This should have been a more comfortable win. We had the chances to have put the game out of sight before our penalty gave us a two-goal cushion. As we all know a two-goal lead can more than occasionally not prove enough for us. This so nearly proved to be the case again yesterday.
Our visitors who had for 75 minutes looked like a team that were on the bottom of the table and destined to give us a rare routine victory were injected with belief by a goal out of nothing by Sears.
After that goal our insecurities and defensive frailties were exposed, and we were left clinging on to the win as our opponents suddenly realised a point might be there for the taking after all. Had it not been for the timely intervention of a post and the hand of Tommy, we might even have somehow managed to lose this one.
Nevertheless, win we did for the first time at Villa Park in two months. This win needs to be followed up by our signing of much needed reinforcements before the transfer window slams shut next week and by a win at Reading next weekend who like Ipswich also occupy one of the relegation places.
This timely win has moved us back into the top half of the table and above Small Heath who now occupy a more accustomed place in the bottom half themselves. We are also within four points of sixth place and another ticket to the play off lottery.
My player ratings from a game during which we rediscovered that winning feeling are:
Lovre Kalinic – 6 – The clean sheet that appeared likely for much of this game would have done a lot to boost Lovre’s confidence. Stood no realistic chance with their goal which was sweetly struck by Sears from 30 yards and flew past him at speed into the top corner of the net. Gathered a 45th minute Chalobah shot in the centre of his goal. Should have had that yellow card when he was booked for time wasting when waiting for a substitution to be made rescinded, but the referee is always right even when he’s wrong!
Alan Hutton – 6 – He again looked at his best when he was getting forward.
James Chester - 5 – Did well enough, given that he is carrying an injury.
Tommy Elphick – 6 – Quaner ran between Chester and Tommy before going past Kalinic and hitting a shot which Elphick blocked with his trailing arm as he fell with Chester behind him covering on the line on 73 minutes. He was the best of our defenders yesterday.
Neil Taylor – 5 – Will he still be our first choice when this transfer window has closed?
Glenn Whelan – 6 – Did what we have come to expect but was more effective than of late at doing it, he understandably tired in the second half.
John McGinn – 8 – Hit a shot wide of the post on 4 minutes after Abraham had found him inside of the box. Turned superbly leaving Skuse for dead before running towards the and hitting a 31st minute shot that was too hot for Bialkowski to hold but Adomah was ruled offside when he hit the spilled ball into the net. Turned inside the box on 33 minutes and hit a shot that was not firm enough to seriously trouble Bialkowski who made a comfortable save at his left-hand post.
Hit a 41st minute shot from outside of the box that Bialkowski was unable to hold onto but Collins was on hand to put the loose ball out for a corner. Hit a 53rd minute Hutton cross wide of the post and then hit a 64th minute Taylor cross over the bar. John was prevented by Judge from getting on the end of a Hourihane corner which resulted in the penalty that produced our second goal. On another day he could have scored a couple of goals himself. Importantly John continues to avoid the 10th yellow card that would bring him a 2-game suspension.
Conor Hourihane – 6 – Hit a 35th minute free kick from outside of the box that Bialkowski held at the second attempt as Abraham came in intent on adding a second. Hit another on 43 minutes that the keeper saved more routinely. His dead ball delivery was again impressive.
Albert Adomah – 5 – A marked improvement on last week’s display. Looked more interested, had an impact upon the game and could have gathered some much-needed confidence had his 31st minute finish not been ruled offside. Worked well with Hutton but can do better.
Anwar El Ghazi – 5 – Looked brighter than of late and more energetic but he is lacking an end product. He has shown that he can be more of a threat to defences than this.
Tammy Abraham – 8 – MOTM – Where would we be without his goals? Tammy weighed in with another brace yesterday. Hit our early 6th minute opener when he got in front of the visitor’s defence to be first to and to prod home Hourihane’s perfectly placed free kick. Coolly sent Bialkowski the wrong way from the penalty spot on 61 minutes, stroking the ball into the right-hand corner.
Forced a save from Bialkowski on 36 minutes with a header from a McGinn cross and another on 65 minutes when he tipped his shot over the crossbar. Had a tame effort saved on 85 minutes but almost added a late third on 88 minutes when his shot was blocked at close range by the busy Bialkowski at his left-hand post.
Ahmed Elmohamady - 4 – Replaced Adomah on 68 minutes and demonstrated why he is currently spending his time on the bench rather than starting when he came on.
Jonathan Kodjia - Came on for Whelan on 78 minutes. Looked busy and better than he has done of late in the time he had on the field, but he was not on long enough to gather a rating.
Mile Jedinak – Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Replaced El Ghazi on 85 minutes to stiffen our defensive resolve, so that we would hold on to what we had. Not on long enough to earn a rating.
Up the Villa!