James Chester was back to his best last night firstly preventing a Bolton equalizer and then scoring our decisive second goal to send us temporarily to the top of the bottom half of the table and just 4 points behind the top six.
We had the perfect start last night with a 4th minute goal that it might have been hoped would lead to a confidence inspiring goal glut against a Bolton side that are currently on the crest of a slump. The visitors instead threatened to draw level and we sat nervously and uncomfortably in our seats until Chester added a second to give us a two-goal cushion and what then became a comfortable win.
We played better and lost against QPR, but it was vital that we won this battle between two teams that had both lost their previous two matches. We now need to put a decent run of results together which will not be easy looking at our forthcoming fixtures.
A second home win and a second clean sheet at Villa Park for our new management team gives us something to work on. Winning our home games as a minimum will keep us ticking along until the next transfer window when we can look to strengthen where necessary.
My player ratings from a game that we deserved to win and did are:
Orjan Nyland – 4 – He continues to make Pierluigi Gollini look like Dino Zoff! Comfortably collected a mishit 21st minute shot from Oztumer but then embarrassingly dropped a cross 4 minutes later which he then gratefully gathered when it fell at his feet. Seemed to have lost his bearings when he fumbled a harmless 41st minute Oztumer free-kick out for a corner that he should have left to go out. A schoolboy would have been unhappy with doing that under no sort of pressure.
Did well to get his right foot to a 47th minute Buckley cross from the edge of the six-yard box which was otherwise bound for Donaldson to tap in at close range for an equalizer, but the negatives outweigh this one positive for me. Although he was not often called upon he continues to look to have an error in him waiting to happen. He needs to be doing a lot of work with Neil Cutler in the coming days to address his weaknesses. Is Moreira still not another option?
Alan Hutton – 6 – Looks like he can still remember how to give an effective display in his rightful full back role.
James Chester - 8 – MOTM – Back to his best and this game will do no harm to his confidence. Did incredibly well to hook a 24th minute Hobbs header off the line with Nyland beaten. Was flagged offside when he headed home a 32nd minute Hourihane free-kick but was given the benefit of the doubt on 57 minutes when he headed a Grealish free-kick in between Alnwick and the post to settle the game.
Axel Tuanzebe – 7 – Will get increasingly more comfortable with more games alongside our captain in the centre of our defence. Did well to use his pace to get back and win an 84th minute challenge with Doidge inside of the box which along with the substitute’s heavy touch on the ball denied him a scoring opportunity.
Neil Taylor – 6 – Faced little to really test him last night but generally looked competent enough.
Conor Hourihane – 6 – Played in an unfamiliar deep midfield role in the absence of Thor. Did well enough given that and he rarely fails to do a decent job for us. Could he fill this role again?
Albert Adomah - 6 – Hit a 14th minute shot wide of the far post from the edge of the box and a bicycle kick (as allegedly invented by a late Villa chairman) onto the roof of the netting behind the crossbar. Substituted on 73 minutes.
John McGinn – 7 – Subject to the sort of rough treatment normally reserved just for Jack last night and the referee was as lenient with challenges on him as they usually are when Jack receives the same uncompromising treatment. Won the ball well from Donaldson on 43 minutes before running forward and hitting a cross towards the far post that was played back across the face of the goal by Kodjia only for Alnwick to get a hand to prevent Abraham getting his head on it. John then stooped to head the loose ball into the side netting having continued his run. He is quality and has an obvious tenacity and will to win.
Jack Grealish – 7 – Made a nice 4th minute run into the box which was spotted by Abraham who having turned to leave a defender for dead then played a perfect pass to Jack who took the ball past Alnwick and tucked it inside the near post. Had a 28th minute shot from outside of the area pushed wide by Alnwick.
Jonathan Kodjia – 6 – McGinn played a one-two with Hutton before hitting a 30th minute cross to the far post which Kodjia could only hook well over the bar. Flashed a 69th minute shot wide of the near post having ran into the area after being found by a nice ball from within his own half by Tuanzebe. Not at his powerful and defence threatening best yet.
Tammy Abraham – 7 – Maintained a good work rate last night. McGinn found Kodjia who ran into the box and squared the ball to Tammy on 46 minutes, but it was hit a little too firmly and bounced off his right leg to safety as he tried to take a touch when a goal had looked likely. He won’t fail to score too often in games at Villa Park this season.
Yannick Bolasie – Replaced Adomah on 73 minutes. Not on quite long enough to gather a rating this time. I had expected him to start this one.
Scott Hogan – Replaced Abraham on 81 minutes. Not on long enough to earn a rating.
Glenn Whelan – Replaced Jack on 90 minutes. Not on long enough to gather a rating.
Up the Villa!