We now have our place in the top six. The battle is to stay there. Derby and Bristol City may have a game and two games in hand of us respectively, but we have the points on the board. City must also visit Villa Park and neither of these teams are currently winning games for fun, are they? The likes of Preston, Forest and Wednesday are behind us, so they would need to have a better finish than we do to the season, in order to overhaul us. As Ron Saunders once said at the business end of a very successful season, “Do you want to bet against us?”
Yesterday’s fourth successive victory has taken us into the play off places. Who would have thought that likely just a couple of weeks ago? The win has left us just a point behind Middlesbrough, who must now fear being overtaken by the team that knocked them out of the play offs last season and completed the double over them yesterday. They are in our sights now and so is promotion!
Eight games of this season remain, or could it be 11? The international break has come at a time when we are on a tremendous run that looks like it could sweep us into the end of season play offs. We must use this break to our advantage. Let’s hope that players who are on international duty return to us fit and that a couple of those who are currently on the treatment table, near fitness during this period of club inactivity.
We currently have the look of a team that is putting together a late run to make the play offs, that other clubs will not relish meeting in them. Clubs that enter the play offs on the crest of a run of good results, often take the promotion spot from teams that have finished above them over the course of the season. We could be that club this year. If we can play as well as we have done in the last 4 games, in our final 8 games of the season and then do the same in the 3 play-off games, it just could be on, after all!
The high winds and second half rain were not conducive to good football. Tony Pulis must have welcomed the conditions then and our visitors from Teesside might well have been reminded of a summer’s day back at home! They may have come to Villa Park to park the bus, but they left it in the club car park and their usually solid defence was breached three times. Villa were not to be distracted by the weather conditions. We dominated this game from start to finish. If it had been a boxing match, it would have been stopped before we applied the coup de grace on the 88th minute. I don’t want to tempt fate, but it seems that our defence might now have reached the point where a two-goal lead can prove to be enough to secure a win.
My player ratings from a game that left us surprisingly and unexpectedly optimistic, about our play off prospects are:
Jed Steer – 6 – Not unduly troubled by the visitor’s attack but appeared both confident and assured.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 7 – Another solid performance from Elmo, who is doing more than a bit to make our defence look increasingly and reassuringly solid.
Kortney Hause - 7 – Solid, unflustered and looking increasingly confident, alongside Tyrone in the centre of our defence.
Tyrone Mings – 8 – His towering presence in the centre of the defence is increasingly impressive. He has so much time on the ball, is unrushed, confident and is the rock on which our defence is currently built. His was an inspired signing!
Neil Taylor – 7 – This was a no-nonsense defensive performance, which is exactly what we have been looking for from him. Keep it up Tayls!
Glenn Whelan – 8 – MOTM – Didn’t put a foot wrong yesterday. I can’t recall him playing better in our shirt than this. He was the cog in our midfield engine and allowed Jack and John to move forward knowing that he was on hand behind them. Hit a 52nd minute shot from the edge of the box wide of the left-hand post. It must have been nice for him to hear the crowd acknowledging his tremendous performance yesterday.
Andre Green – 6 – Substituted after 65 minutes having not over troubled Friend on the right.
John McGinn – 8 – Scored one and made one, what’s not to like? Headed a 1st minute El Ghazi cross over. Hit a nice ball to find El Ghazi in space on the edge of the box for our first. Grealish played a ball inside for Abraham that ran past him for John to pick up and run with to the edge of the box before hitting our second into the right-hand corner of the net.
Jack Grealish – 8 – Hit the foot of the near post on 62 minutes, having ran inside the box following a short corner. Gave another captain’s performance, led by example, teased opponents with his skills and his presence created space for his teammates. Had a 36th minute shot from the edge of the box deflected wide on 36 minutes.
Anwar El Ghazi – 7 – He looks a little like Ronaldo to me from a distance (I must get my eyesight checked), he doesn’t play much like him yet, but this was a bright, encouraging performance from Anwar. Hit our opener on 28 minutes, when he was found unmarked on the edge of the box by McGinn. He proceeded to run into the box and slot the ball past the keeper and into the far corner of the net nicely. Grealish made a strong run forward from inside his own half, before finding him just inside the box but his 50th minute shot was hit just wide of the far post.
Tammy Abraham – 7 – Worked hard, stayed busy made some nice forward runs and led the line well. The only thing that was missing was his 22nd goal and that will come another day. Hit a 61st minute ball from Elmo over on 61 minutes and a shot from the edge of the box wide of the right-hand post 3 minutes later.
Albert Adomah – 6 – Replaced Green on 65 minutes and hit our third 23 minutes later, when he tapped home from close range after Randolph had been unable to hold a shot from Davis.
Jonathan Kodjia - 6 – Replaced Tammy on 72 minutes.
Keinan Davis - 6 – Made a rare first team appearance yesterday, coming off the bench to replace El Ghazi on 75 minutes. Elmo found him on the left of the box on 88 minutes, from where he got into a shooting position before curling a shot towards the far post that Randolph obligingly spilled for our third.
Up the Villa!