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.
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!