Two defeats within a week have consigned us to a fourth season outside of the top flight. Fans bought half season tickets a couple of months ago in the hope of witnessing a strong second half of the season. They will now be resigning themselves to the fact that half of the games that they paid for have now become meaningless end of season fixtures for our football club.
We started well but we just don’t make good starts into goals and half time leads, do we? Instead we concede goals freely and find ourselves too often having to try to pull home games out of the fire in the second half. There was to be no stirring late comeback this time.
We had 63% of the possession, 11 shots to their 10, 9 corners to their 2 but they had the two goals and ran out comfortable winners. We probably shaded it before they scored, but the first goal was always going to be crucial in this game. When it came and was followed by another 4 minutes later, that effectively ended the game as a contest. Albion were content to hold onto what they had, and we were too easily beaten. Our primary second half ambition seemed to focus on damage limitation rather than on a concerted attempt to try and throttle those annoying Throstles. Even so, had we managed to put away one or two of the chances we made, we might have witnessed an unlikely comeback again.
We are 7 points behind Boro and Derby who are sixth and seventh. We play both of these sides at home in what is left of this season. On paper we could therefore draw within 4 points of each by winning those two home games but let’s face it we cannot buy a win. We have only won 6 of our 17 home league games to date and have one win from our last nine games.
Rodriguez’s hand stole 2 points from us in December and it was in that game that we had last looked like serious promotion contenders. This time it was his foot and a second goal just before half time that was deflected past Kalinic that prematurely ended our season. On both occasions the referees acted as Albion’s twelfth man.
My player ratings from a game before which we paid tribute to Gordon Banks, who was England’s best goalkeeper and to Ian Ross who was a rock-solid Villa defender and the captain of our 1975 League Cup winning team are:
Lovre Kalinic – 5 – Saved low to his left from Murphy on 23 minutes having earlier dropped and then gathered a routine 20th minute ball into the box at the second attempt. Stood no real chance with Robson-Kanu’s 41st minute header which looped over him from a Holgate cross after Green had allowed him too much space wide on the right. Beaten again 4 minutes later from the edge of the box by a Rodriguez shot that took a deflection off Elphick and went in off his left-hand post. He had been dazed by a 21st minute collision with Livermore that resulted in his substitution at half time.
Alan Hutton – 4 – What he provides going forward was not compensated by his defensive lapses yesterday. Murphy left him in his wake too often and too easily.
Tommy Elphick - 6 – Made an important 4th minute challenge on Holgate. Hourihane’s 48th minute corner found him at the far post and his header was deflected onto the top of the crossbar off Dawson.
Tyrone Mings – 7 – MOTM – Booked for strongly yet correctly pointing out to the referee that he had played the ball out of play, off Rodriguez so it should have been a goal kick rather than a corner after Hutton had allowed the forward to run clear of him. Solid and composed in the centre of our defence again. Might need some persuading to make his loan deal permanent in the summer but we should make that a priority.
Kortney Hause – 6 – Looked decent yesterday and will get better with the increased match fitness that more first team games will result in. Headed a 30th minute Hourihane free kick well over the crossbar.
Glenn Whelan – 5 – Glenn wasn’t our least effective midfield performer yesterday.
John McGinn – 6 – Picked up the booking that has always appeared inevitable that will result in a 2-game suspension for our most effective and consistent midfielder. Hit a 30 yard shot that Johnstone dived to his left to push away for a corner.
Conor Hourihane – 4 – Doesn’t contribute much other than his ability to hit a corner and a free-kick well. Stretched to reach the ball in the build up to their second but Rodriguez came away with it and then moved to Hutton’s left without the defender attempting to put in a challenge before hitting the ball past Kalinic.
Andre Green – 5 – Hit a 2nd minute shot wide of the post from the edge of the box but didn’t make much of an impact upon this game.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 6 – Did well, particularly in the first half. Glanced a near post header from an 81st minute McGinn corner just wide of the far post.
Tammy Abraham – 6 – He was in the right place at the right time twice but this time he was unable to put his chances away. Even Tammy showed he can’t do it every time yesterday. Hause got a firm header on a Johnstone kick that Elmo controlled near the left-hand edge of the box before finding Tammy unmarked near the penalty spot. His touch was poor, and Johnstone smothered his side footed attempt on goal. Climbed well between 2 defenders to head an 84th minute Hause cross just wide of the far post
Jed Steer – 6 – Came on for the injured Kalanic at the beginning of the second half.
Jacob Ramsey - 5 – Replaced Hourihane on 61 minutes. It was asking a lot of this youngster to expect him to come on and make an impression in this game with the die already cast. Understandably took some time to settle into the game. McGinn played a nice ball that found him within the box on 94 minutes, but he attempted a cross which was blocked when he might have been better having a pot himself. Hit a shot wide of the post from the resulting McGinn corner.
Jonathan Kodjia - 4 - Came on for Green on 71 minutes and has looked keener to try to make an impact on games in the past when coming off the bench.
Up the Villa!