We scored four goals at Villa Park for the first time in three years yesterday. Conor Hourihane scored our first hat-trick for two years and his own first. This our first win of the season took us from the bottom of the table up to 16th place. We also left the ground with smiles on our faces rather than frowns after this goal fest.
We conceded two goals and at times looked too shaky for comfort at the back. That is enough of negativity which was far outweighed by the positives yesterday. We scored four, could easily had another two and we played positive, flowing, attacking football. Each time they scored and threatened to peg us back we responded with a goal of our own to ease our fraying nerves.
Let us hope that this result marks a turning point in our season. An away win at Bristol City on Friday looks far less unlikely than it did on Saturday morning and that would take us into the top half of the table and within reach of the top six. Make it so Villa!
My player ratings from a game that demonstrated that you can win games with kids are:
Sam Johnstone – 6 – Had hearts in mouths when he raced outside of his box on the 38th minute when attempting to intercept a ball that had gone past our defenders but narrowed the angle well on the 50th minute when Naismith’s near post shot hit the side netting. Had little chance with both of their goals.
Alan Hutton – 4 – Given a tough afternoon particularly in the minutes prior to his 64th minute substitution by the lively and pacey Murphy. Hutton allowed him to get goal side of him for their first on the hour mark and was beaten easily 2 minutes later by the same player whose cross led to a goalmouth melee that was settled by a clearance from Johnstone. Difficult to see a reason for him to continue to start games instead of either Bree or De Laet given his current form.
James Chester - 6 – Really should have been on target with an unchallenged diving header from a 55th minute Hourihane free kick that flew harmlessly over the bar.
John Terry – 6 – Neither he nor Taylor picked up Oliveira in the 79th minute when the forward was left unmarked to hit their second.
Neil Taylor – 6 – A solid enough defensive display and he also got forward well at times.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 6 – Hit the bar in the 4th minute of stoppage time after Bree had switched the ball back to him inside of the box.
Josh Onomah – 6 – Substituted on the half hour having sustained an injury.
Glenn Whelan – 7 – Much more involved yesterday and this played a part in Conor and Henri having the opportunity to move forward more often than they had been doing previously. Hit an on-target effort from the edge of the box on 37 minutes which was inadvertently blocked by Davis.
Conor Hourihane – 9 – MOTM – As the late Bruce Forsyth often said, “Didn’t he do well?” It is not often that a midfield player gets a hat-trick but Conor did so yesterday producing the sort of performance he regularly gave for Barnsley which led us to sign him. He needs to have licence to get forward where he can be so dangerous from now onwards. Davis threaded the ball between 2 defenders on the 19th minute to Conor but he hit his shot across the face of goal and inches wide. Onomah then won the ball near the half way line before hitting a nice ball for Davis to run onto. Keinan proceeded to hit a low cross that went between the goalkeeper and a defender before reaching Conor near the far post who hit home our 22nd minute opener with assurance. Lansbury fed Conor from a Taylor free-kick and his 68th minute 30-yard shot took a deflection off a defender on its way past the keeper and into the corner of the net. He completed his hat-trick on the 85th minute when Elmohamady found him in a central position a couple of yards outside of the box and he struck the ball low into the right-hand corner of the net. Almost turned home a fourth goal on 89 minutes but that effort was blocked.
Andre Green – 8 – Lansbury found him on the edge of the box on the 42nd minute and he then picked his spot curling the ball around a defender and into the top right-hand corner of the net to give us our second goal of the afternoon. He will do well to score a better goal than this one for us! Hit a 70th minute shot from the edge of the box just wide of the post and should have had a second goal to his name on the 94th minute when Elmohamady’s shot bounced to him off the bar only for his header to find Gunn’s hands rather than the back of the net.
Keinan Davis – 9 – Looked very, very promising yesterday. Held the ball up and led the line very well. Refused to be knocked off the ball and utilised his strength and determination throughout to give the central defenders he was up against a very difficult afternoon. Won the ball from Zimmermann on the 2nd minute and ran inside the box before hitting a shot which was blocked by the advancing Gunn’s legs. Taylor then found Green on the edge of the box whose inch perfect 16th minute cross was met by Davis but Gunn did well to get a hand to his header to keep it out. Ran onto a strong 24th minute header from inside his own half by Whelan and having got the better of a defender hit an effort from the edge of the box that struck the top of the crossbar. Denied by Gunn on the 64th minute when he ran onto a ball from Lansbury but could not turn the ball past the keeper.
Henri Lansbury – 6 – Replaced Onomah on 30 minutes. Was not quite able to slide in to make contact with a good 35th minute Hourihane cross into the box. Looked to be belatedly in the process of forming a decent partnership alongside Conor today and he has surely done enough to start games from now on?
James Bree – 6 - Replaced Hutton on 64 minutes and we looked more secure after that.
Chris Samba – Replaced Davis on 87 minutes. Was not on long enough to earn a rating.
Up the Villa!