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Player Match Ratings: One more victory for promotion


John

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Villa won this tie at the Riverside and finished the job last night. It was a close call between the two teams, but we were so determined to emerge the victors that we were not to be denied.

Boro have played us four times in the Championship this season and have not scored against us. If anyone was going to score last night, it was Villa that had looked the more likely to do so. Boro had a little more possession than we had last night but they rarely threatened to do anything with it. Our game management was as impressive as was our defence resolute.  

We started strongly and had the better of the second half when it was our opponents who needed to press for a goal to level the aggregate score. Although at times we were forced back in the first half the clean sheet that secured the win that clearly meant so much to our team was rarely under threat in hindsight although a Villa goal would have eased our understandable nerves.

Our players gave all they had and were backed by an impressive wall of noise that was produced by a packed claret & blue clad Villa Park. Boro’s one and only plan was to give the ball to Adama. That plan did not work on Saturday and it did not work again last night because on both occasions he was unable to get the better of our formidable defence. Pulis assisted us by repeating the same tactics that had failed in their home leg and by not starting with Bamford and Fabio last night when they had to seek a goal.     

So, it is to be a Wembley playoff final with Fulham that makes or breaks our promotion campaign this season. Fulham will be the media’s firm choice. They can play some nice football, but have they ever come near to the level of performance that we produced to humiliate this season’s champions at Villa Park two months ago? They have had their off days this season as have we. There was not a lot to choose between the two clubs points tallies at the end of the season and we have both beaten each other once. I think we have the big match experience and the team spirit to clinch promotion at Wembley.

To do that we need to produce the sort of Wembley performance that we gave against Liverpool 3 years ago rather than the one that we produced a month later against Arsenal. We won a cup final on the same day that we will be facing Fulham 36 years ago. Wembley would be a great place to clinch promotion but as we know it is no place for losers. Let’s win one again to get back where we belong on the 26th!               

My player ratings from a game before which we remembered Jloyd and after which we celebrated reaching Wembley once again are:

Sam Johnstone – 7 – Confident and assured for most of the game. Was perhaps fortunate to still be on the pitch at the end having got a hand to keep out an 87th minute Adama effort when he had strayed just outside of the penalty area with his mind on claiming the bouncing ball. Downing’s resultant free-kick from the edge of the box thudded against the crossbar much to Sam’s relief.   

James Bree – 7 – Lost possession on a couple of occasions early on but did his bit and settled into the game well. Did well to head out a 40th minute Adama cross at the far post with Howson having ran into position behind him.                

James Chester - 9 – Another confident display. Hit a 37th minute shot wide of the post from a Grabban header.    

John Terry – 9 – Just one win from picking up another trophy. Led by example last night.       

Alan Hutton - 9 – Had Adama in his pocket once again. Adama had the edge in pace but Alan had the guile, will and experience to win his duel with him.    

Robert Snodgrass – 8 – Covered an awful lot of ground last night.           

Mile Jedinak - 9 – MOTM – Played a crucial role in front of the defence and his contribution like his beard was immense last night.   

Conor Hourihane – 8 – Worked tirelessly to deny his opponents space and time. Charged down a 10th minute Randolph clearance but the ball deflected harmlessly to the left. Almost got on the end of a 34th minute Adomah cross but Friend made a timely and important challenge.

Albert Adomah – 8 – Another that put in a big shift for the cause. Had a 71st minute shot from the edge of the area deflected off a defender past the far post.

Jack Grealish – 9 – Curled a sweet 75th minute shot from the edge of the box which Randolph did well to keep out at the far post. He just oozes class.              

Lewis Grabban – 8 – Worked hard up front and was denied by Randolph’s outstretched right leg when he got on the end of a 60th minute Adomah cross after a good one two between Jack and Albert. Hit a shot from well outside of the box 10 minutes later that Randolph tipped over.      

Substitutes:

Jonathan Kodjia – Replaced Grabban on 79 minutes and did his bit tonight. Nice to see him joining in with the celebrations at the end. Not quite on long enough to get a rating     

Glenn Whelan – Replaced Hourihane on 85 minutes. Not on long enough to merit a rating.

Birkir Bjarnason – Replaced Adomah on 91 minutes. Not on long enough to gather a rating.     

Get Up Villa!

John Lewis

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