One goal is often not enough and so it proved yesterday. Up until Reading’s late equalizer it had looked like we had done just enough to get a win and “just enough” appeared to be all that we had thought that we would need to do.
Our defence is however porous, and we were not capable of closing out yesterday’s game. We have not managed to keep a clean sheet in the league so far this season. That is a feat that we achieved 16 times last season. Our defence, which was so well organised back then with John Terry in it is now crying out for reinforcement, but time is fast running out for us to bring players in.
There was the usual late, late goal at Villa Park yesterday but this time it was our visitors who scored it. We are now four points worse off against the opponents that we have played this season when compared to last season’s results and that is how far we are behind the early pace setters Leeds and Boro. We cannot rely on making up ground lost early in the season on those teams that are in the automatic promotion places now. We need to close the gap between us quickly before it grows into a chasm.
This was a case of after the Lord Mayor’s Show. Our best display of this new season against Brentford was followed by this poor display. We still have our unbeaten record, but this draw feels like a defeat. We seemed to approach this game expecting to win it. We need to go at the throat of teams from start to end to earn a victory and not sit back waiting for it to happen. We regularly need to hit fourth gear rather than coast in second. Any team has a puncher’s chance of getting something from a game when there is only a goal in it. We may have had the possession, but we didn’t do enough with it.
It is no good raising your game against the better teams in this division and dropping points against the rest. Three points is three points after all and at the final reckoning a win no matter who it came against will remain three points. That 3 points will go towards the final points total that we will need to achieve to finish in the top two. That needs to be our target as we know the play off lottery offers no guarantee of promotion.
Reading will be happy with a point for their coming battle to remain in this division. They showed little ambition up front until we went a goal ahead but score they did as have every other side we have met in the league to date. We cannot be satisfied with a point. We dropped points last season in games like this one at Villa Park. We have got to start producing our best on a consistent basis against every team that we face this season because if we do not teams will punish us for not doing so. We cannot afford to take any opponent lightly in this league nor should we or we will risk facing another season in it.
My player ratings from a game that brought us a disappointing third successive draw are:
Orjan Nyland – 7 – We may have found a keeper after all. Blocked a close-range effort from a corner by Moore on 44 minutes and then saved a 46th minute Bacuna freekick at his left-hand post. Made a tremendous double save on 82 minutes from Baldock at close range and then from Meite who hit the rebound. Dived to his right and Baldock hit his disputed penalty into the centre of the goal for their late equalizer.
Axel Tuanzebe – 6 – Another competent performance in what is unlikely to prove his most effective defensive position.
James Chester- 6 – One rare error from him cost us dearly yesterday. James had looked a clear favourite to reach a ball into the box first in the 3rd Minute of stoppage time but was outpaced by Sims. Their substitute took the opportunity to crumple to the floor with time running out for his side after Chester had won the ball but our captain in going to ground unnecessarily gave the referee a decision to make and he gave the benefit of any doubt to them. James was otherwise his usual steady self on those occasions that our visitors ventured towards our goal. He was unlucky to see a 12th minute header thunder off the crossbar from a nice Elmo cross.
Mile Jedinak – 6 – Allowed a Sims cross to go past him and only a terrific double save from Nyland prevented Reading from scoring as a result on 82 minutes. Otherwise gave a decent enough performance but this should not be accepted as being his long-term role.
Alan Hutton – 6 – Gave his usual consistent level of performance.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 7 – Stooped to head home El Ghazi’s perfect cross on 51 minutes and had a good all-around game.
Birkir Bjarnason – 7 – Made a good saving tackle on the edge of the box on 9 minutes winning the ball when an opponent was in a threatening position. Gave a very good solid performance throughout.
Jack Grealish – 6 – Substituted at half time having picked up a dead leg. Hit an effort back across the face of the goal on 41 minutes.
John McGinn – 7 – MOTM – Looked a class above. Used the ball well and kept very involved. Made an early run into the box but his 1st minute shot was held by Mannone.
Anwar El Ghazi – 7 – A promising debut. Looks a wide threat, comfortable on the ball and showed a few tricks. Hit a pin point cross for our goal. Made a nice run into the box on 11 minutes and his shot was deflected into the side netting off Mannone. Anwar made way for Albert on 67 minutes.
Jonathan Kodjia – 5 – What a difference a couple of days can make. From a man of the match 2-goal performance in midweek to this sort of below par display again. Johnny Danger needs some sort of competition for his starting place and was sadly something less than dangerous yesterday. Did not have a great deal of service perhaps but he can do better than this. Flashed a shot over the bar on 62 minutes when others were better placed had he looked to find them. Lost the ball when looking to go it alone on 85 minutes when Hourihane was waiting unmarked inside the box.
Conor Hourihane – 6 – Came on for Jack at half time and did well. We need to try to find a place for him in the starting line-up. His goals come in handy after all. Hit a shot from the edge of the box on 50 minutes that Mannone collected comfortably and was found by Adomah inside the box in the 69th minute but he hit his shot wide of the far post.
Albert Adomah – 6 - Replaced El Ghazi on 67 minutes. Made a couple of decent runs and looked lively. Cut inside and hit a 73rd minute shot that was easily gathered by Mannone at the near post and then scuffed a shot 3 minutes later.
Neil Taylor - Replaced Kodjia on 91 minutes. Not on long enough to gather a rating.
Up the Villa!