Jack’s back and so were the Villa yesterday! Alan Durban, Kevin Hector, Roy McFarland, Alan Hinton, Archie Gemmill, Roger Davies and Francis Lee. Your boys took one hell of a beating!
Captain Jack invigorated the team on his return and led by example. We have not looked nearly as good as we did yesterday, in the 13 league games that we have played without him, since injury deprived us of our talisman. One player does not make a team, but one player can help a team to play like one!
Three first half goals won it for us at Pride Park in November and four first half goals won it for us at Villa Park yesterday. We have scored 7 goals against Frank Lampard’s Derby and have kept two clean sheets against them this season. If we could play them every week, then promotion might still not be quite beyond us!
Villa rather than our visitors looked the serious promotion contenders yesterday. If only Jack had been able to come back a month earlier, we might have made a late run for the play offs. As it is, we are 6 points behind sixth place Bristol City. That gap could be pegged back to three points as they still have to visit Villa Park, but they do have a game in hand. Derby also have a run of 4 successive home games to follow this defeat, which still leaves them 3 points ahead of us. A more realistic and achievable target is therefore making it another double on Sunday!
Our visitors were not at their best yesterday, but they seldom are at this stage of the season, are they? The scintillating first half performance that we produced yesterday, would have blown away any championship team though. We eased through the second half with the game already won but lost another central defender through injury during it. Tommy Elphick can now be added to Axel and Chester, on the treatment table, on the day that we got our Jack back. Could Chester be fit for selection by Sunday, I wonder?
My player ratings from a game that left us remembering how good it feels to see a Villa home win and how hard it can prove to stop smirking after a victory such as this, are:
Jed Steer – 6 – Had a quiet afternoon but his presence may be giving some much-needed confidence to the defenders who are in front of him.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 7 – He retains the ball. Sometimes he plays the ball back behind him to do so but he doesn’t give the ball away too often. He does what it says on the tin and did so yesterday very well. He got an assist with a well-placed cross for our second. A good solid overall performance from Elmo.
Tommy Elphick - 7 – Solid again alongside Tyrone before he was stretchered off on 67 minutes. He was unfortunately on crutches after the game. Appeared to catch his foot on the turf when moving towards a pass from Mings. This was cruel luck for Tommy, who has been twice the player he was before his loan spell, since returning to the club from Hull.
Tyrone Mings – 8 – He looks increasingly composed and comfortable with each game. Headed an El Ghazi cross wide of the far post on 57 minutes. We must pull out all the stops to try to keep him at Villa Park next season!
Kortney Hause – 7 – He wins plenty of ball in the air, doesn’t he? He understandably tends to drift towards the middle of the defence, which leaves room on his flank. Looked solid yesterday and played some nice balls out of defence. Looked comfortable when switched into the centre of our defence following Tommy’s substitution.
Glenn Whelan – 8 – Glenn turned back the years yesterday and produced a very good solid all round midfield performance. He also hit the corner that Jack volleyed home to make it four before the half time whistle.
Albert Adomah – 7 – Albert was involved, keen and made a positive impression during this game. Hit a shot over the bar from inside of the box on 20 minutes.
Conor Hourihane – 8 – Back to his best yesterday at long last. Conor popped up here, there and everywhere. Grealish played a nice ball forward to El Ghazi whose cross was hit wide of the far post by Conor on 5 minutes. Four minutes later, Jack floated a superb ball for Abraham to run onto. Tammy’s attempt on goal was blocked by Carson, only for the ball to run onto Conor, who turned home our first. He then swept home our third and his second on 44 minutes, placing the ball past Carson from the edge of the box with some aplomb.
Jack Grealish – 9 – MOTM – So much for needing a couple of games after a lengthy injury break to get back to his best! Jack was simply tremendous on his long-awaited return to the first team. He hit a magnificent, unstoppable volley from the edge of the box to give us our fourth goal in the 2nd minute of first half stoppage time from Whelan’s corner. He then hit a 55th minute shot from the edge of the box that Carson pushed away for a corner. He teased and worried Derby until leaving the field to a standing ovation on 71 minutes. Hopefully he will get a little more protection from match officials following his return from injury, although it only took 17 minutes for him to receive a first clumsy challenge that went unpunished yesterday.
Anwar El Ghazi – 7 – Good to see him tracking back a couple of times and he did well when doing so. Made a strong run before hitting a cross that Tomori blocked a minute into first half stoppage time. The ball then cannoned off Wisdom into the side netting and we scored from the resulting corner. Took a touch on a 79th minute Hourhihane cross before hitting a shot that Carson blocked near the far post. A step up on his recent performances.
Tammy Abraham – 8 – Hit his 21st goal of the season to end a barren run of three games without a goal. Whelan found Elmo on the right on 37 minutes and Tammy stretched to prod home his cross at the far post for our second. Claimed an assist for our third, when he won a high ball and ran on towards the box before playing the ball to Hourihane to score our third. Hit a 76th minute shot from the edge of the box, having been found by Grealish which forced a good save from Carson. Great to see him nodding his head in reaction to this encouraging win on the final whistle.
Neil Taylor – 6 – Came on for the unluckily injured Elphick on 67 minutes. Fitted in well enough, enabling Hause to move into the middle of the defence.
Tom Carroll - 6 – Replaced Jack on 71 minutes and got some more first team minutes behind him during what was a less than pressured finish to the game.
Andre Green - Came on for El Ghazi on 80 minutes. Andre was not on long enough to gather a rating.
Up the Villa!