We encouragingly played like Champions-elect during the first half yesterday but failed to put enough of the chances that we created away and as was proved so often last season a one goal lead is not always enough for us.
That Cup of Traditions tournament was made for us, wasn’t it? Villa performances are all too often games of two halves during which Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde take turns in coming out in claret & blue shirts. Those pre-season games were of only 45-minutes in duration and they did not therefore allow us the opportunity to take our foot off the pedal for half of the game as we did yesterday.
Hull deserved their point. They had the better of the second half in much the same way that we had the best of the first 45 minutes. We fell into that nasty habit of thinking that we could hold onto a one goal lead again. We surrendered the initiative and dropped points from what was a winning position and we cannot continue to do these things if we are to achieve our promotion objective this season.
We need to start dominating games over the full 90 minutes rather than for the first 45 and belatedly the last 10 as we did yesterday. We need to score more goals on a regular basis and to finish teams off when we have the game in our hands to win.
My player ratings from a game that cast some doubts upon our chances of significantly improving on last season’s points and goals tallies are:
Sam Johnstone – 7 – Nice to see him confidently claiming balls in the air. Dived to his left-hand post to gather a header back from Taylor who was under pressure from Bowen on 10 minutes. Made a good double save on 44 minutes from Frazier Campbell with his right leg as the striker tried to turn the ball past him having run inside the box and then punched clear an effort from Grosicki from the edge of the box. Had little to no chance with their equalizer which came from Bowen who had been left totally unmarked.
Alan Hutton – 6 – Claimed an assist for our early goal.
James Chester - 7 – Solid alongside JT.
John Terry – 7 – MOTM - Confident and assured at the heart of our defence. Looked as disappointed as we were with the result.
Neil Taylor – 6 – A steady enough performance.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 5 – Had a decent first half but faded in the second half as did the team in general.
Henri Lansbury – 6 –Ran between two defenders to collect a long ball from inside his own half by Taylor, took the ball from the edge of the box into it before hitting the ball across the face of the goal and wide of the far post on the 2nd minute. Chested down a 30th minute ball into the box from Elmohamady before hitting a decent shot that was gathered by McGregor.
Glenn Whelan – 6 – A solid hard-working performance.
Leandro Bacuna – 4 – I really do struggle to understand why Leo started yesterday instead of Conor Hourihane who spent a frustrating evening sitting on the bench. Leo put in a shift at times during the first half but his impact on the game was not marked and had become minimal at very best well before his substitution. A deflected 70th minute cross from Taylor fell to him at the far post but his last kick of the game was hurried and flew well over the bar.
Gabriel Agbonlahor – 6 – Had a gilt-edged opportunity to open the scoring on 6 minutes when a nice ball from Lansbury put him clear wide on the left he proceeded to run into the box but he was denied by McGregor’s outstretched hand as he attempted to place the ball past the advancing keeper. Made no mistake just a minute later when Elmohamady fed Hutton who was running to his right. His low cross hurried behind Hogan and in front of Lansbury before falling to Gabby who was unmarked on the edge of the 6-yard box at the far post whose crisp well-placed finish found the far corner of the net. Tired as the game wore on and became increasingly less effective.
Scott Hogan – 6 – Made a good run down the left on 21 minutes before pulling the ball back for Lansbury on the edge of the box who did not manage to connect with the ball with his right foot and the ball instead hit his standing foot and was easily picked up by a defender. Dawson’s attempted 27th minute clearance hit Lansbury who found Scott who in turn beat 2 defenders before aiming to push the ball past McGregor only to see it strike his left leg before it was gratefully gathered by the keeper. Could not quite get enough contact on Elmohamady’s deflected 32nd minute cross to turn it in.
Andre Green – 6 – Replaced Bacuna on 70 minutes and gave us some energy. Missed a late chance which looked much harder to miss than to score from on 80 minutes. Taylor’s free kick fell to him a couple of feet out near the far post but his header was badly mistimed and went harmlessly across the face of the goal rather than into the net. He will get goals and win games for us this season.
Josh Onomah – 6 - Replaced Hogan on 78 minutes and looked a pacey, promising addition to our squad.
Chris Samba – Replaced Lansbury on 90 minutes and was immediately pushed up front alongside Gabby. This desperate last toss of the dice did not lead to the late winner Steve Bruce was seeking but Chris put himself about in this unfamiliar role. He was not on long enough to gather a rating.
Up the Villa!