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Player Match Ratings: We lose on Villa Park’s 120th!


John

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This was no way to celebrate 120 years of football at Villa Park. On Easter Saturday 1897 in our double winning season we played our first game at Villa Park beating Blackburn 3-0. On Easter Saturday 2017 at Villa Park, we lost 3-1 to promotion chasing Reading and face a second season outside of the top flight next season.    

Reading recorded their first ever win at Villa Park yesterday after 105 years of trying yesterday. They claimed a 3-1 win which was in stark contrast to the 7-1 defeat they had suffered at Norwich last weekend.

There was to be no sixth successive home win and clean sheet for Villa yesterday. We instead reprised several previous losing performances this season which had cost us the play-off place that yesterday’s win all but secured for our visitors.

Reading were not really that good yesterday but they did not need to be because we gifted them three goals and missed all but one of the chances that we created. They simply wanted it more than we did. Reading had something to play for and we did not and it showed. They were quicker, first to the ball, put in stronger challenges and took full advantage of some incredibly weak refereeing.  

For us the season is now effectively over and the unlikely dream of a late run for the play-offs has become a mathematical impossibility. Nevertheless, we need to finish this season strongly to build some impetus and confidence to bring into next season when automatic promotion will be the minimum requirement. Now is not time for us to throw in the towel. We have 4 games remaining, one of which is a ding-dong derby against our relegation threatened neighbours. A performance such as the one that we produced yesterday will not be acceptable in any of those games we have left to play and particularly when we return to Villa Park next weekend!

Villa had that end of season look upon them from the start yesterday. Our captain gave us an equalizer on 14 minutes that cancelled out their 6th minute opener but we didn’t really kick on from there. Any lingering hope of a late comeback were expunged when Bacuna was unhesitatingly adjudged to have brought down Kelly to concede a late penalty which gave them a 2-goal cushion.

Yesterday we lost a home game for the first time since we lost 2 in 4 days in mid-February and this was a sad return to the sort of performances that we had hoped we had put behind us. We gained only 1 point from our first 8 games of 2017 and yesterday we had the look of a team that could end the season in much the same dismal manner.  

The Villa Park screens regularly thanked those fans who have bought season tickets for next season already. Another win would have been a better way to have shown it! Our recent home wins have been hard won and hard fought. Visiting teams have tended to leave feeling they were unlucky to have come away with nothing. Yesterday we got what our display deserved and that was nothing. We leaked goals and again found it hard to convert our chances. Games are not won or drawn by doing that.

Our target should now be a place in the top 8. We have 4 points to make up in our remaining 4 games and it would be nice if the performances in those matches warranted an end of season “lap of appreciation” after a 4th successive league win or at the least a 2nd successive home win. Make it so Villa!              

My player ratings from a game that brought an end to our unbeaten six game home run and gave us our third home defeat of the season are:

Sam Johnstone – 6 – Got down well to save a 26th minute shot from outside of the box from Swift at his right-hand post. Did well to block a 57th minute Grabban effort at the near post but guessed the wrong way when diving to his right as the ball went in on the left for their third.        

Alan Hutton – 6 – Did most of what we have come to expect from him of late.             

James Chester - 7 – MOTM – Solid at the back, scored and nearly claimed a late second. Headed a 14th minute Hourihane corner into the corner of the net for our equalizer and was inches wide of the post when diving full length to get on the end of a nicely weighted 87th minute ball in from Hourihane.    

Nathan Baker – 6 – Did not seem quite as composed as he has looked of late but still gave a pretty steady central defensive display.     

Jordan Amavi – 4 – Presented the ball to Grabban when attempting to play the ball back to either Hourihane or Baker which led to their 6th minute opener. Didn’t stay on Grabban who was therefore allowed space behind him that Baker was unable to close-down for their second. He is a much better player than he showed us yesterday on his return to a deeper role in our line-up.  

Albert Adomah – 4 – This game passed him by.

Henri Lansbury – 6 – Got a foot to an attempted 3rd minute clearance from Al Habsi that landed near the far post and was then cleared much to the keeper’s relief. Got a touch on a 13th minute Jedinak shot from the edge of the box that needed a good reaction save from Al Habsi to keep it out.     

Mile Jedinak - 5 – Not quite at his best yesterday but he was not alone in that.       

Leandro Bacuna – 3 – Hit an attempted 45th minute clearance when unbalanced straight to Grabban on the edge of the box but fortunately he hit his shot straight at Johnstone as Amavi put in a challenge. Conceded the 78th minute penalty that put the game beyond us when his left arm connected with Lyden who went down like he had been hit by a sniper. This was a long way off the sort of performance that he would have needed to have produced to retain his starting place for me.    

Conor Hourihane – 6 – Hit a decent 29th minute shot from around 25 yards that flew just over the bar and hit another from the edge of the box on 83 minutes that did the same.   

Jonathan Kodjia – 6 – Given no protection whatsoever by the referee who given he hails from Newcastle surprisingly gave defenders the freedom to hold him whenever he might otherwise have had an opportunity to strike. Found inside the box by a long 6th minute ball from Amavi and hit a shot that Al Habsi got down low to save at the near post. Hit a first-time effort from a Hutton cross wide of the post on 9 minutes. Got up well but then headed a 54th minute Hourihane corner over the bar. Stretched a foot to reach a nice ball to the far post from Hourihane that he was unable to turn in and that might have been better left for Adomah who was lurking behind him. Had a 77th minute shot deflected wide. Jonathan cannot score every week and when he doesn’t our chances of winning are drastically reduced.         

Substitutes:

Scott Hogan – 5 - Replaced Amavi on 62 minutes. Jedinak turned the ball back to him inside the box on 68 minutes but he skied the ball over when an equalizer had looked on.       

Jack Grealish – Replaced Baker on 76 minutes. Made little impression on the game. Curled an attempt high and wide of the far post on 93 minutes. Jack was not on long enough to merit a rating.     

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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