A super well-placed Conor Hourihane free-kick gave Villa the win in yesterday’s game between the only two of the five English teams that have lifted the European Cup that currently play outside of the top flight. Forest won that trophy in 1979 and 1980. Villa continued the Midlands domination of that cup competition in 1982 to become the fifth consecutive winners from England with Liverpool also having won the trophy in 1977, 1978 and in 1981. These two Midland clubs have sadly fallen from grace and have a long way to go to become anything approaching the teams that they were back then.
Villa played well in the first half following a strong start to the game from our visitors. Our team produced some entertaining football with Adomah and Snodgrass both making some nice positive runs down each flank. Forest played their part in what was one of the better 45 minutes of football played at Villa Park in recent seasons. We scored one but the nagging thought remained that at the end of the game we might regret having not put at least one of our other first-half opportunities away.
Forest had a little too much of the ball for my liking in the first 45 minutes and that was even more the case in the second half. They were always going to get a chance or two given the amount of possession they were enjoying and they got the equaliser that many had feared they might on the 52nd minute. Fortunately, we bounced back with the goal that won it for us from our top goal scorer Hourihane on the hour and we managed to hang onto that lead until the close.
The three points that we gained from yesterday’s win took us into the top half of the table. It gave us two consecutive league wins for the first time this season which took us just 2 points off the play-off places and within 7 points of the automatic promotion spots. We are still playing catch-up after our poor start to the season but we are at least in the process of catching up. Wins against Burton and Bolton next week that will put us on 4 wins from 4 games are now required to give us the momentum that we need.
My player ratings from a game that we might well have drawn (which we did last season) are:
Sam Johnstone – 7 – Sealed our win when he showed his agility in pushing an 85th minute 30-yard Dowell free-kick that was played over our defensive wall and was heading for the top corner wide of the post with one hand. Had earlier been somewhat fortunate when he blocked a 55th minute Dowell shot with his right leg and it somehow deflected to safety past his left-hand post. Gathered a 57th minute Murphy header that went straight at him easily enough. Sam had the occasional wayward kick yesterday that led to a couple of throw-ins for the visitors but his confidence is there for all to see now and I hope we can make his loan into a permanent signing.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 5 – Forest targeted his wing as being a potential weak point for us from the start and had some element of success having done so.
James Chester - 7 – Did well and again looked solid yesterday alongside JT.
John Terry – 7 – Another composed and solid defensive performance. It was nice to see how much the win meant to him when the referee blew the final whistle.
Neil Taylor - 7 – Comfortable at the back and looked good when moving forward. His best performance to date for us in my opinion.
Robert Snodgrass – 7 – He gives us a lot and was a real threat on the wing but had understandably tired well before his 88th minute substitution due no doubt to his inactivity before joining us. Hit a nice cross on 33 minutes that Smith pushed out for a corner at the far post with Kodjia in close attention.
Glenn Whelan - 4 – Started well enough but tired noticeably in the second half wanting to take too long on the ball at times and being caught or almost caught in possession on occasion. Claimed an unwanted assist for their equalizer when both he and Terry tried to take the ball off Murphy on the edge of the penalty area but his involuntary touch on the ball instead put the striker clear inside the box and his shot gave Johnstone no chance. Jedinak’s injury impacts on our ability to rotate Mile and Glenn as well as to bring one of them on when the other tires.
Conor Hourihane – 8 – Hit our winner on the hour with a superb free kick that he bent around the wall and past Smith. A very good all-round midfield display throughout.
Albert Adomah – 8 – MOTM – Albert’s on fire, isn’t he? Hit our first goal after 15 minutes when he collected a splendidly measured ball played between two defenders into the box by Kodjia before rounding Smith and coolly slotting the ball home. Picked up a ball from Whelan just inside their half 3 minutes later and ran forward before cutting inside and hitting a shot from outside of the box that flew over the far post. Almost got on the end of a nice 56th minute ball into the box from Snodgrass that had just needed a touch at the near post. He was a constant problem to the visitors with his wide runs at their defenders.
Jonathan Kodjia – 7 – Got a big assist for our opening goal with a perfect defence splitting pass that was reminiscent of the sort that Gordon Cowans used to hit at will. Hit a 36th minute shot that Smith gathered at the second attempt after Davis had found him inside of the box. We look so much more threatening with “Johnny Danger” back in the starting line-up.
Keinan Davis – 7 – He holds the ball up and brings others into play so very well. Was found on the edge of the area by Snodgrass on 28 minutes and then showed some nice footwork before hitting a cross towards Kodjia that went wide of the far post.
Josh Onomah – 5 – Replaced Davis on 72 minutes. Found settling into this game and making an impression upon it a little more difficult than he would have hoped in the time he had available to do so.
Scott Hogan – Replaced Kodjia on 79 minutes. Not on long enough to earn a rating.
Alan Hutton – Replaced Snodgrass on 88 minutes. Not on long enough to gather a rating but he did stiffen us up defensively as we looked to close the game out and made an early challenge that left no doubt whatsoever that he meant business.
Up the Villa!