces and scored the vital third goal of the match on 64 minutes which led to our players showing the anxieties and frailties that they are still prone to. Our visitors ran the show in the second half and were level on 76 minutes with their second goal in 12 minutes. We were fortunate that they did not push too hard for a winner that would have shattered our unbeaten home record. 

Each game we play seems to put a play-off place further away from us. We are now 9 points off sixth place. Defeats for the fourth, fifth and sixth placed clubs gave us an opportunity to close the gap on them further but we squandered that chance yesterday. We need to go on a run of wins now to make up the gap between us and sixth spot and to leapfrog the teams (including yesterday’s visitors) that stand between the top six and us. Sadly, we draw too many home games and lose too many games away to make us going on such a run look a realistic prospect.     

Before the game, I along with others were left wondering why on earth Gabby was in the starting line-up yet again. We now know. He was in the team because Ross McCormack has in recent weeks developed the sort of fitness and attitude issues that he had himself displayed over recent years. It is almost amusing that the recent behaviour of McCormack which mirrors that of Gabby over a longer period has ensured Gabby’s extended run in the side at a time when we had hoped McCormack might take the opportunity that the absence of Kodjia and Ayew on international duties offered him to show he could get goals for us as regularly as he has for others in the past. 

We now have some time available to reinforce further the team that will travel to Brentford with new signings and players potentially returning from international calls. That time will also offer McCormack an opportunity to begin to change his attitude and to try to seek the forgiveness for his misdemeanours that Gabby has been granted for his by Steve Bruce.    

My player ratings from a game before and during which we remembered Graham Taylor are:

Sam Johnstone – 6 – Had the quietest of first halves. He appears to like to take the option of punching rather than trying to catch the ball when he has the choice doesn’t he? Given that, he needs to try to get some more distance on those punches on a more consistent basis if they are to become a reliable safe option. Grabbed an 82nd minute header near the goal line and has a level of confidence about him.     

Alan Hutton – 7 – Made some decent forward runs particularly early on and this must go down as one of his better games for us.     

James Chester - 7 – Won everything in the air. Was left flat footed on the edge of the box as Hugill took the ball to his right and hit their opener before Amavi could get a challenge in.      

Nathan Baker – 7 – Another competent performance by what is our most improved player this season. He certainly learnt some good things during his loan to Bristol City last season and has now become one of the first names on our team sheet.

Jordan Amavi – 5 – Lost possession more often than he would be expected to and disappointingly looked less effective as the game wore on prior to his late substitution.

Albert Adomah – 7 – MOTM – Albert scored a brace of goals which should have been enough to secure the win. His first was a tap in from around a yard when unmarked but he was in the right place at the right time to put us ahead on 22 minutes and the referee let it stand despite vociferous appeals from the visitors for a foul by Gabby on the keeper. Sent Maxwell the wrong way from the spot after 36 minutes for his second. He had been found on the edge of the box by Amavi and ran on only for McGeady to win the ball but bring him and concede a penalty that incensed the visitors. Had an 88th minute shot kept out by Maxwell at his near post.     

Henri Lansbury - 7 – Pinged a couple of excellent passes and looked comfortable on the ball. He also takes a good corner which makes a pleasant change to what we have grown accustomed to. His lack of recent games started to tell in the second half as Preston took control of the midfield and he was substituted on 77 minutes. He will get even better with games and with another new midfield maestro alongside him shortly.    

Ashley Westwood – 6 – Started well and looked to be enjoying playing alongside Lansbury but faded somewhat as the game wore on and the opposition found him less of a barrier to their progress through the middle than they would have the injured Jedinak. Hit the ball just over on 32 minutes after Lansbury had played a terrific ball to find Adomah.    

Jack Grealish – 6 – Needs to try to impose himself more on games than he did yesterday and to remember as he had started to do up until yesterday that he has a role to play when the opposition have the ball as well as when we do. Given little protection from some rough treatment from opponents by a referee who appeared unconcerned that they were using this tactic to nullify his undoubted but too rarely seen talent. Hit a stoppage time cross behind Gabby when a late winner had for a fleeting moment looked possible. Might have won this one for us at times but didn’t quite produce the final touch to do so.

Andre Green – 6 – Missed a good opportunity to open the scoring on 12 minutes when he headed Gabby’s cross wide when he really should have at least been on target. He clearly has potential and the ability to take on and beat defenders. He needs games and the increased confidence that a run of first team appearances should give him.    

Gabby Agbonlahor – 6 – Gabby’s starting place is now unlikely to come under any serious threat until Kodjia or Ayew or both return from international duty or we sign another striker. Gabby did well enough yesterday and worked very hard. It was asking a lot of him to play as a lone striker but he did win a couple of balls in the air and pressed defenders. He does not have the pace he once had and what goal threat that he once possessed has now almost entirely been extinguished but he will no doubt claim an assist for our opening goal. Grealish chipped a ball over a defender for Gabby to run onto inside the box but his attempt to chest the ball down only led to the ball bouncing out of his reach. He tried to get his foot to the ball as he collided with the keeper and the ball ran loose to be tapped home by the unmarked Adomah near the line for our first. The ball ended up in the side netting on 33 minutes when he looked to have an opportunity to add a second. His best display for us in a long, long time but that is not saying that much, is it?    

Substitutes:

Leandro Bacuna – 6 – Replaced Henri on 72 minutes. Hit an 83rd minute shot from the edge of the box that Maxwell held easily enough.    

Gary Gardner – Replaced Amavi on 89 minutes. Not on long enough to merit a rating.      

Keinan Davis – Replaced Grealish on the 93rd minute and was also not on long enough to get any sort of rating. Perhaps he should have been given a chance earlier?

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

John

Our 5-game winning home run came to an end last night but we remain the only team in our division not to be beaten at home. We can thank the linesman who pointed out the hand ball from Liam Cooper that referee Roger East had missed or ignored in much the same way as had the Leeds defence and their manager for that. But justice was done when we scored our now familiar late goal to take a point.

We refreshingly started this game by pressing our visitors during the opening minutes. We shaded the first half but Leeds then bossed the second half. The first goal always looked as though it might be crucial and it was our visitors that claimed on the 54th minute only to be pegged back by a late equalizer.   

We needed a better performance than this one against a Leeds side that are currently on a terrific run but we failed to produce it. What we did show was resilience and the ability to get something from a game in the last few minutes of it. Leeds will claim with some justification that they were worth a win. They had looked likely to get it for most of the game but it was Villa that ended up the more likely side to find a late winner.        

My player ratings from a game we needed to win but could not afford to lose are:

Mark Bunn – 5 – I have always felt that he has an error in him waiting to come out and so it proved in the 54th minute when Jansson was left unmarked and unchallenged to put Leeds ahead. Bunn with Roofe’s outstretched leg nearby allowed the header to squirm through his hands and over the goal line. Was relieved to see the scorer’s shot rattle against the bar a couple of minutes later after a Chester header had fallen to him unmarked inside of the box. Did well to come out and block Sacko’s effort with his legs on the 77th minute.     

Alan Hutton – 6 – Alan was steady at the back but he was the closest player to Jansson when he scored their goal without being challenged. Likes a cross as much as Count Dracula does.     

James Chester - 7 – Headed a nice ball into the box from Amavi just wide of the post in the 32nd minute.      

Nathan Baker – 7 – Another solid display.

Jordan Amavi – 5 – Was fortunate not to pay a heavy price when he lost possession inside the box when trying to let the ball go out for a goal kick on the 40th minute. Was also relieved to see Sacko’s 88th minute shot hit the bar after losing possession and being brushed aside by the striker who was a constant thorn in his side.

Jordan Ayew – 4 – Hit a shot wide on the 74th minute. Had a couple of fleeting moments but this was a noticeable drop on the performance he gave and the energy he produced when appearing as a substitute in our last game.     

Ashley Westwood - 6 – Had a decent game particularly in the first half.

Mile Jedinak – 6 – A solid enough midfield performance and won more than his fair share of headers. Tired prior to his substitution and hit his usual share of stray passes.   

Leandro Bacuna – 5 – Did not reach anything near the level he produced in his last outing.

Jack Grealish – 6 – Substituted on 49 minutes having been unable to run off a first half knock. Leeds became increasingly dominant in his absence.   

Jonathan Kodjia – 7 – MOTM - Took the ball off Phillips in the middle of their half and then beat the same player before hitting a 30-yard shot that took a deflection off a defender before Green parried the ball away to his left. Three minutes earlier he was found on the edge of the box by a poor attempted pass from Phillips but Jansson did well to get across to block his effort that deflected wide of the post. Got in a cross in first half stoppage time that was too firm for anyone to get on the end of after some good work on the edge of the box. Had a 67th minute shot pushed away by Green.  

He was as cool as a cucumber on the 86th minute when he sent Green the wrong way from the spot for our equalizer and the ball thudded into the right-hand corner of the net. He might have gone on to win it for us in the 91st minute when the ball ran to him on the edge of the box after an aerial challenge between Gestede and a defender but his shot deflected off Green’s shoulder to safety. Jonathan might have considered the alternative of playing the ball to the unmarked McCormack who was in a great position to tap it in on his left. Will be much missed during his coming absence on international duty.        

Substitutes:

Ross McCormack – 6 – Replaced Jack on 49 minutes. Played his part in the build up to our penalty award.    

Rudy Gestede – 5 - Replaced Jedinak on 78 minutes in what may prove his last appearance for us. It was his head that Cooper decided to push the ball away from with his hand to concede a late penalty after McCormack had played the ball over his head for both players to challenge for.     

Albert Adomah – 7 - Replaced Ayew on the 78th minute and gave us pace and a threat down the flank that we had been previously missing.

Up the Villa & A Happy Promotion New Year to all readers!

John Lewis

John

This was our first Boxing Day win since 2005 and the first time we have won 5 successive home league games since season 1992-93 when we won 7 on the trot and Villa Park was a fortress, as it now threatens to become again.

Burton arrived for the first ever game between the two teams to face an all but full Villa Park. We opened the scoring after 15 minutes but instead of pressing for a decisive second goal we then surrendered too much space in the midfield to our visitors.

Burton came increasingly into the game and scored a spectacular equalizer 16 minutes after we had gone ahead. For much of the rest of the game they had looked the more likely of the two sides to get a winner and they were perhaps unlucky to leave Villa Park with nothing to show for their efforts. But our first two substitutions made a real impact on this game and rather than concede as the end of a game neared we continued with our new-found habit of clinching a late winner.      

This was not the sort of game that will have the extra visitors to Villa Park wanting to rush back to see more of the same but it again demonstrated that under Steve Bruce we have found the happy habit of winning games when we are below par. That gets teams promoted but we may need more than that later this week to win a sixth successive home game against high flying Leeds United. We owe them one after our recent defeat at Elland Road and we need to cut the gap between us and them sooner rather than later.        

My player ratings from a Boxing Day game that 41,337 fans attended and which took us above the club that dwell on the dark side of the city are:

Mark Bunn – 7 – Reacted very well to get a hand to a Brayford header in the fourth minute of stoppage time having got down low to save a shot from the edge of the box from the same player on 25 minutes. Had no chance with Ward’s 31st minute equalizer from a Brayford cross but although the finish was sublime he was allowed too much space with both Hutton and Gardner staying static some way off him. Mark was relieved to see Dyer’s shot hit the post on 73 minutes when beaten. Made decent saves from Ward on 35 minutes and from O’Grady on 77 minutes.    

Alan Hutton – 5 – Not the easiest of afternoons for Alan and he found some difficulty in coping with Dyer at times.   

James Chester - 6 – Solid when he needed to be.      

Nathan Baker – 7 – A rock in our defence who did the simple things right without any unnecessary frills.

Jordan Amavi – 6 – Seemed to have his mind elsewhere early on but got more into the game as it wore on.

Albert Adomah – 6 – Hit the ball harmlessly over on 62 minutes after a Bacuna cross had fallen to him after Kodjia had failed to connect with it.    

Gary Gardner - 5 – Substituted at half time having picked up a knock on 43 minutes.

Mile Jedinak – 6 – Solid as a barrier in front of our defence which is what he is there for but he cannot be expected to do the whole of our midfield’s job on his own.  

Leandro Bacuna – 7 –  MOTM - A good hard working all round display if still a little bit below the Champions League standard that he set for himself last year! Scored our opener on 15 minutes. He started and finished the move playing the ball out wide to Adomah who hit an inviting cross into the box which Leo headed home powerfully having run on into the box. Hit an effort just wide of the post 4 minutes earlier after the keeper had pushed out a Hutton cross to him inside of the box and McCormack had not got a touch to help the ball in as it sailed past him.

Ross McCormack – 6 – Hit our late winner on 78 minutes. Adomah fed Ayew on the right who hit a nice low cross that evaded both McLaughlin and Brayford before Ross controlled the ball at the far post with his left foot and hit it home with his right. I hope he will take confidence from this goal as we will need him to have his shooting boots on next month.  

Jonathan Kodjia – 5 – Hit a fierce shot from the left on the 80th minute that was off target. Some way off his excellent penetrative best yesterday.        

Substitutes:

Jack Grealish – 7 – Replaced Gardner at half time and brought us some needed creativity. Played a one-two with McCormack before jinking into the box and hitting the ball with his left foot which deflected off McLaughlin into the path of Kodjia who tapped the ball in on the 52nd minute only to be adjudged to have been offside.    

Jordan Ayew – 7 - Replaced Jedinak on 75 minutes and looked keen to make a positive impression in the short time that he had available to do so. Claimed an assist with the low cross that produced our winner and proved a significant threat to Burton following his introduction. An impressive few minutes and a marked improvement on what he had produced in recent games that he has started.      

Gabriel Agbonlahor – Replaced Kodjia on the 86th minute and showed some energy by chasing down opponents but was not on long enough to gather a rating.

Up the Villa & A Happy Promotion New Year to all readers!

John Lewis

John

This forgettable game was settled by an unforgettable winning goal from Jack Grealish in the 88th minute.

Wigan came to Villa Park with limited ambition. They came to frustrate and to claim a point as will other teams as we climb further up the table this season. We started the game well and finished it even better but for over an hour this match appeared to have goalless draw written all over it until Jack struck with his stunning late goal. It is so nice to be scoring late goals rather than conceding them now!   

We lacked movement up front from forwards who were starved of service by a midfield that lacked creativity. Wigan worked hard, got men behind the ball and on those occasions when this did not prove sufficient resorted to making strong/illegal challenges particularly on Jack Grealish and Jonathan Kodjia in an attempt to keep them both quiet. That worked pretty effectively for them during the first 87 minutes until we went ahead and claimed our fourth successive home win to move just 3 points off the play-off places.       

We bounced back from defeat at Leeds as we so needed to do yesterday. We did not win with a swagger but successful teams win games when they are some way off their very best and this we did. I hope we also began another lengthy unbeaten or dare we hope a winning run yesterday? That will be put to the test at Norwich in midweek and at QPR next weekend.  

My player ratings from a game that we collected only our second home win in nine league games against yesterday’s visitors are:

Pierluigi Gollini – 6 – A very, very quiet day at the office. Could have sat on a deck chair in the goalmouth for most of this game but it was not really the weather for that.     

Alan Hutton – 6 – Worked hard and looked solid at the back if something less than a threat when moving into the Wigan half.   

James Chester - 6 – Another solid and composed performance on a day when our defence was seldom tested.       

Tommy Elphick – 6 – Tommy eased through this game with little cause for concern being provided by the visitors. That might not have been the case had Wigan been a little more adventurous and started the game with or introduced late substitute Will Grigg earlier than they did.

Jordan Amavi – 7 – Another encouraging display. He looks so confident and effective defensively of late and poses a threat when getting forward as he has always done. Clipped an effort just past the post on 7 minutes from inside of the box and Jaaskelainen dived low to his right to gather a shot from outside of the box 4 minutes later after he had picked up a loose ball from a corner.

Albert Adomah – 5 – Failed to make the same sort of positive impression on this game that he has done in others lately.    

Gary Gardner - 5 – Put in a shift as he always does prior to his substitution but he has it in him to impose himself more upon opponents.

Mile Jedinak – 6 – Another solid midfield display. Opponents must feel like they have run into a brick wall when they are challenged by Mile. Hit a shot from the edge of the box on 72 minutes straight at Jaaskelainen who gathered the ball easily enough.  

Jack Grealish – 7 – MOTM – Hit a spectacular winner to claim all three points for us in the 88th minute. A McCormack cross was headed out by a defender and picked up by Jack just outside the box. He then hit an unstoppable shot past Jaaskelainen and into the top right hand corner of the net.

Jordan Ayew – 4 – Jordan was disappointingly quiet again yesterday and needs to make a bigger impact on games like this. Lost the ball more than once and noticeably a couple of times near the end when we particularly needed to keep possession.

Jonathan Kodjia – 5 – Might have opened the scoring for us in the 14th minute when Adomah found him nicely inside the box but his attempted chip over Jaaskelainen was kept out by the keeper’s outstretched arm.        

Substitutes:

Ross McCormack – 6 – Replaced Gardner on the hour and introduced a bit of much needed energy.  

Rudy Gestede – 4 - Replaced Adomah on 73 minutes. Rudy provided no threat up front and made little if any positive impression after coming off the bench.      

Leandro Bacuna – Replaced Jack in the 4th minute of stoppage time so he was not on long enough to gather any rating.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

John

Yesterday’s third successive home win extended Steve Bruce’s unbeaten run to seven games. It also lifted us into the top half of the table and put us within touching distance of a place in the top six.

Cardiff have not won at Villa Park since 1954 but they started strongly and reacted well to going a goal down after 24 minutes by drawing level 4 minutes later. Our visitors gave the sort of determined no-nonsense display that is expected from any team managed by Neil Warnock. It’s not pretty to watch but it is effective and it will be likely to be enough to keep our visitors up this season. On this occasion, another goal from Kodjia and a late penalty secured the points for us.  

We will see much more entertaining games at Villa Park this season but these are the sort of games that teams who go on to win promotion emerge from with the points. It is such a relief to see us winning games again at what is fast becoming fortress Villa Park again. It is also a bonus to see us score three goals when we have otherwise not played particularly well.  

My player ratings from a game that we scored three goals in for the first time since our opening home game of the season are:

Pierluigi Gollini – 6 – Got down well to hold a 46th minute header from Hoilett.     

Alan Hutton – 5 – Cardiff found it easier than it should have been to make some decent runs down his side in the first half and Alan needed to show a little more alertness when he was slow in trying to get back to cover the unmarked Lambert on the edge of the box for their equalizer.   

James Chester - 8 – MOTM – Did not put a foot wrong at the back.       

Nathan Baker – 6 – Looked solid prior to his half time substitution due to injury.

Jordan Amavi – 8 – Continues to look better with every game and claimed a big assist for our first goal. Hit a left footed shot from the edge of the box on 33 minutes that was blocked by a defender.

Albert Adomah – 7 – Scored our opener on 24 minutes. Amavi made a nice run before hitting a low cross to the far post where Albert took a touch before coolly slotting the ball past Amos.    

Ashley Westwood – 6 – Lost a challenge that he had started favourite to win in the build up to their equalizer but put in a decent enough shift other than that.

Mile Jedinak – 7 – Another very strong midfield performance. 

Jack Grealish – 7 – Earned us a late penalty when he was brought down inside the box by Morrison after Kodjia had played a nice ball for him to run onto. Our visitors had found Jack too tricky to handle when he had the ball at his feet and resorted to stopping him in the only reliable manner they could think of namely by bringing him down. They eventually paid the price for that tactic having Peltier sent off on 84 minutes and conceding the late penalty that clinched our win.     

Jordan Ayew – 4 – Very, very quiet yesterday. Lost the ball a little too often and did not seem to be looking too hard to impose himself upon the game

Jonathan Kodjia – 7 – Got on the end of a ball that Baker had played from well inside his own half on 11 minutes and made space for a shot that took a slight deflection off Peltier before flying just wide of the far post. Had a decent goal scoring opportunity on 85 minutes but hit the ball wide of the post. Scored our second on 39 minutes. Adomah was given a second opportunity to put a cross in and hit the bouncing ball to the far post where Jonathan climbed well above a statuesque defender to plant his header past the keeper.        

Substitutes:

Tommy Elphick – 6 – Started the second half as Baker’s replacement and looked solid.        

Gabriel Agbonlahor – 6 - Replaced Ayew on 62 minutes. Grealish put him clear with a lovely ball on 79 minutes but Amos came out to block his shot and he then scuffed an attempted cross from the rebound. Booked shortly after coming on for his reaction to a decent penalty appeal that he had played a big part in being denied.      

Rudy Gestede – 6 - Replaced Adomah on 74 minutes. Sent Amos the wrong way and hit the ball into the left corner of the net from the spot in the 90th minute to extinguish any hopes our visitors may have entertained of claiming a stoppage time equalizer. I must admit that I was more than a little worried when he was the one that stepped up to take it though.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

John

I think that we are all growing a little more accustomed to that winning feeling that has been absent from Villa Park for far too long. We have now gone five league games unbeaten since the arrival of Steve Bruce and have gathered 11 points from a possible 15 which is promotion form.

Brucie has got us organised and appears to have stamped out that habit of conceding late goals that had cost us so dear earlier this season. Our new boss gets the best out of the players that are available to him and has done this since his arrival as he did with his previous clubs. Steve Bruce might have been pleasantly surprised to hear his name being sung with such gusto by the Holte End yesterday but I think this could well become a very regular occurrence.   

This was a game that looked on paper as a likely home win. So, it proved but only after we had gone a goal behind due to a well taken headed goal from the free-scoring Gallagher who is on loan from Southampton. We at best matched our visitors in the first half and there was little to choose between the two teams until two clinical finishes from Kodjia gave us a second successive home win for the first time since May 2015.   

My player ratings from a game that cemented our position as the only team in our division not to have tasted a home league defeat this season are:

Pierluigi Gollini – 6 – Did well to keep a 20th minute header from Gallagher out at the post and helped a Marshall free-kick from the edge of the box over the bar 5 minutes later. Was left flat footed by Gallagher’s goal which found the corner of the net.     

Alan Hutton – 5 – His final ball was again found wanting.   

James Chester - 7 – A very calm and assured display.       

Nathan Baker – 7 – Faced a difficult opponent in Gallagher who only once got the better of him when he climbed above him to put them ahead.

Jordan Amavi – 7 – He is looking better with every game.

Albert Adomah – 7 – Provides a wide option for us. Played in some nice crosses and made some decent runs forward yesterday.    

Gary Gardner – 6 – Miscued on the third minute when an Adomah corner unexpectedly found its way to him past the group of players that lined up in front of him. Hit a powerful shot from outside of the box on the 61st minute that Steele turned around the post. Brings something to our midfield that we had been missing and looks like he is beginning to feel increasingly comfortable in our starting line-up.

Mile Jedinak – 7 – Mile is now looking like the player we had expected to see from the start of this season. Produced another solid encouraging display yesterday.  

Jack Grealish – 6 – Earned us a penalty that led to our equalizer with a nice run into the box on 57 minutes that was only ended when he was brought down by Greer.    

Jonathan Kodjia – 8 – MOTM – Had a 23rd minute effort punched away by Steele and hit an Adomah corner that fell to him over the bar on 35 minutes. Stepped up with confidence to hit a powerful well struck spot kick into the corner of the net which evaded the reach of Steele on 57 minutes. Hit our winner on 70 minutes but took a knock in doing so that led to his substitution. Jedinak found him wide and he ran towards the near post where he did so well to thread the ball past Lowe and Steele inside the far post with the inside of his right foot.

Ross McCormack – 5 – Had a 42nd minute header at the far post from an Adomah cross saved by Steele. Was flagged offside on the hour when he somehow contrived to hit the ball wide from very close range. Turned well and hit an effort that beat Steele on 64 minutes but hit the side netting.         

Substitutes:

Gabriel Agbonlahor – 6 – Was our first substitution when he replaced McCormack on the 68th minute. This represents a surprising rapid return to the fold. The player might not have anticipated this or the warm reception he was given by supporters upon taking the field. Did as well as could be expected considering his need for game time and match fitness.       

Ashley Westwood – 5 - Replaced Kodjia on 74 minutes to solidify our midfield with the points ours to hold onto.   

Tommy Elphick – Replaced Grealish on 90 minutes to help shore up our defence in stoppage time but was not on long enough to gather a rating.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

John

What a difference two wins can make. Having won away for the first time in 437 days on Tuesday night we went on to win our second home game of the season yesterday and pulled five points clear of the bottom three.   

But enough talk of the bottom three we can now look at the top six that we are within six points of. We are coming to get those clubs that currently make up the top six as well as the knuckle draggers from the dark side of the city next weekend.

There was to be no late goal conceded by us this time and for a second time within a week it was us that claimed the three points with a late winner. We might have added another two before the final whistle was blown as we finished the game very strongly. Two more wins that would take our winning run to 4 games could well see us in the top half of the table and who would have thought that likely three weeks ago?

This was not our best performance although we threatened to run away with the game after taking the lead. It is not a game that will live long in the memory unlike the goal that won it for us which was so well taken. I do however wonder whether it might just be a second win that proves to be a turning point in our season?  

My player ratings from a game that brought Brucie his 7th point from his first 3 matches and our visitors their first away defeat are:

Pierluigi Gollini – 6 – Made a decent save at his near post from Aluko on 44 minutes and tipped a cross over for a corner in the third minute of stoppage time.      

Alan Hutton – 5 – Did a decent enough job.   

James Chester - 7 – Looked very good alongside Baker and appeared to have enjoyed wearing the captain’s armband.       

Nathan Baker – 7 – A solid display and Elphick may not find it too easy to displace him when he recovers from injury.

Jordan Amavi – 7 – His best game for us since his return from injury. Looked solid enough at the back and good when coming forward.

Leandro Bacuna – 5 – Did a job for us in the middle but I suspect Tshibola might be able to do a better one.    

Gary Gardner – 6 – Has made a difference to our midfield which had been struggling badly before his introduction.

Mile Jedinak – 5 – Played today with players alongside him that have the pace to help him see games out albeit not through to their conclusion.

Jordan Ayew – 6 – Forced a one-handed stop from Button on 27 minutes and had a 65th minute free-kick from the edge of the box tipped over the bar by Button. Should have put the result beyond doubt on the 82nd minute when he was put clear by a nice ball from McCormack only to steer the ball wide of the post.    

Jonathan Kodjia – 7 – MOTM - Hutton found him inside the box and his 10th minute shot from a tight angle was well kept out at the near post by Button. Scored our 80th minute winner after Button’s clearance from outside of his box went straight to Adomah who rather than have a shot himself as the keeper struggled to get back crossed for Jonathan to volley the ball at waist height into the corner of the net. What a great finish that was and it was one that was worthy of winning any game! Headed the ball just wide of the post late in injury time after Button had pushed Adomah’s shot towards him. 

Rudy Gestede – 4 – Given another start but did little to warrant a further one next weekend for me and I think his place will now come under increased pressure from McCormack.     

Substitutes:

Albert Adomah – 7 – Came on for Gestede on the 55th minute and his introduction played a big part in our improved performance. Made our winner and made a nice run into the box in injury time before getting into a shooting position and forcing a save at his near post from Button. His direct approach and running at defenders makes him a player that can win games for us.       

Ross McCormack – 6 - Replaced Jedinak on 73 minutes and looked lively.  

Ashley Westwood – Replaced Ayew on 86 minutes and was not therefore on long enough to gather any rating.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

John

This was a point gained rather than a point lost because Wolves were by far the better side on the day and had the chances to have run out clear winners had they taken them. They just seemed to want it more than we did.

We had hoped for a win, an early new manager “bounce” and for the players to want to pull out all of the stops to impress the new boss but old habits are hard to break. Although there have been significant changes in our starting line-up since last season this season’s displays have also impacted upon this team’s confidence and belief. On the plus side at least we didn’t concede yet another goal in the last 5 minutes and will hopefully have Ayew starting the next game.

Villa started well enough in a local derby that both teams gave as good as they got before we took the lead after 15 minutes. At times we looked as if we might add a second goal in the first half but there was only one team that posed a goal threat in the second half and it was certainly not us. Not for the first time this season having gone one ahead we then gradually dropped back rather than pressed for a second. We were lucky on yesterday’s dismal second half performance to have held onto our unbeaten home record and to have hung onto a point against our Black Country visitors who dominated the second half all too easily as we ran out of gas alarmingly.            

Steve Bruce can be in no doubt after this game of the tough task he faces in turning this Villa side who have won only once this season into a winning team. He has much work to do but he has the ability to organise us and to turn things around. That will take him more than a couple of days as this game proved but we need to start winning games sooner rather than later and a win at Reading would be most welcome.              

My player ratings from a game that we started in the bottom 3 and ended needing a minimum of 3 points to get out of the bottom 6 as well as 9 points away from the top 6 are:

Pierluigi Gollini – 6 – MOTM - Stood no chance with Costa’s 33rd minute penalty that was hit past him into the top right hand corner of the net. Kept us level on 73 minutes with a fine one handed save from a near post Edward’s header from a corner that would otherwise have been pounced upon by Dicko.      

Micah Richards – 5 – Micah was re-introduced into our starting line-up by our new boss and did as well as could be expected considering his recent inactivity. He was fortunate not to concede a penalty on 52 minutes when he did well to run back into position as Costa squared the ball for Bodvarsson who had looked likely to give them the lead before Micah clattered into his back.   

James Chester - 5 – Might have expected to collect a second yellow when he brought down Costa near the centre circle as he ran past him.       

Tommy Elphick – 5 – Our captain was still some way off the assured sort of performances we had been looking for from him prior to his substitution due to injury.

Aly Cissokho – 5 – Surprisingly started instead of Amavi. Dived in an attempt to try to block a 33rd minute shot from the edge of the box from the unmarked Costa but the ball hit his raised arm and the penalty that brought Wolves level was given.

Albert Adomah – 6 – Made some good runs and did well to clear the 73rd minute corner that Gollini had got a hand to at the far post before Bodvarsson could look to force it in.    

Aaron Tshibola – 4 – Not near his performances for us to date in a game that appeared to pass him by.

Mile Jedinak – 5 – Showed more pace at times then he has done previously which was encouraging prior to his being substituted inside the hour having run out of steam understandably enough following his long distance international duty.

Jack Grealish – 6 – Played a nice one-two with McCormack after Chester had found him on the 15th minute and his heel was clipped inside the box by Iorfa to bring us the penalty that Kodjia converted to give us an early lead. Jack was as lucky that a petulant stud to leg movement on Coady having been brought down by the same player was apparently not seen by any of the officials so it did not result in his receiving a card as was Coady lucky to see just a yellow for his reaction. Will Jack now face retrospective punishment?     

Ross McCormack– 6 – Ross showed good movement throughout despite not getting the sort of service he would thrive upon. Might well have given us the lead again on the 44th minute had Kodjia fed him when he was unmarked and in a clear shooting position. Unfortunately, Kodjia having been found near the penalty spot by Adomah instead tried to score himself when his chances of finding the net were significantly less likely.    

Jonathan Kodjia – 6 – Hit his 15th minute penalty confidently past Ikeme into the lower right hand corner of the net. Might have had another on 36 minutes when a headed clearance from the edge of the box fell to him and he hit a sweet shot that Ikeme did very well to turn past the post at full stretch. Faded noticeably in the second half.     

Substitutes:

Ashley Westwood – 5 – Came on for Jedinak on the 55th minute and made little positive impression in the time he had. His introduction fully demonstrated the lack of midfield options currently available to Brucie.     

Alan Hutton – 5 - Replaced Richards due to injury on 66 minutes. Missed his kick on 83 minutes and the ball having previously taken a touch off Edwards therefore ran onto the unmarked Cavaleiro whose shot from near the penalty spot had just evaded the advancing Gollini. Thankfully the goal bound shot was blocked by Alan who had kept on running to cover his keeper and he made full amends for his own error.  

Nathan Baker – Replaced Elphick who had taken a knock on 77 minutes.  Nathan was not on quite long enough to earn a rating but played his part in holding the fort as the minutes ticked by at the end.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

John

We have grown frustratingly accustomed to conceding goals and dropping valuable points during the last 5 minutes of games this season but this time we scored rather than conceded one late in a game. 

We were really abysmal in the first half. Playing three central defenders did not work for us and our defence was shaky at best in the first 45 minutes. Our midfield was none existent and we posed a minimal threat up front. Newcastle will have been disappointed to have only been one up at the break having dominated the game and brushed us aside all too easily. Am I alone in thinking that our target was a 0-0 draw until they scored?     

The second half was a different story. We dispensed with the formation we had started with and went to a back four replacing Baker with Tshibola. We looked better at the start of the second half although it would have been very difficult to have looked any worse. We were more competitive and positive. Newcastle thought they already had the points in the bag and took their foot off the pedal. When Diame missed a great opportunity on 64 minutes to give the visitors a two-goal cushion our belief grew and we increasingly took the game to them. In the 88th minute having hit a post, having had a goal disallowed for offside and a penalty appeal turned down we got the goal that our spirited second half comeback deserved.            

This was our first league meeting with Newcastle outside of the top flight since 1938. It was the first time two Champions League winning managers had met outside of the top flight. Our equalizer was also our first goal from a corner since the first game of last season. This hard earned point showed Newcastle it can prove more difficult than might be anticipated to see a game out, it took us out of the bottom six and it stopped our visitors from extending the points difference between the two clubs from 7 to 10.   

It was a positive that RDM changed things at half time but equally it was a negative that his initial choices made that necessary It was nice to see another team impatiently waiting for the final whistle at the end rather than us and this encouraging battling second half performance needs to be used as a springboard to an upturn in both our results and confidence.      

My player ratings from a game that produced boos at the end of the first half and applause at the end of the second in what was a real game of two halves are:

Pierluigi Gollini – 7 – He is beginning to look like he could prove to be a bargain buy. Looking increasingly steady and growing in confidence he did well on 25 minutes when Elphick’s attempted headed clearance instead fell to Ritchie just inside the box who went past Baker all too easily before Pierluigi blocked his effort. Had no chance with the own goal and spared Elphick’s blushes with a good stop from Gayle on 36 minutes. Pushed a solid shot from Shelvey from outside of the box to his left where Amavi was at hand to clear on 53 minutes.      

Albert Adomah – 6 – Inexplicably played at wing back rather than in the more forward role for which he was bought and that was occupied by Bacuna yesterday. Did a surprisingly decent job at the back but was far more effective when he got further forward. Needs to start ahead of Bacuna.   

James Chester - 6 – The most effective of our three central defenders yesterday.       

Tommy Elphick – 4 – This was some way off being a confident and assured performance. Tommy looked jittery more than once and turned in Yedlin’s 28th minute cross with his right foot under pressure from Gayle for their goal. At times it pays to clear the ball first time rather than to try to play it out of defence when under pressure. That time came in the 36th minute when our captain wanted too long on the ball after Jedinak had played it back to him in the middle of his own half and Gayle took it off him ran clear and was only denied by Gollini’s left leg when in a one against one situation. Headed an Ayew corner wide on 85 minutes when unmarked.

Nathan Baker – 5 – Substituted at half time. Did well to win the ball from Gayle who had cut past Elphick when a second goal had looked on.

Jordan Amavi – 7 – Made some very good forward runs. Hit a nice cross on 31 minutes that was just too high for Adomah to get his head to and hit another to the same player who stretched to reach it but was unable to manage to turn it towards goal.    

Leandro Bacuna – 5 – Won a 9th minute challenge in the centre circle but having ran to the edge of the box delayed pulling the trigger and Gouffran got back to steal the ball away from him. If he is to play it should be at full back if he is deemed to be a better choice there than is Hutton or even Richards who unlike Leo remains persona non grata at the club.

Ashley Westwood – 5 – Substituted on 85 minutes he continues to be a long way off his best of a couple of seasons ago.

Mile Jedinak – 5 – Marginally offside when he headed a 68th minute Ayew free kick past the keeper and into the net. Hit some misplaced passes and struggled for pace at times in a midfield that did not really get going until the last half hour or so of the game.      

Jordan Ayew – 7 – Far too quiet in the first half but he did suffer from a lack of service. Burst into life in the second half and did a lot to make our comeback happen. He hit a number of accurate corners and free-kicks that put the visitor’s defence under increasing pressure and made some threatening runs. So unlucky on 72 minutes when he ran from a wide position to the edge of the box before curling a shot that hit the far post with the keeper beaten. Took the ball off Shelvey as he attempted to move the ball further away from his own penalty area before running into the area and playing a ball into the 6-yard box that Kodjia was so near to getting a foot to at the near post before the relieved Sels gathered it on 91 minutes.    

Jonathan Kodjia – 7 – Like Jordan he was starved of service but he kept looking for the ball and looking to make runs at defenders. Adomah played a good ball down the line to him in the 4th minute but having run into the box he delayed taking a shot which allowed Clark to get into position to make a block. Flagged offside on 43 minutes after Jedinak had played a fine ball to him from just inside the visitor’s half and his shot from near the penalty spot was saved by Sels.   

Substitutes:

Aaron Tshibola – 8 – MOTM - Replaced Baker for the second half and his introduction did much to change the course of this match. Played a nice one-two with Ayew on the edge of the box on 79 minutes and was booked for hitting the deck rather than awarded a penalty after a defender had made contact with him without making any serious attempt to win the ball inside of the box. Headed in our equalizer on 88 minutes at the far post which went past the keeper and in off the post. He shows a lot of promise, was our best midfield player by some distance and we can only hope he can now stay injury free.     

Rudy Gestede – 5 - Replaced Adomah on 63 minutes. Headed wide from an Ayew cross on 70 minutes and had an effort from just outside of the area pushed around the post for a 92nd minute corner by Sels.

Rushian Hepburn-Murphy – Came on for Westwood on 85 minutes and did not look out of place. Rushian was not on quite long enough to earn a rating.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

 

John

A Villa team that seem incapable of seeing out even the last 5 minutes of a game seemed to decide last night to try to see out the entire second half. We left it to the visitors to take the game to us rather than take the game to them in the second half having gone ahead on 19 minutes. As we know a one goal advantage is not enough for us and so it proved again last night.

We have now dropped seven points due to conceding goals during the last 5 minutes of games this season. Had we seen these games out rather than conceded goals in the 85th minute against Sheffield Wednesday, in the 86th minute against Huddersfield, in the 87th minute against Forest and now in the 88th minute we would now have had 14 points rather than 7 and would have been in 4th rather than 17th place.  

After failing to win for a fifth successive time we are left with seven points from seven games. We now face an away game at Ipswich who for some reason still have a problem with us that dates back to season 1980-81 and in-form Newcastle at Villa Park who also have a problem or two with us of a more recent nature. So getting points on the board from these two games will if anything be harder on paper than was our last three games.         

This was our first league meeting with Brentford since season 1946/47 when we won 5-2 at home and followed that up with a 2-0 win at Griffin Park. Since then we have met in the FA Cup in 1953 when we drew 0-0 at Villa Park before winning the replay 2-1. I think we will need to win there again to make up for the points we dropped last night if we are to sustain a promotion challenge this season as well as at a few other grounds including our own more often than not!

To be honest Brentford deserved at least a point. They had more possession, corners, shots and shots on target. We gave a first half performance that was some way below the one we gave against Forest and were fortunate to have a one goal lead to show for it. In the second half we needed to go for a second to give us the cushion that we currently need to seal a win. Instead we dropped back, surrendered the initiative and hoped for a rare clean sheet that would see us hang on for a win. It was surprising that our visitors failed to score earlier but an equalizer looked increasingly likely and it inevitably arrived during the last five minutes of the game. Someone betting on our opponents scoring at that sort of time in games would currently have a very healthy profit for doing so by now!     

We had injuries both before and during the game to cope with but we were unable to do so and it seemed each substitution made it less likely that we would win this one.      

My player ratings from a game that led to a return to the boos at the final whistle with which we grew so accustomed last season and in which our home attendance fell below 30,000 for the first time this season are:

Pierluigi Gollini – 7 – Held a 44th minute Hogan shot after the striker had an opening following an Elphick error and deflected another shot from the same player into the side netting on 48 minutes after he had picked up a loose ball from an Elphick back header. A good steady performance.   

Ritchie De Laet – 5 – Substituted on 67 minutes having sustained an injury. Needs to show a bit more than he has done to date for me.  

Tommy Elphick - 6 – I’m not sure Egan’s 88th minute effort was going in before Tommy appeared to get the slightest of touches on it only inches from the goal line but if he had not done so Hogan was waiting unmarked to tap it in on the line in any case. Kaikai had got his cross in all too easily although both Bacuna and Gardner were on him, the ball evaded both Cissokho and the player he was marking before it fell to an unmarked Egan on the far post. Gollini moved quickly towards the striker who hit the ball across the goal towards our captain and Gardner who had left Hogan to try to keep out Egan’s cross/shot. He organises well but his own game was not quite error free today.       

James Chester – 6 – Gave a decent overall display.  

Aly Cissokho – 6 – Took a first half knock which had seemed likely to lead to Amavi taking his place. Solid enough at the back.   

Ashley Westwood – 5 – A much better first half performance and he seemed to relish playing in front of the bearded one. His second half display was not near to being as effective. He along with others dropped back in the second half allowing the visitors to dictate the rest of the game and the midfield area in particular.

Mile Jedinak – 6 – Looked the steadying influence that we need in our midfield particularly in the first half but he also dropped back in the second half and was playing just in front of the back four for much of that half which allowed the visitors too much room to play unhindered in the centre of the field.       

Jordan Ayew – 6 – His performance was some way off the excellent one he had produced against Forest but he lacked service and the ball did not quite run for him last night. Hit a nice cross towards Kodjia on the 74th minute that he was unable to quite get on the end of and then hit a shot well over a minute later.

Rudy Gestede – 5 – He really looks a lot better coming off the bench than he does when starting a game. De Laet found him on 21 minutes but his shot was held by Bentley. Rudy was then just wide with a 37th minute header from a nice McCormack cross. Did little else of significance.       

Ross McCormack – 6 – Substituted at half time having picked up a knock and his presence was much missed.    

Jonathan Kodjia – 8 – MOTM – The one bright light on a pretty dim night for us. Looked a significant threat to our visitor’s goal every time that he had the ball. Found by Gestede on the 5th minute but his near post shot was pushed out for a corner by Bentley. Picked up the ball near the line having been found by Jedinak just outside of the box. Jonathan than cut inside the box making an angle to shoot and not giving Bjelland an opportunity to get a challenge in before hitting an unstoppable 19th minute shot past Bentley’s outstretched hand into the top corner of the net. Made a good run across the edge of the box on 80 minutes before he forced a save from Bentley.

Substitutes:

Jordan Amavi –  5 - Replaced McCormack for the second half and was obviously uncomfortable playing in a role he seemed unaccustomed to playing. 

Leandro Bacuna – 4 - Replaced De Laet on 67 minutes. Failed to get into the game and this was a sad return to the sort of level of performance that he gave us all too often last season.

Gary Gardner – Came on for Gestede on 82 minutes so was not on quite long enough to make a sufficiently positive or negative impression to gather a rating.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

John

Aston Villa have now dropped five points due to conceding goals during the last 5 minutes of games this season. Had we seen these games out rather than conceded goals in the 85th minute against Sheffield Wednesday, in the 86th minute against Huddersfield and now in the 87th minute against Forest we would now have had 11 points rather than 6 and would have been in 5th rather than 17th place.  

We are currently just 2 points clear of the relegation places and 10 points behind the early league leaders. Our next game against Brentford has begun to have the look of a “must win” game about it.

With such a large number of new signings and a lingering hangover from the pitiful relegation season that we had to go through last season it was perhaps asking a lot for us to hit the ground running from day one. Six points from six games is nevertheless just not good enough. A point a game over the course of this season would put us in a relegation battle for a second year. I am confident that the players we have are too good for that and will prove it as they become more familiar with playing with each other but last season demonstrated that a none winning habit can be hard to break and with each point we drop our confidence takes another hit.       

This first meeting between European Cup winners outside of the top flight ended all square. We had the best of the first half and this was even more the case in the second. The woodwork twice denied us but we did the hard work by coming back from a one goal deficit to lead with only 16 minutes to go only to concede a late equalizer and drop another 2 home points. Forest will be happy with their point but we really needed all three. Our two goals in 2 second half minutes came from our 26 attempts on goal where Forest scored with all but one of their goal attempts. On another day we could have had five and once again the rub of the green went against us. But we need to start making our own luck. The two we did get came from McCormack and Gestede who have now scored seven goals in their last seven games against yesterday’s opponents. How they must be looking forward to the return trip to Nottingham.   

We clearly need to start seeing games out when we have only 5 minutes of normal time remaining. At the moment we seem to need a two goal cushion to be able to win a game. We seem to have it in us to concede a late goal that undoes all of the good work that has gone before it in each game. We need to start winning games at home and away if we are to get out of the bottom half of the table and then challenge for a play-off place but preferably a top two finish. One win in our first six games was what we got last season we need to get the winning habit and the confidence that brings sooner rather than later.      

My player ratings from a game that exposed our fragility near the end of games, a lack of midfield creativity and our present need to score 3 goals to win a game are:

Pierluigi Gollini – 6 – Substituted at half time due to an injury he sustained on 28 minutes when bravely diving at full length to punch the ball beyond the reach of Lansbury.   

Ritchie De Laet – 6 – Showed he has an Icelandic-like long throw and looked decent on those occasions he did venture forward. 

Tommy Elphick - 6 – Solid enough.    

James Chester – 6 – Beaten too easily on the edge of the box for their equalizer.  

Aly Cissokho – 6 – Hit a couple of decent crosses and had a shot deflected over the bar off a defender when an 89th minute ball from McCormack dropped to him near the far post. Was a touch fortunate that the card he was shown on 85 minutes was yellow when a rush of blood between Lithaj and himself left both of their heads all but touching.  

Ashley Westwood – 5 – Failed to show the sort of creativity we were looking for yesterday and I would guess that his starting place will be under serious threat after this from Jedinak. Hit a long range shot on 40 minutes that was gathered easily enough by Stojkovic.

Gary Gardner – 5 –  Did not make the sort of impression he would have hoped for against the team that he has spent a lot of time playing for on loan. I would anticipate Tshibola assuming he is fit to play by Wednesday like Jedinak above may well re-claim his starting place for the Brentford game. Clipped a shot over the bar after being found by Grealish near the edge of the box on 51 minutes.       

Jack Grealish – 7 – Jack had us on the edge of the seat when he moved the ball forward with some purpose. Jack did not anticipate an 84th minute McCormack free kick dropping into his path but turned the ball towards goal which Stojkovic gathered comfortably underneath the bar.  

Jordan Ayew – 8 – MOTM – Claimed assists for both of our goals. Westwood played a sweet ball to him in the 4th minute but he failed to get a shot in on goal, he then deflected a 34th minute Cissokho cross just wide of the post off his body before running into the box and shooting wide of the near post on 42 minutes. Jordan rattled the crossbar with a powerful shot from the edge of the box in the 59th minute and hit a bouncing shot wide of the post on 69 minutes.       

Ross McCormack – 7 – Hit the post from very close range on 33 minutes when he had looked likely to turn the ball in. Ayew had run to the edge of the box before playing the ball wide to Kodjia who then played the ball across the goal for Ross to meet at the far post. Ross was later found by Grealish on 46 minutes and curled a shot from the edge of the box that flew just wide of the post. He climbed well at the far post to get his head to a nicely weighted cross from Ayew on the 71st minute which Stojkovic luckily kept out with his left hand. Ross then scored our equalizer on 72 minutes hitting his measured shot through the despairing Mancienne and past Stojkovic after Ayew had fed the ball to him just inside of the box.    

Jonathan Kodjia – 7 – Powered a far post header from a 43rd minute Ayew cross that Stojkovic struggled to prevent going over the line which goal line technology was not available to clarify yesterday. He then got on the end of a 63rd minute McCormack free kick which Stojkovic dived to his left to keep out. Jonathan climbed well at the far post on 78 minutes heading a Cissokho cross just over and was very unlucky on 91 minutes to see his header from a Grealish corner deflect inches over the bar off Mancienne. Once he gets one he will get more.

Substitutes:

Mark Bunn –  5 - Replaced Gollini for the second half. Will Steer get the odd game on our bench at some point?  

Rudy Gestede – 7 - Came on for Gardner on 65 minutes and hit our second on 74 minutes which should really have been our winning goal. He got a foot to Ayew’s cross and with his second touch hooked the bouncing ball down and into the net. This was a well taken goal.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

John

It would have been fitting to have won a second successive home league game on a night when the sad passing of Dalian Atkinson was impeccably marked on the tenth minute by home and away fans alike but it was in May 2015 that we last managed to win two home league games in a row.

Last night’s 1-1 draw mirrored the score when the two clubs last met at Villa Park in 1987. That point eventually played a part in securing automatic promotion for us and let’s hope this point can do the same but we may well need to make up for points dropped at home with away wins as we did that same season at Huddersfield.

Huddersfield were a well organised team last night and they remain unbeaten this season following their visit to us. We played football of the like we have not seen at Villa Park for some time in the first half but only had one goal to show for our dominance at half time. Not for the first time of late this was a game of two halves. Our visitors bossed the second half and left us clinging on desperately at times to our single goal lead. The defence did not crumble under pressure as it did so often last season and our new team demonstrated a will to win that was too often absent last season. But again, not for the first time this season or last we conceded a late goal having been unable to see out a game.     

Huddersfield’s equalizer needed a huge slice of luck because nine times out of ten a ball that strikes an opponent so far outside of the box will not end up in the back of the net as it did last night. However, it cannot really be argued that on the balance of play they deserved a point for their efforts last night and when Wells came on he gave them an edge they had been previously missing.     

This new Villa team remains a work in progress and will no doubt be strengthened by further signings before the end of the month. Dropping two points last night will have made it clear to RDM and the Doctor that additions to the squad still need to be made if we are to challenge for promotion this season if they were ever in any doubt. The signs are positive and we will look a better team with more games under our belt. Our aim for me should now be to take a minimum of 4 points from our next 2 away games.             

My player ratings from a game during which fleeting memories of Dalian playing for us alongside Deano came back to me are:

Pierluigi Gollini – 6 – Got down well to save from van La Parra on 18 minutes and bravely dived at the feet of Wells to claim the ball on 57 minutes. He then saved well to his left from a Kachunga overhead shot on 63 minutes before diving at the feet of a forward 6 minutes later to prevent a goal scoring opportunity. Given this he was unlucky that this game will be remembered for an attempted clearance which for the second time in three matches led to a goal. Even the best of keepers can concede a goal like this one (I remember seeing an attempted clearance from Gordon Banks going in off the late Jeff Astle’s backside in 1970). Possibly left too much space to his right when Wells hit the bar from a free-kick on 81 minutes?   

Leandro Bacuna – 5 – Not as effective as he had been on Saturday. 

Tommy Elphick - 6 – Hit a ball that fell to him from a corner over on the second minute and headed straight at the keeper on 88 minutes. I have to wonder whether he should have taken responsibility for dealing with the ball rather than leaving it to Gollini to clear it under some pressure.    

James Chester – 6 – Solid enough.  

Aly Cissokho – 5 – Put under some defensive pressure in the second half but he was not alone in that.  

Ashley Westwood – 6 – Hit a couple of passes off target and for me would have benefited from having a defensive minded midfielder alongside Aaron and himself when Huddersfield took hold of the game in the second half.

Aaron Tshibola – 7 – Looked promising again and can surely only get better with a run of first team games.    

Jack Grealish – 7 – MOTM - Nice to see him tracking back when they had possession last night as well as looking a significant threat when he had the ball himself.

Jordan Ayew – 7 – Looked sharp last night and gave the Huddersfield defence a torrid time without being able to open his goal scoring account. Hit a well struck shot in the first minute that forced a save from Ward before heading a Gestede cross wide of the far post on 29 minutes. Took a second touch on 45 minutes after Jack had unselfishly played the ball to him inside of the box but had his effort cleared off the line near the post by a defender. 

Ross McCormack – 7 – Headed home his first goal for Villa on the 25th minute. Jack did so well to bring a Bacuna cross under control before playing the ball across goal where Ross headed in from close range. The first of many goals for us I would suggest.  

Rudy Gestede – 7 – McCormack’s 40th minute cross was inches too high for him to be able to head downwards. Had a 71st minute header stopped by Ward and was unable to be first to the resultant loose ball. Won some balls in the air but faded in the second half.    

Substitutes:

Andre Green – Replaced McCormack on 79 minutes. Andre was not on long enough to gather a rating.   

Gary Gardner – Came on for Tshibola on 86 minutes so also had insufficient time to earn a rating.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

John

Yesterday’s win was our first since March. We really had to break the losing habit quickly and we did it in our first home game of the season to provide a much needed confidence boost to both players and fans.

Alan Stubbs said following this defeat “We won’t be the last team to come here and get beat”. I hope he is proved right and that Villa Park soon becomes a fortress for us.

Rotherham gave a workmanlike performance yesterday but they offered little threat and we will face tougher tests this season at home and away. But we have to beat teams like this if we are to challenge for promotion this season and we did this with something to spare yesterday. We now need to claim a second home win on Tuesday night against Huddersfield which was something that proved beyond pre-season promotion favourites Newcastle yesterday.  

This is a new Villa team and of yesterday’s starters only six of them were with us last season. We have a new owner and a new management team. The fans responded yesterday by creating a positive atmosphere and by turning up in their numbers. The team achieved the result we needed and had been waiting for.  

This is the first time we have scored 3 goals in the league at Villa Park since May 2015. We faced the same opposition at Villa Park in our first home game after our 1967 relegation and won that one 3-1. Let us hope we get back where we belong at the first attempt this time as we did in 87-88.         

My player ratings from a first home game and win of the season are:

Pierluigi Gollini – 6 – A quiet afternoon but he was reliable when called upon. Gathered a shot from outside the box on the 46th minute at the second attempt, got down at the post 12 minutes later to save comfortably enough and made a couple of punched clearances.   

Leandro Bacuna – 6 – Leo got something he and I would not have anticipated yesterday some applause and a suggestion of being given another chance from the fans as he awaits his move to a Champions League outfit. He produced a decent enough performance.  

Tommy Elphick - 7 – He is a real leader on the field and looks a bargain. Organised our defence very well, led by example and was vocal when needed. He and the rest of our defence will face tougher tests than this one but this was a seriously promising home debut.  

James Chester – 6 – A solid start so soon after joining us.  

Aly Cissokho – 7 – Forced a one handed save from Camp on 5 minutes which kept out a shot that was otherwise heading for the top corner after Tshibola had found him on the edge of the box and hit the cross that produced our first goal.  

Ashley Westwood – 6 – Produced a solid performance.

Aaron Tshibola – 7 – A very promising home debut. Hit a shot wide of the post on 50 minutes after Grealish had cut into the box and unselfishly fed him rather than tried a shot himself. He hit a shot wide on 66 minutes from outside of the box after Ayew had squared the ball for him following a terrific run.

Jack Grealish – 8 – Scored a sublime goal in front of the Holte End on 84 minutes. Cissokho took a throw near the half way line that Gestede nodded nicely into Jack’s path. Jack then ran into the box pushing the ball wide of first a defender and then the keeper before stroking the ball home from a narrow angle to the despair of a defender behind him who had not quite been able to get a challenge in on him. This goal and aspects of his performance cannot help but give Jack the confidence he needed to shine this season. Had earlier been found by a clever touch by McCormack on 62 minutes and ran from just inside their half to the box before producing a weak finish.    

Jordan Ayew – 6 – Made a great run on 52 minutes before hitting an inviting cross for Gestede which he turned wide of the post. Some very good moments but he needs to produce them a little more frequently.    

Ross McCormack – 6 – Like Harry Kane did for England during the summer Ross is taking the lion’s share of our free-kicks and corners. As yet the results have not been too dissimilar. But these are very early days and once he has settled into his new surroundings I have no doubt that the goals will flow along with the assists. Ross did claim a big assist for our second goal which gave us the breathing space we needed to see this game out without undue alarm. He also had a 46th minute shot from outside of the box turned around the post by Camp. Nice to see a player that wants the ball!

Rudy Gestede – 8 – MOTM – Rudy’s performance yesterday suggested that he has found his level and that we may yet benefit from having him amongst our available striking options this season. Jack found Cissokho nicely inside of the box and his sweet 21st minute cross was headed beyond the reach of Camp and into the corner of the net by Rudy for our opening goal. He added a second in the final minute of first half stoppage time after Ayew had played the ball to McCormack on the edge of the box and played a clever first time ball past the Rotherham defenders for Rudy to run onto and to chip over the advancing Camp. Headed a Bacuna cross wide of the post on 29 minutes and failed to get a touch to a nice ball played across the face of the goal 4 minutes later.

Substitutes:

Adama Traoré – Replaced Ayew on 74 minutes. His pace could prove too much for defenders at this level to cope with. He did not see quite enough of the ball to lead to his getting a rating yesterday.   

Gary Gardner – Came on for McCormack on 85 minutes so had insufficient time to earn a rating.

Andre Green – Replaced Jack on 92 minutes so also did not have the time on the field to gather a rating.       

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

 

John

This was admittedly only a friendly but this game gave little cause for optimism for the season that is ahead of us. This performance was uncomfortably similar to many of the displays that we gave last season and those around me were openly questioning what differences there actually has been on the pitch itself rather than off it.

We had the best of the game until they hit their equalizer on the hour mark. But our defence suddenly looked shaky as it had done more often than not last season. The visitors hit a second on 74 minutes and added another two minutes later to run out comfortable winners.

We looked weak at the back, lacked creativity in the middle and lacked a cutting edge up front. It only took a goal to see the frailties and insecurities of last season re-emerge. These are not new problems and there is a lot of work to be done to turn things around. Players need to be signed and we need to start those signings with a striker to play alongside Ayew.

Can we progress with much the same squad that got us relegated last season? I doubt it very much. We need a team that will not think the worst when we go behind and will not have the memory of last season hanging over most of their heads when they start each match. The league we face will not have teams of the standard that we faced last season but it will have teams that will relish the prospect of beating us by giving it everything. This new season has to be better than last and we cannot linger in this division. We need to start well and to expect to win games rather than to lose them. We also need to do what is needed both off and on the pitch to make that happen. This game demonstrated that we may still be at best a work in progress.  

My player ratings from a game that did little to lift our pre-season hopes are:

Pierluigi Gollini – 6 – MOTM – Looked confident, commanded his area well and distributed the ball effectively. Parried a shot from Fischer on 60 minutes but Negredo was left in space to hit home the rebound for their equalizer. Left exposed for the other two he conceded.  

Alan Hutton – 5 – Worked hard and put a foot in as he can be relied upon to do. Made his usual forward runs but they continue to lack an end product.

Tommy Elphick - 5 – Will now be aware of the job he faces in trying to steady the troubled and anxious defence he finds himself now in.

Nathan Baker – 6 – Looked commanding in the first half but somewhat less so in the second. Climbed highest at the far post to head home a 15th minute cross from Bacuna.  

Aly Cissokho – 5 – Hit some decent crosses but lost possession in the build up to their first.  

Leandro Bacuna – 4 – Maintaining his fitness pending his impending move to a Champions League outfit. I have to question what he has shown to be still starting games for us.

Gary Gardner – 5 – A steady first half performance.

Ashley Westwood – 5 – Needs to stand out more in this sort of midfield line-up than he did yesterday.

Jack Grealish – 6 – Looked more confident and committed than he did last season but he needs to try to take games like this by the scruff of the neck and make things happen.

Jordan Ayew – 5 – Jordan started well enough but he failed to sustain that level of performance as the game wore on and looked to be lacking in motivation at times which is a concern. Forced a save from Valdes on 14 minutes and touched the ball inches wide of the post from close range on 38 minutes.   

Rudy Gestede – 4 – Lacked pace as well as movement and I did not see anything yesterday that suggested he will terrorise defences this season or provide us with the goals that we need to mount a promotion challenge.   

Substitutes:

Aaron Tshibola – 6 - Replaced Gardner at half time and looked solid enough. 

Andre Green – 6 – Replaced Bacuna on 75 minutes and showed some nice touches. For me he should be starting games in front of the player that he replaced yesterday.  

Ciaran Clark – Replaced Baker on 89 minutes so did not have enough time to earn any rating.

Jordan Amavi  - Made a welcome if brief return from his long-term injury when replacing Cissokho on 89 minutes. He also had insufficient time to get a rating.      

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

John

Newcastle are the only team to have not beaten us in the league this season. As a result they look likely to join us in our journey to the league below next season. It was at Villa Park that their relegation fate was decided 7 years ago and their fate was all but sealed yesterday when they failed to claim the three points they had expected to leave with. A win for their neighbours Sunderland who are at home to Everton on Wednesday will seal their fate and will see them along with Norwich visiting Villa Park again next season.

Everyone had guessed that this would prove a straightforward win for our visitors yesterday because doesn’t everyone beat us these days? However, we avoided the shame of setting a new club record of twelve consecutive league defeats yesterday by keeping a very, very rare clean sheet.

A goalless draw was the limit of our ambitions from the very start of this our final home game of the season so I guess this was a case of mission accomplished for our temporary manager Eric Black. His team selection did nothing to suggest we were looking to take the game to our visitors. We looked to stifle them rather than to take them on. We left creative players such as Grealish, Adama and Gil sitting on our bench throughout the game despite having a total lack of threat up front from start to finish.

This was a game that produced a workman like performance from Villa which is a description that has rarely been associated with our team’s performances this season. For some reason our visitors chose not to press us and they looked little better than we did which is quite a condemnation these days. If anything we looked more committed than they did which was surprising given they still had a decent chance of staying up before this game. They had chances to win the game in the second half but failed to take them. Colback flashed a shot over the bar on 46 minutes, Mitrovic chipped a ball over both Bunn and the bar 15 minutes later and then headed wide of the post on 74 minutes. We didn’t have any chances at all.        

This point moves us to 17 points from 16 at long last. It is too little too late but there was a feeling of relief at the final whistle because avoiding defeat has almost become a cause for celebration having been becalmed on 16 points for so long.

Both Newcastle and Villa have fans that do not deserve to be relegated but I would not say the same about either of these two club’s owners.

This game was a poor one. It will be one we will soon forget and one that Newcastle fans will try to forget but may struggle to do so. What it did show was our fans at their very best. Fans marched before the game to again show their feelings about how this club is being run. Well done to everyone who took part in this as well as in past protests and to those that have organised these protests for us. Villa fans sang loud and proud during the game and the inflatables, banners and balloons made a striking impression during the game and particularly on the 74th minute. These are the things that are worth remembering from yesterday.

We now need to stop dithering and appoint a new manager. We cannot wait indefinitely to do so in the hope that a new owner will be in place sooner rather than later. We need to bring in players and let others who either want to leave or we want to leave go. We need to start preparing for the challenges we will face in three months from the likes of Rotherham and Leeds.           

My player ratings from a game that brought us something other than another league defeat are:

Mark Bunn – 6 – Could not hold a low 70th minute shot from Wijnaldum but Bacuna was first to the loose ball and cleared it with a little help from Clark’s back. A far quieter day at the office than he would have been expecting.

Alan Hutton – 5 – Worked hard as he always does but his crosses were again woeful as was that attempted shot.

Kevin Toner – 6 – It was asking a lot for this young prospect to fill in for the missing Cissokho. He did look solid enough at the back and he will grow in confidence the more games he gets but he unsurprisingly looked less than fluent when trying to move forward. For me his future is clearly in the centre of defence and unlike others at the club he has one.

Joleon Lescott – 5 – One of his better performances in what has been a sorry season for him and for us both on and off the field.  

Ciaran Clark – 7 – MOTM – Beaten too easily to a 74th minute cross by Mitrovic whose header was fortunately off target but showed courage to get his head in the way of a fierce goal bound shot from Wijnaldum in stoppage time. Our best defender by a distance yesterday and if he stays he might well get the captain’s armband next season.  

Leandro Bacuna – 4 – Will this be Leo’s last appearance at Villa Park or will he come back in a Milan shirt in a few years?

Carlos Sanchez – 5 – Broke up play reasonably well and made none of those glaring errors that he is prone to.

Ashley Westwood – 5 – Did his bit in keeping the midfield together but offered little to those playing in front of him.

Idrissa Gana – 6 – Put his foot in and kept busy. I guess he will be among the few players we would like to keep but no doubt he will be one of the first that we get derisory offers for.   

Jordan Ayew – 5 – Jordan had a quiet one. He was starved of the sort of service that players left on the bench may have provided him with. He has the ability to shine with better players around him I guess he will not get the opportunity to do so with us anytime soon.   

Scott Sinclair – 5 - Scott showed to anyone who might have had any doubts about it that he is not comfortable in playing as a target man. He did however manage our one shot on target in the 65th minute when Ayew played a nice ball to him and he hit a shot from just inside the box that forced a save from Darlow tis a pity he had strayed just offside.   

Substitutes:

Rushian Hepburn-Murphy - Replaced Sinclair on 90 minutes so was not on long enough to gather a rating despite 6 minutes of Rafa time.    

We will return – Up the Villa!

John Lewis

John

A rare two goals at home still produced “nul points” for us because we have a defence that is as watertight as was The Titanic.

If this was the performance of a team with the weight taken off their shoulders it was not markedly different from the performances they produced before relegation (which our “custodian” deemed inevitable after only 5 league games) became a mathematical certainty last weekend.

Southampton scored four and could have had a couple more if the woodwork had not denied them. We all arrived expecting another defeat and that is what we got. This was our 12th home defeat of the season, our 25th loss from 35 league games and our 10th successive defeat which brings us just one more defeat from equalling the worst run of losses in the history of our football club.

Everyone wants to play us at the moment. Even Newcastle who could well be joining us in the league below next season will anticipate getting nothing less than a win and an easy three points from our next and final home game of the season. So we had better get our chants of “Going down with the Villa” in early doors!  

Our caretaker manager selected a team no doubt with the hope that we could keep it tight at the back. That worked well didn’t it? We scored twice but the visitors still ran out comfortable winners. There is little point in picking players like Bacuna and Richardson (who would no doubt have played had he not had a knock) that have lost the crowd and done little to nothing to warrant selection this season.

Why not play the kids alongside Gil, Jack and Traoré? Its not as if doing so could cost us our place in the division is it? These players would enjoy the full backing of the fans in the way that Ayew does. Failing to play our more creative players along with the young players to give them some first team experience smacks of ignoring what the fans want but that is sadly not unusual at our football club.

It was great to see those thousands of banners held up before the game and on 74 minutes to show that the vast majority of fans are unwilling to accept how our football club is being run as it lurches from bad to worse on almost a daily basis. Well done to all involved in this protest!

My player ratings from a game that gave us another disappointing and predictable result are:

Brad Guzan – 4 – Came out to block a Long shot with an outstretched arm on 57 minutes, kept out a Davis effort at his near post on 59 minutes and then held a Rodriguez shot from outside of the box 2 minutes later although it was hit straight at him. Brad was beaten on 71 minutes by a shot from the edge of the area from Tadic which took a slight deflection off Westwood. He then pushed away a Davis cross with one hand on 79 minutes but did less well a minute later when he pushed weakly at a cross with one hand that fell to Long who spared his blushes by hitting the ball over. Did well to take the ball away from Mané inside the box as the substitute threatened to add a fourth on 84 minutes but he again exposed his fallibilities on 89 minutes when he presented the ball to an opponent with a quick ball played just outside his own area but fortunately Cissokho was able to take the ball off Long inside the area.

Alan Hutton – 6 – Kept trying to move us forwards. Had an 85th minute effort helped over the bar at his near post by Forster and had a header from a Grealish corner headed off the line late in second half stoppage time.

Micah Richards – 3 – Substituted at half time. 

Joleon Lescott – 2 – A ball was played for Long on the 2nd minute that went over the head of Richards and then bounced off Joleon and back to Long whose shot fortunately cannoned off the bar. He then left the same striker in space 12 minutes later and the ball was headed in for their opener from Bertrand’s cross. Rodriguez tried to turn in a dangerous cross on 56 minutes which was deflected wide of the post off Lescott. He was left covering space rather than the unmarked Mané when he gave them their fourth on 94 minutes.  

Aly Cissokho – 5 – Worked hard and Aly was solid enough at the back.

Leandro Bacuna  – 2 – Really should have been on target with a header from a nice cross from Westwood that he turned wide of the post on 22 minutes. He then gave the visitors a two-goal cushion after 39 minutes with a thoughtless as well as an aimless back pass from well within the visitor’s half. Long then easily outpaced Lescott to reach the ball first. Guzan did well to dive at Long’s feet and to push the ball away from him but the striker then squared the ball for Tadic who was unmarked when hitting the ball home. Had Richards hurried rather than ambled back he might have been able to have challenged the scorer. 

Ashley Westwood – 7 – MOTM – You wait almost a whole season for a league goal from him and then like the Clapham omnibus two come along together. His two goals were the highlights of our performance yesterday and his second was particularly well taken. Got on the end of a 38th minute Ayew cross but the ball went straight into Forster’s hands. Ashley then scored in the first minute of first half stoppage time when a good run and cross from Ayew was missed by Gana but ran on to him and he did well to find the corner of the net. His second came on 85 minutes when Gestede was unable to connect with a Grealish cross and the ball ran on to him just inside the box. Ashley proceeded to curl a splendid measured shot into the corner of the net. 

Idrissa Gana – 5 – Appeared to lack a little of his usual interest early on but got into the game increasingly as it wore on.

Carlos Sánchez – 3 – He has not been the rock in our midfield that we had hoped for when he signed for us and that continued to be the case yesterday prior to his substitution.

Scott Sinclair – 4 – Made a couple of decent runs. Hit a shot wide of the post on 35 minutes from the edge of the box and he had a shot saved by Forster’s feet after the ball had run to him in stoppage time after Gestede had lost it on the edge of the box.

Jordan Ayew – 5 – Why would anyone bring off Jordan when the team should have been chasing the game? That was clearly a view shared by many giving the resulting chant of “You don’t know what you’re doing”.  Had an 8th minute effort comfortably saved at his near post by Forster but was our biggest threat to the visitors until he was withdrawn.

Substitutes:

Kevin Toner – 6 – Replaced Richards at half time and gave a steady enough display that should lead to him starting our remaining games for me.

Rudy Gestede – 4 - Replaced Ayew on 59 minutes and headed a 66th minute cross from Cissokho over which he had to stretch back to reach.

Jack Grealish – 5 - Replaced Sánchez on 68 minutes. He needs to start our remaining games. Jack gave a couple of reminders of the player we knew from last season and was unlucky that a few of the things that he tried that did not quite come off. 

Get straight back up next season Villa!

John Lewis

 

John

We had an opportunity to do the double over a team yesterday, to get a fourth league win this season, to end a losing run that threatens to give us another unwanted club record and to delay our inevitable relegation by getting a better result than Norwich were able to manage. We failed to do any of those things.

The game had the look of an end of season match throughout with neither team looking like they had anything left to play for this season. We have admittedly played that way for most of this sad season but our visitors didn’t look that much better yesterday. They are the 11th team to leave Villa Park this season with all three points and they like others before them proved you do not need to be at your best to beat us.

Another goal conceded just before half time followed by another one we gift wrapped for our opponents left us two goals behind and gave Bournemouth their first ever win at Villa Park. These goals left us reliant on Palace giving us a short stay on our execution which they did with their first league win of the year and ensured Ayew’s welcome late goal would be only scant consolation. 

This was our eighth successive league defeat. It leaves us just three defeats away from equalling our worst ever run of league defeats which was the 11 that we managed to put together in 1963. The record may well stand at 13 by the end of this embarrassing season which will see an end our 29-year stay in the top flight.

Who would have thought that after our win at Bournemouth on the first day of the season that the two clubs would be in their respective league positions today? Very few if any but both clubs are where their results since then prove they deserve to be. After our winning start to this season we might have asked ourselves, what could possibly go wrong? We now know the answer to that question only too well.

The team selection yesterday was surprising to say the very least. Starts for the likes of Richardson and Bacuna were as unexpected for Villa fans as I suspect they were for the players themselves but the end result as well as the performance is much the same whoever wears our shirt at the moment. For me the only highlight from a game of lowlights was the chant of “we score when we want” in response to our late goal.  

We now need to stop messing around at board level and talk to prospective managers about their willingness to take the job of Villa manager this season so they have an opportunity to assess the players we have and the players we will need to bring in to halt our slide!

Of the managers currently available Pearson looks most likely to want to take the now poisoned chalice that I anticipate Moyes and other jobless managers might be less keen to accept. I guess managers with clubs who have a real prospect of promotion would be reluctant to jump ship before their current club’s immediate future is known and that managers who may face losing their current jobs before or early in the summer would want to stick around to be paid off by their current clubs. We would also I guess be reluctant to pay too much compensation to prise managers away from their current clubs. We need someone who can sort things out in the way that Graham Taylor did for us when we last went down and we need him now not in 2 or 3 months time!  

My player ratings from a game that left us all knowing that the end is nigh are:

Brad Guzan – 4 – Turned a Grabban shot from the edge of the area past the post a couple of minutes before I and a couple of hundred others had taken our seats after 7 minutes of protest. Came for a cross on 81 minutes but missed it by some distance. Not called upon often during this game but his confidence is undoubtedly shot.

Leandro Bacuna – 2 – Did what we have come to expect from him lately which was not very much.

Ciaran Clark – 4 – Headed a Westwood corner well wide of the post on 49 minutes and headed another one a yard wide on 76 minutes. Was our hardest working and most effective defender until he failed to bring under control a 74th minute pass back from Cissokho and King raced past him and into the box before touching the ball over the grounded Guzan for their decisive second goal.

Joleon Lescott – 4 – Tried to organise the defenders around him but he needs to lead by example and does not appear to have the legs to do that at this stage of his career in the top flight.

Aly Cissokho – 4 – Produced a couple of half decent crosses when getting forward.   

Jordan Lyden – 5 – Did more than well enough for me to have not been the one to not come out for the second half.  

Ashley Westwood – 3 – He has gone backwards during this season and has become a shadow of the player he has been for us in the past.

Idrissa Gana – 5 – He was once again our best midfield player.

Kieran Richardson – 2 – Missed a splendid opportunity to equalize in the 59th minute when Ayew made a good run into the box before crossing to him at the near post where he failed to tap it in and instead somehow managed to allow the ball to go through his legs.

Scott Sinclair – 3 – Made a couple of decent wide runs early on and showed fleeting signs of the player he has been in the past but faded noticeably before his substitution.  

Jordan Ayew – 5 – MOTM – Scored our late consolation goal on 85 minutes when Gana threaded the ball to him near the edge of the box and he hit a sweet shot past Boruc. Jordan was our biggest if not our only threat to the visitors defence but on the minus side he was lucky to escape with just a booking in the second half when he led with his shoulder in a challenge with Elphick. I can understand his frustration but will he ever learn?  

Substitutes:

Rudy Gestede – 3 –Replaced Lyden at half time and made no positive impression on the game. I have my doubts that he will set the Championship alight with a flood of goals when he returns there with us next season.  

Adama Traoré – 5 - Replaced Sinclair on 71 minutes. A welcome return from injury and surely he should start games between now and the end of this season after all what have we to lose?

Jack Grealish – Replaced Richardson on 84 minutes. Why didn’t he start this game? Jack for some reason beyond me was not on long enough to gain a rating or to make an impression on this game. 

Down and out with barely a whimper Villa!

John Lewis

John

Another game gave us another passionless, sad, embarrassing capitulation that has brought us a game nearer to our inevitable relegation.

This is the second time we have managed 7 consecutive defeats this season and it was our 22nd league defeat from our 32 games to date. The “Proud History, What future?” signs were there for all to see at Villa Park yesterday and well done to all that took part in that protest!  

We were half way through the first half before we went behind yesterday and for once we did not concede another goal within a couple of minutes. This time we managed to stay only one behind until a stoppage time penalty gave the visitors a two goal cushion and they predictably added another shortly after the re-start. That third goal was well taken but we offered the same sort of resistance that you would expect a set of training cones to provide.

This was way too easy for our visitors who were missing keys players but could have won this with their Under 21 side. Had Chelsea had the inclination or something still to play for this season we would have lost by more than the four goals that we did. The sad thing is that very few of us would have been surprised had we done so.  

My player ratings from a game that left us potentially just one more defeat away from being mathematically certain of relegation with five dead rubbers still to play after that are:

Brad Guzan – 3 – Spread himself well at his near post on 37 minutes to block a shot from Rahman and got down low to hold another shot 2 minutes later. He fumbled a 48th minute effort from Oscar before parrying Pato’s 59th minute shot into the path of Pedro to claim an unwanted assist for their fourth goal. These all too regular howlers have not helped the increasingly brittle confidence of the defenders in front of him or our chances of avoiding our sad fate which will soon be confirmed beyond any doubt. We cannot afford not to sign a new keeper for next season!

Alan Hutton – 4 – We like it that Alan works hard and dropping down a division might see him find it easier when coming up against less gifted and speedy forwards as well as less accomplished defenders when he moves forward himself. He got stuck in as we expect that he will yesterday but left the game early due to gathering two yellows in 7 minutes.

Micah Richards – 4 – Won the ball more than once when it seemed he was unlikely to do so.   

Joleon Lescott – 3 – Shows the odd sign of the player he has been in the past but time seems to have caught up with him this season. Loftus-Cheek turned in Azpilicueta’s 23rd minute cross for their opener which took a deflection off Joleon’s leg on its way past Guzan.

Aly Cissokho – 4 – Conceded the penalty during first half stoppage time that gave the visitors a two goal cushion when flattening Pato as he looked to get on the end of a cross from Fabregas.

Carlos Sánchez – 3 – Started reasonably well but he always has a mistake waiting to happen in him and he failed to make any attempt to cover Pedro’s run into the box for their fourth. Prior to his substitution he had embarrassingly taken to trying to stop Chelsea players going past him by attempting to tackle them by grabbing them around the body with his arms. These half-hearted attempts at a tackle would have been bad enough in a schoolboy game of rugby but we were allegedly supposed to be playing football.   

Ashley Westwood – 4 – Needs to make more of an impression on a game than he did on this one.

Idrissa Gana – 5 – Another decent display and he was again comfortably our best midfield player.

Carles Gil – 5 – Started well and forced a save at the near post from Courtois on 31 minutes.

Jordan Ayew – 5 – Had a 22nd minute effort deflected for a corner. Was unlucky to see an attempted clearance from Baba Rahman cannon off him into the arms of Courtois on 31 minutes. Got between two defenders inside the box on 41 minutes and placed his shot just wide of the far post. Hit a 30 yard shot on 50 minutes that Courtois plucked comfortably enough from the air.    

Rudy Gestede – 4 – Failed to make any real impression on the defenders he came up against yesterday. Hit a speculative long range shot on 15 minutes which was on target but lacked the pace to pose any sort of threat to Courtois. Failed to get an outstretched leg to a ball on 79 minutes.   

Substitutes:

Jack Grealish – 6 – MOTM - Replaced Gil on 66 minutes. Made an encouraging impact hitting a good cross over on 68 minutes. He was then brought down inside the box by Pedro on 71 minutes but the referee chose to ignore his penalty claim. Volleyed a shot wide of the post on 88 minutes.  

Leandro Bacuna – 3 - Replaced Sánchez as part of the double substitution on 66 minutes to a merited chorus of boos and he will not have any future in the Champions League on this sort of showing.

Jordan Lyden – Replaced Gana on 82 minutes and was not on long enough to gain a rating. 

Going down with a whimper Villa!

John Lewis

 

John

Harry Kane will miss playing at Villa Park next season. He has now scored three goals in his two games at B6. His two goals either side of half-time did for us yesterday and left us having lost two thirds of the league games we have played so far this season.

Villa could still have had a slender chance of staying up had they played with the same sort of spirit that they showed particularly in the first half yesterday in some of our previous games and of course if our defence did not have more holes in it that a colander does!

Yesterday we came up against a team that could well end this season as league champions. Had they gone for the jugular in the second half rather than been content to come away with a comfortable two goal win we could have suffered another embarrassingly heavy home defeat despite the effort that our team put in. Once again after conceding the first goal we then let in another one shortly afterwards that ended the game as a contest but we were also denied a consolation goal three times by the woodwork near the end.

Our club have taken some rare positive steps this week by introducing a football man to the board and in appointing a Villa legend as a consultant to it.

More is now needed. For me there is no point whatsoever in retaining the services of those whose decisions have left the club in the position we now find ourselves in until this embarrassing season is over. If they (and they know who they are) are not prepared to do the decent thing and fall on their swords their contracts should be terminated forthwith.

I would add that some heavy handed stewarding did nothing to improve relations between the “custodian” and the club’s supporters last night. The sight of banners being ripped away from supporters and fans that have paid for their admission being ejected for exercising their right to free speech in the form of those protest banners was an over reaction for me. The club need to work to heal wounds rather than to open up any new ones!

All is now lost on the pitch and we must very reluctantly accept that at the very least a season outside of the top flight for the first time in 29 seasons is what awaits us. It would need Harry Houdini if not Harry Kane to get us out of the mess we now find ourselves in and more realistic targets than survival are now required. Let us instead aim to break the 20 point barrier and win a third home game before this season reaches its sad conclusion.

Let’s also try not to break some more unwanted club records. For example we need another 4 wins to equal our lowest ever number of league wins in a season, 14 more goals are required to equal the lowest number of goals we have scored in a season and we need 2 more points to equal the lowest number of points we have ever managed in a season (when we only played 22 games and only 2 points were awarded for a win by the way).   

My player ratings from a game that gave us our 9th home league defeat of the season are:

Brad Guzan – 9 – MOTM – This was a return to the Brad we knew of old and it was he who stood between us and a heavy defeat. He came out well to face Kane who had ran between Okore and Lescott to reach a ball from Lamela and deserved his slice of luck when the striker’s chip from the edge of the box struck the bar after 4 minutes rather than the back of the net. He held a low shot from the edge of the area from Alli 5 minutes later and then kept out another effort from Kane from a Rose cross with his right leg as he moved to the left on 24 minutes.

Brad was again called upon after 26 minutes when he saved a Kane shot at his near post after Okore had gone for a ball wide on the right but failed to connect with it leaving the striker free to run towards goal. He then managed to touch a 30th minute Lamela shot from a Walker cross onto the post before Hutton cleared the loose ball away to safety near the goal line. Brad got down well to hold a solid well struck Walker shot after 33 minutes but was finally beaten after 45 minutes when Hutton was unable to make up ground on Kane as he ran onto a quickly taken free-kick to hit home their opener. He stood no chance with their second but did well to block a 59th minute Walker shot at his near post to prevent a third.

Alan Hutton – 4 – Failed to cover Alli’s run for their decisive second goal.

Jores Okore – 4 – May not have as many Champions League clubs battling for his services on this sort of showing as he allegedly anticipated. 

Joleon Lescott – 4 – Turned the ball onto a post on the 88th minute after Gestede had headed a Green corner wide but into his path. Both Jores and he were unable to get near to Kane whose pace left them both standing.  

Aly Cissokho – 5 – Found Walker a handful and failed to get a challenge in on Kane whose run into the box for their second was inexplicably not covered by any of our players.

Jordan Veretout – 5 – Did very well to reach a 12th minute ball played forward by Hutton before it crossed the line and to pull it back for Gestede who was unable to turn the ball towards goal.  

Ashley Westwood – 5 – Spent the game trying to combat the grip on the midfield that Spurs mostly enjoyed throughout.

Idrissa Gana – 7 – Picked up loose balls, made a couple of decent forward runs and worked hard. He was our most effective outfield player by some distance.

Carles Gil – 6 – Had a good first half and put in a shift prior to his substitution.

Jordan Ayew – 6 – Made a great run into the box from a wide position on 84 minutes but his shot from a tight angle thudded against the post and Gestede was unable to put away the rebound instead hitting the crossbar with a rising shot from close range. Jordan needs to play as a striker for me it is not as if we are over burdened with them is it?  

Rudy Gestede – 5 – Hit a 39th minute free-kick from Gil that dropped invitingly to him straight at Lloris that if directed to either side would have given us the lead. Hit the bar late in the game when he really needed to get the ball on target. Works better as a target man that the player who was unavailable for selection yesterday but his weakness on the floor is as noticeable as is his strength in the air.

Substitutes:

Andre Green – 6 - Replaced Veretout on 62 minutes. Did not look out of place on his debut and showed some ability in what time he had available. He along with other youngsters can expect to get a look in during the course of our final eight games.

Scott Sinclair – Replaced Gil on 70 minutes but failed to make enough of an impression in the time he had available to merit a rating. 

Go down with some fight Villa!

John Lewis

John

Last night Villa fans in their hundreds decided to get up, stand up on 74 minutes before exiting into the night. Our “custodian” obviously did not do so not least because he had as is usual not bothered to attend the game. No doubt as in the past his decision to stay away was influenced by his lack of interest in the club he once claimed to be the “custodian” of as well as by the likely welcome he would get and has so merited should he have done so.

Well done to those who organised, publicised and took part in the 74th minute protest last night. To those who stayed in their seats or who left when the third goal was conceded 14 minutes earlier I would ask that you to think again about joining us on the 74th minute in our next two home games http://outthedooron74.co.uk/ 

It is astounding that given our recent results we still stand only 8 points from safety. It makes me wonder what might have been had we rolled the dice from the start of the last transfer window with a little more intent and if our team was a little less inclined to accept being relegated without a fight.

Sadly with games at Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal as well as at home to Spurs and Chelsea among our remaining 10 games our relegation for the first time since 1987 is all but 99.9% sealed.

Even if we somehow won each and every one of the other 5 games we have left that would leave us with just 31 points. That would not be enough. To hit even that target let alone to get another 4 or more additional points which could set a point total that 3 clubs above us might struggle to reach looks well beyond us. Perhaps a 4-point target that would take us to 20 points by the end of the season would be a little more achievable.

Our “custodian” and board accepted our fate in January if not before then. They should hang their heads in shame about that. The players seemed to give up any lingering hope they may still have had in our last home game and that continued to be the case with last night’s performance albeit quite an improvement on our last home one. As fans I think we now reluctantly accept our fate but we are far from happy about the custodian, board and players being quite so ready to accept it earlier than most of us had been.

Some of us may still cling to the irrational hope of an unlikely miracle that will see us stay up against all of the odds but we all know that we are now holding on to the slippery edge of the abyss by the finger tips of just one hand. 

Once again we looked likely to concede a goal every time our opponents attacked and any confidence we had evaporated as soon as we went a goal down. Everton were content with an all too comfortable win last night. Fortunately our visitors resisted the temptation to move out of second gear and help themselves to the further goals that had looked there for the taking. At times our midfield looked reasonable; on occasion our attack also caused Everton’s defence a little concern but we find scoring goals as hard as we find conceding them easy.

Everton fans deserve credit for applauding our fans singing during the second half when all was already lost and for doing the same to show support as we left the ground on the 74th minute. I have also been reliably informed that Baines and two of his team mates applauded the Holte End at the end of the game. Let us hope that this most played top-flight fixture is only briefly interrupted.   

My player ratings from a game that finally turned our promised bright future into an embarrassingly bleak one are:

Brad Guzan – 4 – Got the nod over Bunn. Brad demonstrated that the susceptibilities that led to his losing his starting place have not gone away. He failed to get an outstretched hand to the cross from Funes Mori that led to their third goal on the hour having made a good save from a Lukaku header moments earlier. He had previously spilled a 33rd minute Mirallas shot but Lescott saved his blushes by clearing Oviedo’s shot off the line.

Alan Hutton – 4 – Worked hard and was a willing runner but he was unable to produce an end product. Alan looked a bit like a fish out of water playing in an unfamiliar wing back role.

Michah Richards – 5 – Put in a shift but failed to pick up Funes Mori choosing instead to run in front of him to leave him free to head home a 5th minute Mirallas cross. Connected acrobatically with a 26th minute corner but his effort flew a yard wide. 

Joleon Lescott – 5 – Was in the right place at the right time to clear a 33rd minute close range shot off the line and had an effort in the first minute of first half stoppage time turned wide. 

Ciaran Clark – 3 – Should have chosen to stay on Lennon but was distracted by Lukaku who was behind him and ended up on neither player when Lennon hit the ball past both Lescott and Guzan from another Mirallas cross for their second on the half hour mark. He also failed to pick up Lukaku who was therefore unmarked when he slotted the ball home when behind him for their third.

Aly Cissokho – 6 – MOTM – Did surprisingly well in a wing back role. Aly hit a 32nd minute shot that Robles saved at his near post. He also provided some good crosses such as the one after a good run on the 43rd minute that Gabby was unable to get his head to. He was also again solid at the back.

Leandro Bacuna – 3 – For a reason unknown to me Leo seems to be one of the first names on the team sheet. He again did very little to justify his selection last nigh other than when forcing a save from Robles with a 28th minute shot from outside of the box.  

Ashley Westwood – 4 – Had a decent 24th minute shot from the edge of the box turned around the post by Robles and a 62nd minute shot blocked inside of the box.

Idrissa Gana – 5 – The best and hardest working of our midfield yesterday.

Jordan Ayew – 5 – A welcome return for Jordan after his three game suspension.

Gabriel Agbonlahor – 3 – Got a touch on the ball on 23 minutes that produced a save from Robles but although he did some running when they were in possession particularly early in the game he posed no threat to their defence.

Substitutes:

Rudy Gestede – Replaced Gabby after 67 minutes and scored our consolation goal 12 minutes later which I have now seen on television. Rudy climbed well in front of Jagielka and hung in the air to get on the end of Veretout’s measured cross which he headed home with some aplomb. Other than this I did not see enough of him to be able to give a rating although his goal was well taken and suggested he might yet do a job next season given the right service. 

Jordan Veretout – Replaced Westwood on 71 minutes and claimed an assist. I was also not there long enough to be able to decide on a rating for him having gone out the door 3 minutes after he came on. 

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

John

This was a shambolic, embarrassing and disappointingly rancid performance. The light we had thought we had spotted at the end of a long dark tunnel was all too easily extinguished as was our recent run of improved performances and fragile confidence yesterday.

We started this game with a better goal difference than Newcastle and level with Norwich. We had an opportunity to move to being a slender 5 points from safety with a win. Given our dire home record against yesterday’s visitors most of us would have taken a point although we really knew we needed all three but to lose and to concede 6 goals without reply in the process was beyond our very worst fears.

This was our heaviest home league defeat in 81 years. Back in season 1935-36 we conceded 7 goals twice at Villa Park losing 0-7 to WBA and then 1-7 to Arsenal with Ted Drake scoring all 7 goals of their goals. We were relegated that season and yesterday’s appalling performance had relegation written all over it.

We started well enough but our heads dropped when we conceded two goals in 9 first half minutes. At half-time the game could have gone one of two ways. We could have shown some fight and pulled a goal back or at the very least kept the score down to a two or three goal deficit or we could throw in the towel and become demoralised as we did in another abject display in the FA Cup against Manchester City. We took the later option conceding 4 goals in 13 second half minutes shamefully. Football does not get worse than this at Villa Park.

Liverpool were languishing in the bottom half of the table when they arrived at Villa Park yesterday. This was not the Liverpool of the 70s and as we showed in last season’s FA Cup semi-final they can be beaten. But we failed to turn up, treated them with too much respect and made them look better than they actually are. If only our players had shown anything near the spirit that the Holte End did near the end of this sad game!

We did not want this game enough to battle, press and challenge our visitors and instead surrendered meekly. We now have 12 games left in which to bridge the 8 point gap that stands between us and safety. Three points at Stoke might repair some of the damage but after this humiliating defeat it is hard to see any way back for us! 

My player ratings from a game after which my “bright future” scarf looked increasingly ridiculous are:

Mark Bunn – 4 – Acted as merely a spectator when neither a forward nor a defender made any contact with Milner’s 25th minute free-kick that went straight in at his far post. Kept out Clyne’s first shot after Firmino had found him but was left grounded along with Veretout when the same player was first to get to the rebound to score their penultimate goal. Mark was then left flat footed when Touré’s unchallenged header from a Henderson corner found the net to his right for their sixth on 71 minutes. Beat Sturridge to the ball after Coutinho had tried to set him up on 54 minutes having earlier saved well from Moreno at his near post on 33 minutes and from Sturridge again on 44 minutes.

Michah Richards – 4 – Made a couple of moves forward and was not the worst of our defenders yesterday.   

Joleon Lescott – 3 – Almost turned in a Henderson cross to make it 7 in the 86th minute but Bunn got down to keep it out.

Jores Okore – 3 – Origi got in behind him on 63 minutes and neither he nor Lescott were able to get back to do anything to stop him adding a fourth goal.   

Aly Cissokho – 3 – Neither he nor Lescott took responsibility for Sturridge who was therefore unchallenged when heading in their first.

Leandro Bacuna – 2 – Made a half hearted attempt if that to close down Coutinho whose cross was headed home past a static Bunn for their 16th minute opener. He then conceded the free-kick that led to their second although there was little contact with Coutinho who went to ground all too readily for me if not for the referee. Failed to bring the ball under control on 58 minutes losing the ball to Can who hit the ball home from the edge of the box for their third. Had a 60th minute shot pushed away which was cleared before Gana who had found him on the edge of the box could get to the loose ball having had another effort fumbled by the keeper when he cut into the box after 47 minutes.

Jordan Veretout - 3 – Failed to cover Clyne’s run on 65 minutes which led to their fifth.  

Ashley Westwood – 3 – Can do more than this as can the rest of the team.   

Idrissa Gana – 5 – MOTM – Shaded it as the best of a bad bunch for me yesterday.

Carles Gil – 4 – Has had much better and more influential games than this but he had little to nothing to work with yesterday.    

Gabriel Agbonlahor – 2 – Had a reasonable first 10 minutes or so but soon faded badly and looked so much more like his recent lack lustre self than he had during his last Villa Park appearance. Substituted on 57 minutes.  

Substitutes:

Scott Sinclair – 5 – Replaced Gabby after 57 minutes. Scott actually ran at their defenders a couple of times and was unlucky when his measured 80th minute shot hit the angler of crossbar and post.   

Jordan Lyden – 5 - Replaced Bacuna on 66 minutes and it was a little harsh to make him play any part in this debacle.

Alan Hutton – Replaced Richards on 85 minutes so was not on long enough to earn any rating.

Stay Up Villa!

John Lewis

John

The Villa lion showed the visiting canaries that there is still some life and fight left in him yesterday. A defeat would have left us doomed to relegation but this was a 6-pointer that we won due to hard work and determination on the pitch.

There was not too much to choose between the two teams in the first half. Norwich are currently on the crest of a slump having now lost their last five games and the first goal was always going to be crucial given the brittle confidence of both teams. It was thankfully Villa that got it and crucially it arrived on the stroke of half time. We added another early in the second half and then showed a steely resolve to hold onto that two goal cushion.

We took our chances, achieved a rare clean sheet and claimed our biggest league win of the season yesterday. We now live to fight another day, if we must go down it seems we might at least go down fighting and all hope is not yet quite lost!

We have now won two of our last three home league games and drew the other one. We have taken 8 points from our last 5 league games which is a points ratio which if repeated in our remaining 13 games might yet see us avoid the drop. Those 8 points from 5 games have also doubled the number of points we had to our name after our first 20 games.

Survival continues to appear to be a mission impossible but like Ethan Hunt is able to do on the big screen we might yet beat the odds as well. Each win like this one makes a great escape look a little more possible and a tad less far fetched.

We are now just 4 points behind Sunderland and 7 points behind yesterday’s opponents. We are also now 8 points away from 17th place and safety which is currently occupied by Newcastle.

The three clubs that are currently in front of us will now start to look over their shoulders at us. We have been written off by the press, pundits, opponents, our board and our “custodian” alike. They all might have to think again if we can add another home win next weekend.

 

My player ratings from a game in which the result was more important than the performance and that took us up to 16 points which is a figure many of us had doubts that we could achieve in the whole of this season are:

Mark Bunn – 5 – Parried away a strong Mbokani shot on 19 minutes and half came for a cross on 89 minutes only to be left in no man’s land as Martin’s header flew past him. 

Michah Richards – 7 – Dependable at the back and also made some strong runs forward.    

Joleon Lescott – 7 – MOTM – Gave us the lead on the stroke of half time which deflated our opponents and gave us some much needed confidence to take into the second half. Joleon got a downward header on Veretout’s 45th minute free kick at the far post which took a slight deflection before going through Rudd’s legs and into the net. He organised us well at the back and was determined to win each and every ball. Joleon also cleared an 89th minute Mbokani shot off the line.

Jores Okore – 7 – Jores was so very reliable again in the heart of our defence and was in the right place at the right time to head a Martin header from a cross that Bunn came for but did not get to clear of the line.

Aly Cissokho – 6 – Solid and committed at the back. This was his best performance since his return to Villa Park for me. 

Leandro Bacuna – 6 – Hit a first time shot from a nice Cissokho cross to the far post wide on 56 minutes. Leo might have put this game beyond any doubt 14 minutes later when Veretout found him on the edge of the box and he beat a defender before blasting the ball over the bar.

Jordan Veretout - 7 – Did some good work at the back in breaking down their attacks when we were under some pressure in the last quarter of the game having dropped back too deep as a team. Played some nice passes.   

Ashley Westwood – 6 – Played his part in holding things together.   

Idrissa Gana – 7 – A very, very much improved display on his last Villa Park outing. He did give the ball away on 29 minutes in his own half and will have been very relieved to see Bassong’s header at the end of their move go over the bar. He worked very hard throughout and did very well to block Mbokani’s attempt to force home a rebound at the far post after Lescott had kept his shot out on 89 minutes.    

Carles Gil – 6 – His first thought is to move the ball forwards and to create chances up front. Another good display and he got through a fair bit of work yesterday and hit the free kick that gave us our opener.

Gabriel Agbonlahor – 7 – Turned a Bacuna cross wide on 11 minutes and then having been found by Gana ran on to the edge of the box before hitting his shot straight at the keeper on 51 minutes. He then gave us a vital two-goal cushion seconds later. Veretout hit a lovely ball between 2 defenders which he ran onto before hitting the ball past Rudd who had advanced to the edge of the box and into the corner of the net. His goal celebration was muted at best which suggests the criticism he has received has stung but it also seems to have had a positive impact on his performance doesn’t it?   

Gabby filled the lone striker role which he has often struggled with in the past surprisingly well yesterday. He showed signs of the player he had been for us in the distant past and that he still has the capacity to do a job for us when he is up for it. He could yet have an unexpected but welcome impact on our survival hopes in our remaining games. His task is now to maintain this work rate, to show a willingness to run and to look for the ball in our next game, then in the one after that and consistently for the rest of this season as and when called upon.

Substitutes:

Ciaran Clark – Replaced Richards on 91 minutes so was not on long enough to earn a rating.  

Stay Up Villa!

 

John Lewis

 

John

There is to be no return to Wembley for us this season and we are now free to concentrate on the league. The earliest we can again lift this trophy for the eighth time will be a long 60 years of hurt since we proudly lifted it for a then record seventh time in 1957. We are now left with 15 Cup Finals in which to save our season!   

Nine seasons ago we finished sixth in the table with Manchester City ending the season below us. We finished sixth again in the next two seasons and yesterday’s opponents were again below us each time. In the following year things changed. Their new owner threw oodles of money at it and our “custodian” decided to pull the purse strings as tight as they could possibly be pulled. In the seasons since Manchester City have qualified each year for the Champions League and we have never looked like finishing above them again. This season they will again qualify for the Champions League and still have a very outside chance of a quadruple whilst we face the bleak prospect of relegation.

The results of blank cheque investment in the playing squad and of a penny-pinching lack of it were there for all to see yesterday. The game was over as a contest (if it ever actually was one) after just 4 minutes and it was put beyond any doubt from the penalty spot 20 minutes later thanks to the referee. We then gifted them two late goals to give the score a truer reflection of how the game had really gone. Although we had more possession than they did they were very comfortable about that because we seldom if ever looked like doing anything with it.

Our opponents ran out comfortable winners yesterday. Had they wanted to they looked capable of making the score look even more embarrassing than it eventually ended up. Once they went ahead the game had the look of a pre-season friendly about it and our goal became one of damage limitation if it was ever anything else.

My player ratings from a game that left me wondering whether we might try a cheeky loan offer to give their hat-trick scorer Kelechi Iheanacho a run of games with us this season that he will not get with them are:

Brad Guzan – 5 – The slithery snake’s 4th minute corner was headed on by an unchallenged Sagna to Fernando whose far post header got a wafer thin touch off Guzan’s outstretched hand before Veretout cleared it off the line with his chest but Iheanacho was quickest to react to the loose ball and turned it in for their opener. He gathered a low shot from Navas on 15 minutes. He was then sent the wrong way for their penalty having committed himself to the left before it had actually been hit to his right. He used to save the odd penalty once upon a time! Blocked a 33rd minute shot from inside the 6-yard box by Fernandinho and got down well to make a save from Sterling on 56 minutes. Blocked a Fernandinho shot at his near post on 74 minutes but to no avail as the loose ball eventually ran to Sterling for their fourth.      

Leandro Bacuna – 5 – Headed a cross over the bar in the 10th minute. Leo was very unlucky to have conceded the penalty that led to their second when Sterling went to ground having slipped and lost his footing when trying to get in front of him to get onto a Navas cross. He lost his head with Sterling after that as he is prone to do a little too often in games. Leo was booked on 26 minutes and might have seen red when he fouled the same player only 2 minutes later. Moving into the middle for the second half did little for us but it probably helped him stay on the field and avoid a suspension we can do without.                              

Michah Richards – 5 – We rested our first choice central defensive pairing for this one and I guess our captain will be filling in again at full back for the West Ham game after this one.    

Ciaran Clark – 5 – His strong challenge on the edge of the box on Iheanacho prevented what could have been an opportunity for a third on 31 minutes. Had a header from a Westwood cross that he was trying to work across the goal gathered by Caballero on 42 minutes.                                

Aly Cissokho – 5 – Whilst solid enough at the back he does not offer a great deal up front but nor do we as a team.      

Jordan Veretout – 4 – This game passed him by and this was a noticeable drop in his standards of late.           

Ashley Westwood - 5 – Ash was also not at his best in the 45 minutes that he played.                                        

Idrissa Gueye – 2 – Needs to put this surprisingly desperate performance behind him quickly as we will need him at his best next week. His 44th minute shot from outside of the box took a deflection off a defender before being gathered by Caballero. He had lost the ball more than once early in the game and appeared to have learned from that until near the end of the game when two dreadful errors doubled their lead. He got an unwanted assist for their third on 74 minutes when he played the ball back from inside their half into open space for Iheanacho to run onto and slot past Guzan. He then let a pass run past him to Sterling in the build up to their fourth only 2 minutes later and the scorer ran behind him to hit the ball home.     

Carles Gil – 6 – MOTM – Forced a decent save from Caballero with a free-kick from the edge of the box which was on its way to the top corner on 68 minutes after Ayew had been brought down. Did well enough given those around him did not and was our most creative player by some distance yesterday although that is not saying that much really.      

Scott Sinclair – 4 – Did very little against his former club yesterday when he could reasonably have been expected to have wanted to have raised his game against them with a view to making his case for a starting place during what is left of the season rather than a continued spell on the sidelines.      

Jordan Ayew – 5 – Showed less strong running and spark than we have come to expect from him in this one. Without him at or near his best we have very, very little to worry opposition defences. Jordan was another player who was below par yesterday.         

Substitutes:

Jores Okore – 6 - Replaced Westwood at half time and was the best of our defenders in the second half.  

Gabriel Agbonlahor – 4 – Replaced Sinclair on 65 minutes. If Gabby was the answer yesterday I’m not sure what the question was. Made little to no impression on the game and showed little to suggest he is aching for a regular opportunity to save our season.

Jack Grealish – Replaced Gil on 80 minutes. Not on long enough to earn a rating and did nothing in the time he had available to press his claim for a starting place.  

Stay Up Villa!

John Lewis



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