This was an improved performance on the one that we witnessed on Saturday but it would have been difficult to have been worse than that! The team selection was a little more positive as were the substitutions made at half time that gave us two strikers at long last albeit against a team who were down to ten men. We enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession and created several chances but were sadly unable to put any of them away.
Another goalless home draw makes it seem a long time since we hit 4 at Villa Park but we did exactly that in the two home games we played prior to last Saturday’s game. These draws have done nothing to lift us nearer to the top six than the bottom six or to ease the pressure on our manager. Boro’s defence rode their luck at times last night but they were organised and determined. We got forward a lot last night but our final balls were often wayward and we lacked the confidence along with the luck to hit the back of the net when scoring opportunities arose. Given that we deserved to have won this one.
So, we are left with just one league win from 7 games and are unbeaten in our last 4 matches. We have kept a second successive clean sheet but have not scored in those two games either. We are one of 5 clubs with 7 points but are the last placed of these clubs because we only have 7 goals from our 7 games. We are 3 points clear of Small Heath who head the 3 clubs who are sitting in the relegation zone but are 5 points off the play off places and 9 off the automatic promotion places. Make of that what you wish but we need to start scoring goals and to start winning rather than drawing games. We need to start by winning at Barnsley, at home to Bolton and at Burton. 16 points from 10 games would sound a lot better than 7 from 7. To do that we will need to start putting our chances away and keep it tight at the back. We will also need to play for wins. Here’s hoping!
My player ratings from a game that showed that there really is not that much between these two teams (currently 4 points) are:
Sam Johnstone – 6 – Not frequently called upon but did very well on 71 minutes to keep out a shot from the edge of the box from Assombalonga that he turned past the post and had earlier flown across his goal to keep out a 3rd minute Gibson header.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 5 – Got forward in the first half but we had other wide players available to do that last night. Did ok at the back when called upon to do so.
James Chester - 6 – A sound defensive performance when tested.
John Terry – 6 – Solid and composed.
Neil Taylor – 6 – Another steady defensive performance. Got forward more often although having done so his final ball sometimes went astray.
Robert Snodgrass – 8 – MOTM – Robert was a real threat last night. Tried to turn home a 25th minute ball played to him on the edge of the box from Davis who had picked up a loose ball but his shot was collected by Randolph. Headed downwards on 36 minutes but it bounced nicely into Randolph’s hands. Hit a nice 40th minute cross over the keeper which was headed wide by Davis. Hit a decent 45th minute free kick from the edge of the box that was gathered near the post at the second attempt by Randolph. Hit the bar on 50 minutes with a fierce shot (which was perhaps unnecessarily so) after Randolph was only able to parry an Adomah cross in his direction.
Henri Lansbury – 6 – Looked to be trying to take one for the team when he brought down Johnson from behind on 64th minute. That gave the referee the opportunity he had been waiting an hour for and without any hesitation he evened things up by showing Henri a straight red. It was a yellow card offence and a professional foul. I can’t recall seeing anyone getting a straight red for one of these but I suspect it was interpreted as a kick at the opponent. Left clear by a splendid chip over the defence by Taylor but Randolph scrambled the ball away.
Mile Jedinak - 6 – A welcome return following injury and the 45 minutes he had will have shaken off a few cobwebs. Made way for Hogan at half time to give us another striker as we attempted to press for a goal against a team we then had a man advantage over.
Conor Hourihane – 7 – Conor was the victim of an unnecessary and wild scissor like challenge from Traore that led to the once occasional Villa Player getting his marching orders after 4 minutes. Hit a speculative shot from 30 yards on 27 minutes that flew a couple of feet over the bar. He was so unlucky that Hogan got in the way of his goal bound shot on the goal line on 76 minutes. He then had a late opportunity to win the game on 94 minutes when a Snodgrass corner fell to him but his shot was off target and went wide of the near post.
Birkir Bjarnason – 4 – A disappointing display. Snodgrass was found by a nice ball from Terry and ran into the box before hitting a chipped 40th minute cross that flew over Randolph and Christie but Birkir’s far post header was poorly directed and looped wide of that post.
Keinan Davis– 6 – Worked hard and does hold the ball up well hopefully he can add an increasing goal threat to his overall game.
Albert Adomah – 7 – Replaced Bjarnason at half time and made a positive impression.
Scott Hogan – 6 - Replaced Jedinak at half time. Headed the ball onto the roof of the net on 68 minutes. Needs to start games no doubt he will have to wait a week for that.
Jonathan Kodjia – 7 - Replaced Davis on 70 minutes. Nice to see him back in a Villa shirt and hopefully he can provide the goals we have recently been so short of. Got on the end of a teasing cross from Snodgrass and his far post header was helped onto the bar by Randolph before falling to Hourihane whose shot was cleared off the line by our own player. Headed a Hourihane free kick just over on 80 minutes.
Up the Villa!