Goals from Tammy Abraham and Yannick Bolasie on their home debuts gave us a much-needed win last night.
This was not a scintillating performance from us. Our visitors rarely threatened our brittle defence and we eased to a routine victory without looking particularly good.
The win was comfortable enough and it was achieved without us having to hit our stride. We didn’t look fluent last night, and we have a team of individuals that have yet to become a team but when that does happen the rest of the league had better beware because we have some pretty good individuals.
Last night’s win gives the team something to build upon and it has lifted us up to sixth in the table. That is not too shabby given our performances to date. Another win on Saturday could give the team an opportunity to put together a string of positive results that could in turn cement our place in the top six and install some much-needed confidence into them.
We played 4-2-4 last night which was a good and unexpected decision. The Millers arrived at Villa Park looking to take a point. They didn’t really look like doing so once we went in front but until Bolasie headed home our second there was always a danger that they would steal a point with an equalizer against the run of play as Reading had done before them. One goal is never a comfortable lead and we really need to kick on once we go in front so that our games do not always go down to the wire. Wood was too close for comfort on 77 minutes with a header that went wide of the post, but our second goal thankfully made the game safe just 2 minutes later.
This result will temporarily ease some of the pressure at Villa Park. The rare clean sheet will show our defence that it is not impossible to go through a game without conceding as will our two goals demonstrate that if we make the chances we have the players who can take them. We are not yet a well oiled smoothly running promotion machine, but we might yet in the fullness of time become one.
My player ratings from a run of the mill win against The Millers are:
Orjan Nyland – 6 – A quiet event free evening.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 6 – Did well on dropping back to a role that I consider that he is more suited to also chipped in with a pin point cross that resulted in our second.
James Chester- 6 – Solid on those occasions that our defence was tested. Headed wide from a McGinn cross on 64 minutes.
Mile Jedinak – 6 – A quiet night for our defence but he was commanding in the air and did well in this central defensive role that we insist in playing him in on this occasion. Headed an 81st minute Bolasie corner harmlessly wide. Will Mile be rested for Axel on Saturday if we choose to try a little squad rotation?
Alan Hutton – 6 – Another reliable performance on the left.
Anwar El Ghazi – 6 – Substituted on 73 minutes having given a decent enough display.
Conor Hourihane – 7 – Earned his place with that free-kick at Blackburn and performed well on his merited return to our starting line-up. Hit a 45th minute free-kick wide of the post. Hit a 66th minute shot that Rodak kept out at his near post.
Jack Grealish – 7 – Some welcome signs of a return to form last night. Could it be that he had needed some time to become familiar with having other players around him that can make things happen as well as himself? He is also not seeing as much of the ball as he was and may need time to become more accustomed to his current role. Nicely found by Kodjia but his 19th minute shot went past the far post and Abraham was just unable to reach it to turn it in. Curled a 72nd minute shot just wide of the far post.
John McGinn – 8 – MOTM – A determined ball winner and he uses it so very well. Had an 87th minute shot from the edge of the box gathered by Rodak. Comfortably our most valuable player last night.
Tammy Abraham – 7 – Looked sharp, pacey and keen. Scored our opener on 27 minutes. Grealish found Kodjia on the edge of the box who played a sweet ball past 2 defenders to Tammy who hit the ball past the keeper and into the corner of the net. He did some nice work prior to finding El Ghazi who hit the ball onto the netting on the top of the goal on 15 minutes. He looked very good and will get better.
Jonathan Kodjia – 7 – Showed some nice touches and his partnership with Abraham looks to have some potential. Had a decent 1st minute cross pushed away by Rodak who also kept out his attempt to convert McGinn’s cross from close range 3 minutes later. Headed an 18th minute Grealish cross over the bar.
Yannick Bolasie – 6 – Came on for El Ghazi on 73 minutes and sealed the win with a determined 82nd minute diving header from a nice Elmo cross. Looks ready for a start on Saturday.
Albert Adomah – Replaced Kodjia on 81 minutes. Not on long enough to earn a rating.
James Bree - Replaced Abraham on 86 minutes. Not on long enough to gather a rating but it is nice to know he is still in contention for a place.
Up the Villa!