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.
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!