Our unlikely hopes of automatic promotion were finally extinguished beyond any doubt yesterday. We will end the season in fourth place but will hopefully end it with a Wembley win to show for our efforts this season.
Ex Blue-Nose Cameron Jerome gave Derby County a 14th minute lead yesterday that despite Villa enjoying the lion’s share of the possession they had looked increasingly like holding onto until Lewis Grabban hit our late equalizer and put their invitation to the playoff lottery on hold for another week.
Villa deserved a point from this game at the very least and can now move on towards the playoffs having lost only two of our twenty-three home league games this season.
The East Midlander’s arrived hoping to win their first game at Villa Park since 1988. Having gone a goal up they resolved to keep what they had by means of a dogged well organised defence. On another day we might have scored four but on this occasion, we had to be content with one and with keeping our powder dry for the three playoff games on which the success or otherwise of our promotion campaign will be dependant.
Who knows we may meet our visitors again in those playoffs. On 26th May (a date of great significance in our club’s proud history already) a Wembley appearance may propel one of these two clubs back into the top flight. I for one would rather like that that meeting to happen, and I would back us to breech their defence more than once on that occasion to claim that final promotion place.
We are now able to rest players who may benefit from that in our final game of the season at The Den. Of those players that started yesterday I would wrap Elmohamady, Terry, Chester, Snodgrass, Adomah and Jack in cotton wool next weekend.
My player ratings from a game after which Gabby made his final Villa Park appearance as a current Villa squad member are:
Sam Johnstone – 6 – Kept out a 51st minute shot from the edge of the box from Lawrence.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 6 – Did well to get back to block Weimann’s 73rd minute shot.
James Chester - 7 – Dependable and solid as ever.
John Terry – 7 – Welcome back! JT and Chester are such an effective central defensive pairing.
Neil Taylor – 4 – Substituted on 23 minutes due to injury. Should have just ran the ball out for a corner but instead gifted the ball to Weimann who then played the ball to Jerome for their goal. May well struggle to dislodge Hutton from the starting line-up now that he is recovered from injury himself.
Robert Snodgrass – 7 – Hit a fierce 75th minute shot from the edge of the box after his free-kick had come back to him which Carson tipped over unseen by the referee apparently. Worked tirelessly and kept trying to move Derby’s parked bus aside.
Glen Whelan – 6 – Had a decent game yesterday.
Jack Grealish – 8 – MOTM – Played a nice one-two with Grabban on 31 minutes chested the ball down well but his shot was kept out by Carson’s right foot. Hit a shot over the bar from the edge of the area on 61 minutes and another one wide 15 minutes later. He simply makes us tick.
Conor Hourihane – 6 –Tried to curl a 32nd minute shot from the edge of the box inside the far post but it was safely gathered by Carson. The ex-Villa keeper also was on hand at his right-hand post to save another 67th minute effort from him from the edge of the area. Somehow hit a 70th minute header from Snodgrass that fell to him at the far post wide.
Albert Adomah– 5 – Hit a nice cross that looked destined to be turned in by Grabban on the line just before the interval after Jack had found him with an inch perfect ball. Looks in need of a couple of weeks rest after having been a big player for us to date this season. Albert was substituted inside an hour.
Lewis Grabban – 7 – Curtis Davies had him in his pocket for a fair bit of this game, but he did what goal scorer’s do and hit home our equalizer and his 20th goal of the season on 84 minutes. Hourihane hit a powerful shot that Carson blocked but the ball rebounded to Terry who coolly played it along to Lewis who applied the required finish. Headed an Adomah cross harmlessly over the bar on 25 minutes when he should have been on target also headed a ball from Elmohamady onto the post in first half stoppage time.
Alan Hutton – 7 – A very welcome return. Alan came on for Taylor in the 23rd minute. Made some decent runs forward and had a 79th minute header which went just wide of the post.
Jonathan Kodjia – Replaced Adomah on 59 minutes. He is increasing his match fitness with each appearance following his long injury lay off but would benefit from the confidence that a goal brings and almost got one in the 74th minute when he hit the post from a Snodgrass cross.
Josh Onomah - Replaced Whelan on 81 minutes. Josh was not on long enough to gather a rating.
Get Up Villa!