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Found 193 results

  1. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. The players' names will be added to the poll when a mod gets chance.
  2. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. The players' names will be added to the poll when a mod gets chance.
  3. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. The players' names will be added to the poll when a mod gets chance.
  4. This was not a great game or performance from us but the mark of sides that get promoted is that they are able to grind out results when not at their very best and this is what we managed to do this afternoon. We now stand seventh in the table having won our fourth successive league game. We are unbeaten in our last eight games and are just a point behind the three clubs immediately above us that occupy three of the four play-off positions. We are also only 4 points off Wolves who occupy the second of the automatic promotion places and we visit them next. Bolton fought hard for something from this game. They were uncompromising and took full advantage of the lenience the referee gave to their challenges on our two strikers. Once we went in front it could be argued that the game was won given our visitors had not scored in their last six games. Win it we did but it was a little too close for comfort towards the end of the match and the referee’s whistle was much more welcome than the referee himself was. Having won this battle between two founder members of the football league we now face an international break that is unwelcome as we have built a momentum that would be nice to build upon without any delay. Both teams now face a testing battle during the rest of this season at different ends of the table. Bolton have a bit of a mountain to climb to hold onto the Championship status they claimed back last season having had their worst start to a season in 115 years. Although we increasingly have the look of a thoroughbred moving up through the field as the winning post approaches this race is not a sprint and today’s game demonstrated that we should not start counting our chickens just yet. My player ratings from a game that continued our winning and unbeaten league runs are: Sam Johnstone – 6 – Got down well at his left-hand post to keep out a shot from outside of the box from Ameobe on 9 minutes. Got down again in the first minute of first half stoppage time to keep out an Armstrong effort. He looks solid. Ahmed Elmohamady – 6 – A decent all-round performance. James Chester - 7 – Solid once again. John Terry – 7 – He is a rock in our solid defence. Neil Taylor - 6 – Made a nice 90th minute run but was fouled as he was about to pull the trigger on the edge of the box by Henry who was yellow carded as a result. Was then given a straight red 4 minutes later when a yellow seemed more appropriate for what was admittedly a rash high challenge on Le Fondre. No doubt we will be appealing this decision. Robert Snodgrass – 7 – Had a very decent shot from just inside of the area well saved at his near post by Howard on 79 minutes. Worked tirelessly and will improve further with more games. Glenn Whelan - 6 – Worked hard. Lost possession a couple of times but this was a steady enough display. Conor Hourihane – 6 – Did his job effectively but I think he is more valuable to us when given the opportunity to get forward more often. Albert Adomah – 6 – A very good first half. Jonathan Kodjia – 7 – MOTM – Hit our winner from the spot on 39 minutes when Howard went left and he coolly hit the ball right. Headed a Adomah cross over the bar in the 3rd minute of first half stoppage time. Should have done better on 37 minutes when a superb long ball from Elmohamady fell to him as he moved into the box but instead of squaring the ball for the waiting unmarked Adomah to tap it into the net he hit the ball wide of the far post. Made up for that when he was brought down by Beevers for the penalty that he himself converted. Keinan Davis – 6 – Held and manhandled at every available opportunity by the defenders he came up against as was Kodjia who was also given little to no protection from the match officials other than when he was brought down for the penalty. Substitutes: Scott Hogan – 6 – Replaced Kodjia on 72 minutes. Made a nice run into the box on 78 minutes having picked up a ball from Whelan but his shot was blocked by a defender. Looked good in the time he had to do so. Josh Onomah – 6 - Replaced Adomah on 73 minutes and did his bit to help steady the ship at the end. Chris Samba – Replaced Snodgrass on 89 minutes. Not on long enough to gather a rating but did play a loose ball back shortly after coming on that could have cost us the win and then bravely got his head in the way of an on-target shot from Madine in the 5th minute of stoppage time to secure our victory. Up the Villa! John Lewis
  5. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. The players' names will be added to the poll when a mod gets chance.
  6. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. The players' names will be added to the poll when a mod gets chance.
  7. A super well-placed Conor Hourihane free-kick gave Villa the win in yesterday’s game between the only two of the five English teams that have lifted the European Cup that currently play outside of the top flight. Forest won that trophy in 1979 and 1980. Villa continued the Midlands domination of that cup competition in 1982 to become the fifth consecutive winners from England with Liverpool also having won the trophy in 1977, 1978 and in 1981. These two Midland clubs have sadly fallen from grace and have a long way to go to become anything approaching the teams that they were back then. Villa played well in the first half following a strong start to the game from our visitors. Our team produced some entertaining football with Adomah and Snodgrass both making some nice positive runs down each flank. Forest played their part in what was one of the better 45 minutes of football played at Villa Park in recent seasons. We scored one but the nagging thought remained that at the end of the game we might regret having not put at least one of our other first-half opportunities away. Forest had a little too much of the ball for my liking in the first 45 minutes and that was even more the case in the second half. They were always going to get a chance or two given the amount of possession they were enjoying and they got the equaliser that many had feared they might on the 52nd minute. Fortunately, we bounced back with the goal that won it for us from our top goal scorer Hourihane on the hour and we managed to hang onto that lead until the close. The three points that we gained from yesterday’s win took us into the top half of the table. It gave us two consecutive league wins for the first time this season which took us just 2 points off the play-off places and within 7 points of the automatic promotion spots. We are still playing catch-up after our poor start to the season but we are at least in the process of catching up. Wins against Burton and Bolton next week that will put us on 4 wins from 4 games are now required to give us the momentum that we need. My player ratings from a game that we might well have drawn (which we did last season) are: Sam Johnstone – 7 – Sealed our win when he showed his agility in pushing an 85th minute 30-yard Dowell free-kick that was played over our defensive wall and was heading for the top corner wide of the post with one hand. Had earlier been somewhat fortunate when he blocked a 55th minute Dowell shot with his right leg and it somehow deflected to safety past his left-hand post. Gathered a 57th minute Murphy header that went straight at him easily enough. Sam had the occasional wayward kick yesterday that led to a couple of throw-ins for the visitors but his confidence is there for all to see now and I hope we can make his loan into a permanent signing. Ahmed Elmohamady – 5 – Forest targeted his wing as being a potential weak point for us from the start and had some element of success having done so. James Chester - 7 – Did well and again looked solid yesterday alongside JT. John Terry – 7 – Another composed and solid defensive performance. It was nice to see how much the win meant to him when the referee blew the final whistle. Neil Taylor - 7 – Comfortable at the back and looked good when moving forward. His best performance to date for us in my opinion. Robert Snodgrass – 7 – He gives us a lot and was a real threat on the wing but had understandably tired well before his 88th minute substitution due no doubt to his inactivity before joining us. Hit a nice cross on 33 minutes that Smith pushed out for a corner at the far post with Kodjia in close attention. Glenn Whelan - 4 – Started well enough but tired noticeably in the second half wanting to take too long on the ball at times and being caught or almost caught in possession on occasion. Claimed an unwanted assist for their equalizer when both he and Terry tried to take the ball off Murphy on the edge of the penalty area but his involuntary touch on the ball instead put the striker clear inside the box and his shot gave Johnstone no chance. Jedinak’s injury impacts on our ability to rotate Mile and Glenn as well as to bring one of them on when the other tires. Conor Hourihane – 8 – Hit our winner on the hour with a superb free kick that he bent around the wall and past Smith. A very good all-round midfield display throughout. Albert Adomah – 8 – MOTM – Albert’s on fire, isn’t he? Hit our first goal after 15 minutes when he collected a splendidly measured ball played between two defenders into the box by Kodjia before rounding Smith and coolly slotting the ball home. Picked up a ball from Whelan just inside their half 3 minutes later and ran forward before cutting inside and hitting a shot from outside of the box that flew over the far post. Almost got on the end of a nice 56th minute ball into the box from Snodgrass that had just needed a touch at the near post. He was a constant problem to the visitors with his wide runs at their defenders. Jonathan Kodjia – 7 – Got a big assist for our opening goal with a perfect defence splitting pass that was reminiscent of the sort that Gordon Cowans used to hit at will. Hit a 36th minute shot that Smith gathered at the second attempt after Davis had found him inside of the box. We look so much more threatening with “Johnny Danger” back in the starting line-up. Keinan Davis – 7 – He holds the ball up and brings others into play so very well. Was found on the edge of the area by Snodgrass on 28 minutes and then showed some nice footwork before hitting a cross towards Kodjia that went wide of the far post. Substitutes: Josh Onomah – 5 – Replaced Davis on 72 minutes. Found settling into this game and making an impression upon it a little more difficult than he would have hoped in the time he had available to do so. Scott Hogan – Replaced Kodjia on 79 minutes. Not on long enough to earn a rating. Alan Hutton – Replaced Snodgrass on 88 minutes. Not on long enough to gather a rating but he did stiffen us up defensively as we looked to close the game out and made an early challenge that left no doubt whatsoever that he meant business. Up the Villa! John Lewis
  8. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. The players' names will be added to the poll when a mod gets chance.
  9. We made 11 changes from the team that won 3-0 at Barnsley on Saturday and paid the penalty for that with a cup exit (our first ever League Cup defeat against yesterday’s opponents). Not that we are alone in making significant changes in this cup competition and resting first team players at the drop of a hat as Middlesbrough made 10 changes themselves. The League Cup was a really important trophy for around 40 years from the mid 60’s but it’s importance has faded to the extent that only 11,197 supporters attended this game. This game reminded me of those old Central League games that were played between reserve sides comprising of players who were out of favour, coming back from injury or potential first team players of the future. Crowds did not particularly flock in to see those games either. Clubs mostly play teams that are pretty much unrecognisable from their first-team line ups until the last eight of the League Cup at least. We no longer have replays so that players do not face too many games in a season but those players do not play in the League Cup now anyway! The name of the competition has now become anyone’s guess with the sponsors having changed with great regularity since 1982 when the League Cup became the Milk Cup before morphing into a trophy that no club really makes a priority at the start of each season. It is a pity to see its demise. This game turned on the 57th minute when we conceded a penalty and the first goal from the spot. We also lost Elphick who was given a second yellow which brought us down to ten men for the rest of the game (this referee was far less determined to even things up than the one had been last week). Up until then there had been little to choose between these two second string outfits neither of whom seemed desperate to want to win this game. Both teams produced a lack lustre performance last night and it could be argued that we didn’t really play much at all. The game seemed to be drifting towards a tame goalless draw, extra time and penalties until the penalty was awarded. That gave Boro the impetus and the place in the next round on a day few Villa players did anything significant to advance their case for a first team call-up. We are now left free to concentrate on the league and to bring on the first team. My player ratings from a game that extended the number of years we have gone without a League Cup Final appearance and a League Cup Final win beyond 8 and 22 years respectively are: Jed Steer – 5 – Could only watch with relief when Bamford’s 26th minute header from a cross struck the bar with Hutton standing statuesque alongside the striker. Saved well low at his right-hand post to keep out a 30-yard shot from Forshaw on 36 minutes. Went left and Bamford struck his 58th minute spot kick down the middle. Caught in no-man’s land for their second when Bamford headed home a Tavernier cross at the near post that Bjarnason seemed to be trying to avoid making any contact with. Ritchie De Laet – 5 – Made a good late run from well inside this own half on 92 minutes but his finish was high, wide and not very handsome. Headed the ball off the line on 89 minutes from a Taverier header or was it already marginally over? Tommy Elphick - 4 – Started comfortably enough and headed in from a Lansbury free-kick but was flagged offside. Earned a second yellow card and cost us the game on 57 minutes when he rashly brought down Bamford inside the box and reduced us to 10 men. Chris Samba – 6 – Did the simple things well enough and plays to his strengths. Alan Hutton - 6 – Started very well. Henri Lansbury – 6 – Sent off against these same opponents last Tuesday but was available to play having had his red card correctly rescinded. Went off with an injury on 41 minutes and we missed his experience. Jake Doyle-Hayes - 6 – Not as effective as he was in his last cup outing but he was very, very good on that day. Josh Onomah – 5 – Not at his best last night but few were. Had a 44th minute effort kept out at the far post by Konstantopoulos. Calum O’Hare – 6 – MOTM – Make another good impression last night. Chased down apparently lost causes such as in the 34th minute when he went after a Hutton cross that seemed destined to go out of play and turned it back towards goal to force Konstantopoulos to stretch out a hand to avert the danger. Worked hard throughout just needs to try to add a cutting edge to his game. Birkir Bjarnason – 4 – Another disappointing display and he is clearly no full back. Scott Hogan – 5 – Could not quite turn a ball into the box in from close range on the hour mark. More was expected from him but he did not get a lot of service. Looked understandably unhappy to be substituted as were we to see him go given the match situation. Substitutes: Ross McCormack – 5 – Replaced Lansbury on 41 minutes. Showed a couple of nice touches and looked like he might have turned home a 65th minute Samba header from a corner. Is it time to re-think bringing him back in from the cold? Jordan Lyden – 5 - Replaced Hogan on 60 minutes. Made no particularly noticeable impression on the game in the time he had available. Corey Blackett-Taylor – Replaced Onomah on 81 minutes. Not on long enough to earn a rating. Up the Villa! John Lewis
  10. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. The players' names will be added to the poll when a mod gets chance.
  11. This was an improved performance on the one that we witnessed on Saturday but it would have been difficult to have been worse than that! The team selection was a little more positive as were the substitutions made at half time that gave us two strikers at long last albeit against a team who were down to ten men. We enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession and created several chances but were sadly unable to put any of them away. Another goalless home draw makes it seem a long time since we hit 4 at Villa Park but we did exactly that in the two home games we played prior to last Saturday’s game. These draws have done nothing to lift us nearer to the top six than the bottom six or to ease the pressure on our manager. Boro’s defence rode their luck at times last night but they were organised and determined. We got forward a lot last night but our final balls were often wayward and we lacked the confidence along with the luck to hit the back of the net when scoring opportunities arose. Given that we deserved to have won this one. So, we are left with just one league win from 7 games and are unbeaten in our last 4 matches. We have kept a second successive clean sheet but have not scored in those two games either. We are one of 5 clubs with 7 points but are the last placed of these clubs because we only have 7 goals from our 7 games. We are 3 points clear of Small Heath who head the 3 clubs who are sitting in the relegation zone but are 5 points off the play off places and 9 off the automatic promotion places. Make of that what you wish but we need to start scoring goals and to start winning rather than drawing games. We need to start by winning at Barnsley, at home to Bolton and at Burton. 16 points from 10 games would sound a lot better than 7 from 7. To do that we will need to start putting our chances away and keep it tight at the back. We will also need to play for wins. Here’s hoping! My player ratings from a game that showed that there really is not that much between these two teams (currently 4 points) are: Sam Johnstone – 6 – Not frequently called upon but did very well on 71 minutes to keep out a shot from the edge of the box from Assombalonga that he turned past the post and had earlier flown across his goal to keep out a 3rd minute Gibson header. Ahmed Elmohamady – 5 – Got forward in the first half but we had other wide players available to do that last night. Did ok at the back when called upon to do so. James Chester - 6 – A sound defensive performance when tested. John Terry – 6 – Solid and composed. Neil Taylor – 6 – Another steady defensive performance. Got forward more often although having done so his final ball sometimes went astray. Robert Snodgrass – 8 – MOTM – Robert was a real threat last night. Tried to turn home a 25th minute ball played to him on the edge of the box from Davis who had picked up a loose ball but his shot was collected by Randolph. Headed downwards on 36 minutes but it bounced nicely into Randolph’s hands. Hit a nice 40th minute cross over the keeper which was headed wide by Davis. Hit a decent 45th minute free kick from the edge of the box that was gathered near the post at the second attempt by Randolph. Hit the bar on 50 minutes with a fierce shot (which was perhaps unnecessarily so) after Randolph was only able to parry an Adomah cross in his direction. Henri Lansbury – 6 – Looked to be trying to take one for the team when he brought down Johnson from behind on 64th minute. That gave the referee the opportunity he had been waiting an hour for and without any hesitation he evened things up by showing Henri a straight red. It was a yellow card offence and a professional foul. I can’t recall seeing anyone getting a straight red for one of these but I suspect it was interpreted as a kick at the opponent. Left clear by a splendid chip over the defence by Taylor but Randolph scrambled the ball away. Mile Jedinak - 6 – A welcome return following injury and the 45 minutes he had will have shaken off a few cobwebs. Made way for Hogan at half time to give us another striker as we attempted to press for a goal against a team we then had a man advantage over. Conor Hourihane – 7 – Conor was the victim of an unnecessary and wild scissor like challenge from Traore that led to the once occasional Villa Player getting his marching orders after 4 minutes. Hit a speculative shot from 30 yards on 27 minutes that flew a couple of feet over the bar. He was so unlucky that Hogan got in the way of his goal bound shot on the goal line on 76 minutes. He then had a late opportunity to win the game on 94 minutes when a Snodgrass corner fell to him but his shot was off target and went wide of the near post. Birkir Bjarnason – 4 – A disappointing display. Snodgrass was found by a nice ball from Terry and ran into the box before hitting a chipped 40th minute cross that flew over Randolph and Christie but Birkir’s far post header was poorly directed and looped wide of that post. Keinan Davis– 6 – Worked hard and does hold the ball up well hopefully he can add an increasing goal threat to his overall game. Substitutes: Albert Adomah – 7 – Replaced Bjarnason at half time and made a positive impression. Scott Hogan – 6 - Replaced Jedinak at half time. Headed the ball onto the roof of the net on 68 minutes. Needs to start games no doubt he will have to wait a week for that. Jonathan Kodjia – 7 - Replaced Davis on 70 minutes. Nice to see him back in a Villa shirt and hopefully he can provide the goals we have recently been so short of. Got on the end of a teasing cross from Snodgrass and his far post header was helped onto the bar by Randolph before falling to Hourihane whose shot was cleared off the line by our own player. Headed a Hourihane free kick just over on 80 minutes. Up the Villa! John Lewis
  12. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. The players' names will be added to the poll when a mod gets chance.
  13. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. The players' names will be added to the poll when a mod gets chance.
  14. Villa scored four goals at home for the second time in four days yesterday despite making 11 changes from the team that defeated Norwich on Saturday. Our League 1 table-topping visitors also made the same number of changes. It seems clear from this that both clubs are prioritising promotion rather than cup glory this season although a visit to Wembley might yet be needed to secure promotion for both teams via the play-offs. This was a much better game than I had anticipated it would be and it was free for season ticket holders! It has often been said that “you don’t get anything for nothing” this phrase was recently used by the new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for example but we season ticket holders did get something for nothing last night we got to witness another goal fest at B6 for free! Scoring four goals in consecutive games for the first time since 2008 (when we scored 4, 6 & 5 goals in 3 successive games the first and last of which were home games) could well lead to Villa Park soon becoming known once again as fortress Villa Park. Make it so Villa! It was nice to see youth getting a chance in the first team again last night and it paid off once again. Most players that would be expected to be called upon on Friday for the visit to Bristol City got a game off. The young players that replaced them impressed and that can only be good for both them and for our football club. We might not win this cup or go much further in this competition but we have not yet embarrassed ourselves with the sort of inept performances we have produced in losing to lower league opponents in the recent past. For a second time within a week we performed well for 90 minutes and scored goals for fun. A third win on Friday might suggest that we really have turned the corner after what was an unexpectedly poor start to this season. My player ratings from a game that took us into the last 16 of the League Cup that we last won way back in 1996 are: Jed Steer – 6 – Looks an able deputy for Johnstone. Was fortunate late on when an 89th minute effort from Hunt struck his legs rather than the back of the net. James Bree – 6 – My primary concern with James being selected tonight as well as De Laet is that this suggests Hutton might be being saved to start on Friday night for some reason that is beyond me! James looked confident and competent last night both at full back in the first half and then when switched to the centre of our defence in the second. Ritchie De Laet - 6 – Looked as adaptable as Bree did when he changed position with him from playing as a central defender alongside Elphick in the first half to playing as a full back in the second during which he made a couple of decent runs forward. Was beaten a little too easily by Colclough who then ran on to slot the ball into the corner of the net past Steer for their 43rd minute goal but he then claimed a big assist for our fourth goal. Tommy Elphick – 6 – Gave a steady and solid enough central defensive performance working alongside two defenders who would not be expected to feature too often in the centre of our defence. Hit a speculative 30 yard shot on 58 minutes that went wide of the post. Mitchell Clark – 6 – Did well on his debut looking solid and comfortable in his role throughout. Hit a 10th minute shot from the edge of the box after an Adomah corner had been partially cleared that Jones pushed out for a corner at his right-hand post. Albert Adomah – 7 – Performed at a level above what we have seen from him of late and sustained a good performance throughout the game rather than for say 45 minutes or less as has sometimes been the case previously. Hit our second goal on 36 minutes when he connected sweetly and first time with a cross from Bjarnason to send it rocketing into the roof of the net. Gary Gardner – 5 – Below his best last night as he has been for a while now. This may well be the last that we see of him in our shirt. Injury problems have hindered his development as I think has the holding midfield role he has often been asked to play as was the case last night. Gary looked to have a bright future with us showing an early ability to pick a pass (as he did last night in the build up to our first goal) and to find the back of the net himself but he is now looking to move on to play first team football more regularly. I hope this will soon see him performing at the sort of level he did when on loan at Forest for example (but not against us). Jake Doyle-Hayes – 8 – MOTM – We might well have witnessed the emergence of a second significant young talent within less than a week yesterday. Jake did the simple things well, made some good strong challenges, has the happy habit of finding one of his own players more often than not and pretty much dominated the midfield until his 78th minute substitution. A very impressive performance that will surely see him start our next cup tie and challenge for a place on the bench in future league games in the same way as O’Hare has. Birkir Bjarnason – 7 – Looked a lot more up for this game than he had done in recent appearances. Needs to get as involved in future games as he was in this one on a consistent basis in order to challenge for a starting place. Might have added a third on the 42nd minute when Hogan found him inside the box but he took a touch which enabled Jones to claim the ball. Scored our fourth on 74 minutes. De Laet made a good run from within his own half before hitting a cross that hurried behind Hogan but Bikir made a determined run that put him in front of a defender and he hit the ball home well. He also had a decent header kept out by Jones 10 minutes later. Callum O’Hare – 7 – Showed signs of promise as he did in his previous appearance in this cup competition. Worked tirelessly and showed some nice touches. Got down where it hurts on the 40th minute when trying to get the ball in after a De Laet header from a corner. Hit a good cross on 45 minutes that Hogan was not quite able to stretch enough to be able to turn it into the net. Scott Hogan – 8 – O’Hare played a ball to Scott on 8 minutes that he took into the box before wrong footing a defender and seeing his shot blocked by Jones at the near post. Gardner headed a 12th minute corner forward that Scott headed onto the crossbar. Opened the scoring on 19 minutes when a nicely weighted ball from Gardner found Adomah whose low cross into the box was turned in with his outstretched right foot. Scored his second and our third of the night on 44 minutes to restore our 2-goal cushion when he picked up a loose ball on the edge of the box turned and lashed the ball into the corner of the net. Headed a ball into the box from Adomah straight at Jones on 65 minutes. Scott was substituted on 81 minutes to put an end to his search for a third goal. Substitutes: Ross McCormack – 6 – Replaced O’Hare on 73 minutes for a very rare Villa appearance. Was he in the shop window? Most likely but if so he did himself no harm showing he retains the ability to bring others into play in the final third as well as an awareness of the need to find space for himself in the box. Jordan Lyden – Replaced Doyle-Hayes on 78 minutes. A welcome return to first team action but he was not on quite long enough to gather a rating. Easah Suliman – Replaced Hogan on 81 minutes and bravely blocked a fierce Burgess shot on 94 minutes. Our England U-19 UEFA European Championship winner was not on long enough to earn a rating. Up the Villa! John Lewis
  15. We scored four goals at Villa Park for the first time in three years yesterday. Conor Hourihane scored our first hat-trick for two years and his own first. This our first win of the season took us from the bottom of the table up to 16th place. We also left the ground with smiles on our faces rather than frowns after this goal fest. We conceded two goals and at times looked too shaky for comfort at the back. That is enough of negativity which was far outweighed by the positives yesterday. We scored four, could easily had another two and we played positive, flowing, attacking football. Each time they scored and threatened to peg us back we responded with a goal of our own to ease our fraying nerves. Let us hope that this result marks a turning point in our season. An away win at Bristol City on Friday looks far less unlikely than it did on Saturday morning and that would take us into the top half of the table and within reach of the top six. Make it so Villa! My player ratings from a game that demonstrated that you can win games with kids are: Sam Johnstone – 6 – Had hearts in mouths when he raced outside of his box on the 38th minute when attempting to intercept a ball that had gone past our defenders but narrowed the angle well on the 50th minute when Naismith’s near post shot hit the side netting. Had little chance with both of their goals. Alan Hutton – 4 – Given a tough afternoon particularly in the minutes prior to his 64th minute substitution by the lively and pacey Murphy. Hutton allowed him to get goal side of him for their first on the hour mark and was beaten easily 2 minutes later by the same player whose cross led to a goalmouth melee that was settled by a clearance from Johnstone. Difficult to see a reason for him to continue to start games instead of either Bree or De Laet given his current form. James Chester - 6 – Really should have been on target with an unchallenged diving header from a 55th minute Hourihane free kick that flew harmlessly over the bar. John Terry – 6 – Neither he nor Taylor picked up Oliveira in the 79th minute when the forward was left unmarked to hit their second. Neil Taylor – 6 – A solid enough defensive display and he also got forward well at times. Ahmed Elmohamady – 6 – Hit the bar in the 4th minute of stoppage time after Bree had switched the ball back to him inside of the box. Josh Onomah – 6 – Substituted on the half hour having sustained an injury. Glenn Whelan – 7 – Much more involved yesterday and this played a part in Conor and Henri having the opportunity to move forward more often than they had been doing previously. Hit an on-target effort from the edge of the box on 37 minutes which was inadvertently blocked by Davis. Conor Hourihane – 9 – MOTM – As the late Bruce Forsyth often said, “Didn’t he do well?” It is not often that a midfield player gets a hat-trick but Conor did so yesterday producing the sort of performance he regularly gave for Barnsley which led us to sign him. He needs to have licence to get forward where he can be so dangerous from now onwards. Davis threaded the ball between 2 defenders on the 19th minute to Conor but he hit his shot across the face of goal and inches wide. Onomah then won the ball near the half way line before hitting a nice ball for Davis to run onto. Keinan proceeded to hit a low cross that went between the goalkeeper and a defender before reaching Conor near the far post who hit home our 22nd minute opener with assurance. Lansbury fed Conor from a Taylor free-kick and his 68th minute 30-yard shot took a deflection off a defender on its way past the keeper and into the corner of the net. He completed his hat-trick on the 85th minute when Elmohamady found him in a central position a couple of yards outside of the box and he struck the ball low into the right-hand corner of the net. Almost turned home a fourth goal on 89 minutes but that effort was blocked. Andre Green – 8 – Lansbury found him on the edge of the box on the 42nd minute and he then picked his spot curling the ball around a defender and into the top right-hand corner of the net to give us our second goal of the afternoon. He will do well to score a better goal than this one for us! Hit a 70th minute shot from the edge of the box just wide of the post and should have had a second goal to his name on the 94th minute when Elmohamady’s shot bounced to him off the bar only for his header to find Gunn’s hands rather than the back of the net. Keinan Davis – 9 – Looked very, very promising yesterday. Held the ball up and led the line very well. Refused to be knocked off the ball and utilised his strength and determination throughout to give the central defenders he was up against a very difficult afternoon. Won the ball from Zimmermann on the 2nd minute and ran inside the box before hitting a shot which was blocked by the advancing Gunn’s legs. Taylor then found Green on the edge of the box whose inch perfect 16th minute cross was met by Davis but Gunn did well to get a hand to his header to keep it out. Ran onto a strong 24th minute header from inside his own half by Whelan and having got the better of a defender hit an effort from the edge of the box that struck the top of the crossbar. Denied by Gunn on the 64th minute when he ran onto a ball from Lansbury but could not turn the ball past the keeper. Substitutes: Henri Lansbury – 6 – Replaced Onomah on 30 minutes. Was not quite able to slide in to make contact with a good 35th minute Hourihane cross into the box. Looked to be belatedly in the process of forming a decent partnership alongside Conor today and he has surely done enough to start games from now on? James Bree – 6 - Replaced Hutton on 64 minutes and we looked more secure after that. Chris Samba – Replaced Davis on 87 minutes. Was not on long enough to earn a rating. Up the Villa! John Lewis
  16. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. The players' names will be added to the poll when a mod gets chance.
  17. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. The players' names will be added to the poll when a mod gets chance.
  18. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. The players' names will be added to the poll when a mod gets chance.
  19. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. The players' names will be added to the poll when a mod gets chance.
  20. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. The players' names will be added to the poll when a mod gets chance.
  21. We encouragingly played like Champions-elect during the first half yesterday but failed to put enough of the chances that we created away and as was proved so often last season a one goal lead is not always enough for us. That Cup of Traditions tournament was made for us, wasn’t it? Villa performances are all too often games of two halves during which Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde take turns in coming out in claret & blue shirts. Those pre-season games were of only 45-minutes in duration and they did not therefore allow us the opportunity to take our foot off the pedal for half of the game as we did yesterday. Hull deserved their point. They had the better of the second half in much the same way that we had the best of the first 45 minutes. We fell into that nasty habit of thinking that we could hold onto a one goal lead again. We surrendered the initiative and dropped points from what was a winning position and we cannot continue to do these things if we are to achieve our promotion objective this season. We need to start dominating games over the full 90 minutes rather than for the first 45 and belatedly the last 10 as we did yesterday. We need to score more goals on a regular basis and to finish teams off when we have the game in our hands to win. My player ratings from a game that cast some doubts upon our chances of significantly improving on last season’s points and goals tallies are: Sam Johnstone – 7 – Nice to see him confidently claiming balls in the air. Dived to his left-hand post to gather a header back from Taylor who was under pressure from Bowen on 10 minutes. Made a good double save on 44 minutes from Frazier Campbell with his right leg as the striker tried to turn the ball past him having run inside the box and then punched clear an effort from Grosicki from the edge of the box. Had little to no chance with their equalizer which came from Bowen who had been left totally unmarked. Alan Hutton – 6 – Claimed an assist for our early goal. James Chester - 7 – Solid alongside JT. John Terry – 7 – MOTM - Confident and assured at the heart of our defence. Looked as disappointed as we were with the result. Neil Taylor – 6 – A steady enough performance. Ahmed Elmohamady – 5 – Had a decent first half but faded in the second half as did the team in general. Henri Lansbury – 6 –Ran between two defenders to collect a long ball from inside his own half by Taylor, took the ball from the edge of the box into it before hitting the ball across the face of the goal and wide of the far post on the 2nd minute. Chested down a 30th minute ball into the box from Elmohamady before hitting a decent shot that was gathered by McGregor. Glenn Whelan – 6 – A solid hard-working performance. Leandro Bacuna – 4 – I really do struggle to understand why Leo started yesterday instead of Conor Hourihane who spent a frustrating evening sitting on the bench. Leo put in a shift at times during the first half but his impact on the game was not marked and had become minimal at very best well before his substitution. A deflected 70th minute cross from Taylor fell to him at the far post but his last kick of the game was hurried and flew well over the bar. Gabriel Agbonlahor – 6 – Had a gilt-edged opportunity to open the scoring on 6 minutes when a nice ball from Lansbury put him clear wide on the left he proceeded to run into the box but he was denied by McGregor’s outstretched hand as he attempted to place the ball past the advancing keeper. Made no mistake just a minute later when Elmohamady fed Hutton who was running to his right. His low cross hurried behind Hogan and in front of Lansbury before falling to Gabby who was unmarked on the edge of the 6-yard box at the far post whose crisp well-placed finish found the far corner of the net. Tired as the game wore on and became increasingly less effective. Scott Hogan – 6 – Made a good run down the left on 21 minutes before pulling the ball back for Lansbury on the edge of the box who did not manage to connect with the ball with his right foot and the ball instead hit his standing foot and was easily picked up by a defender. Dawson’s attempted 27th minute clearance hit Lansbury who found Scott who in turn beat 2 defenders before aiming to push the ball past McGregor only to see it strike his left leg before it was gratefully gathered by the keeper. Could not quite get enough contact on Elmohamady’s deflected 32nd minute cross to turn it in. Substitutes: Andre Green – 6 – Replaced Bacuna on 70 minutes and gave us some energy. Missed a late chance which looked much harder to miss than to score from on 80 minutes. Taylor’s free kick fell to him a couple of feet out near the far post but his header was badly mistimed and went harmlessly across the face of the goal rather than into the net. He will get goals and win games for us this season. Josh Onomah – 6 - Replaced Hogan on 78 minutes and looked a pacey, promising addition to our squad. Chris Samba – Replaced Lansbury on 90 minutes and was immediately pushed up front alongside Gabby. This desperate last toss of the dice did not lead to the late winner Steve Bruce was seeking but Chris put himself about in this unfamiliar role. He was not on long enough to gather a rating. Up the Villa! John Lewis
  22. This game was very, very friendly and not a lot can be deduced from it. Before the game I expected our visitors to be battling to stay in their present division this season and for us to be striving for promotion preferably without recourse to the play-off lottery. I witnessed nothing to change that opinion yesterday as this game gave little clue concerning how successful each team may or may not be in achieving those objectives. It was fitting that the two football clubs that are most associated with the late Graham Taylor met in this tribute match. There was warm applause from the Hornets fans when the Holte End sang “Graham Taylor’s Claret & Blue Army” during the second half and both sets of fans showed their mutual respect for their former manager throughout. Graham would have liked that. My player ratings from what was a low-key warm-up game in which our new signings shined brightly are: Jed Steer – 6 – I would anticipate that Jed will be our back-up keeper this season now that the injury that kept him out of first team contention is hopefully behind him. Jed looked confident when the ball was played back to him and his kicking was reliable and better than we have grown accustomed to seeing from our keepers of late. Kept out a close range 64th minute effort from substitute Isaac Success out with a little ball juggling and held a low shot on the 83rd minute. Alan Hutton – 6 – Brought down inside the box in the 53rd minute by Kaboul to give us our penalty. Alan had his usual solid no-nonsense game. James Chester - 7 – Looked solid at the back as he so often does. John Terry – 7 – JT looked very composed and found his man on all but one occasion when he had the ball at his feet. We look less likely to concede with him organising the defence and his partnership with Chester looks very promising. Neil Taylor – 6 – A solid enough display. Ahmed Elmohamady – 7 – MOTM – Looked sharp and trickier than I had anticipated he would be when making wide runs. Henri Lansbury – 5 – Hit our 54th minute spot kick to the keeper’s left but Gomes guessed the right way and pulled off a save that kept the score level. Glenn Whelan – 6 – He likes a tackle, doesn’t he? Looks capable of adding the sort of solidity we missed when Jedinak was absent in games last season. Jack Grealish – 5 – Left the field on 26 minutes having appeared to have taken a blow to the ribs. Andre Green – 5 – Made a couple of decent runs. Gabriel Agbonlahor – 5 – Kept himself busy enough in the first half but lacked support alongside him and faded prior to being substituted. Should have done better on the 2nd minute when he was put clear and only had Gomes to beat but he hit his shot straight at the keeper. Substitutes: Leandro Bacuna – 5 – Replaced Grealish on 26 minutes. Leo is still waiting for that Champions League club to come in for him and this sort of performance will not have changed things on that score. Scott Hogan – 6 - Replaced Gabby on 54 minutes. Looked keen to make a positive impact and we will need goals from him in Kodjia’s absence. Birkir Bjarnason – 5 - Replaced Green on 69 minutes. Needs to make a bigger impression in games than he did in this one to start matches for us. Jordan Amavi – Replaced Lansbury on 74 minutes. Jordan was not on quite long enough to earn a rating but it was nice to see him still wearing our shirt and he hit a cross that fell to him on the 76th minute just wide of the post with his first touch. Conor Hourihane – Replaced Whelan on 74 minutes. Hit a firm 87th minute shot from outside of the box that Pantilimon kept out. Needs to start next week. Chris Samba – Replaced JT on 74 minutes. Not on long enough to earn a rating but it is good to have him available to add his physical presence off the bench in games. James Bree – Replaced Elmohamady on 74 minutes. Not on long enough to merit a rating. Up the Villa! John Lewis
  23. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. The players' names will be added to the poll when a mod gets chance.
  24. Aston Villa with nothing to play for save their pride and their fans played their part in defending the integrity of the EFL by not surrendering meekly to a team that needed a win as had Huddersfield last weekend for example. We were reduced to ten men in the 63rd minute when the referee decided the penalty they converted was not quite enough punishment for Baker so it then appeared Brighton were set for the win that they needed to clinch the title. However, their wild goal celebrations proved to be somewhat premature because 10-man Villa kept at it and Grealish hit a late equalizer that handed the trophy to Newcastle. The sorrowful reaction of the Brighton players at the end showed how much the game had mattered to them. No doubt Newcastle fans will accept that we played a major role in bringing them the trophy they collected yesterday and will stop whingeing about our football club for a short time as a result? We finished the season with a plucky point but in the bottom half of the table, albeit top of that bottom half. We now face a vitally important summer during which Steve Bruce will need to make the changes necessary to gather the extra thirtysomething points we will need to secure automatic promotion next season. What yesterday’s game did prove is that in games against Brighton this season there has not been a great deal to choose between the two teams (although it is arguable that we produced our two best performances of the season against them). Brighton who have been promoted have had the consistency that we have lacked and have not had the runs of bad results and poor performances that have blighted our season and cost us any hope we once had of joining them in the top flight next season. Respect is also due to the Seagulls fans who applauded at the right moments, showed appropriate respect and resisted any temptation there may have been to remind us of our under-achievement during this season. Enjoy your return to the top flight and I hope we will join you next season. The highlight of yesterday for me was the half-time appearance of Villa heroes’ Peter McParland and Nigel Sims 60 years on from their 1957 FA Cup win against the Busby Babes. I really hope that we can lift that trophy again for them soon as this is the longest time our club has gone without winning it by some distance. On a personal note, I would like to take this opportunity to add my late friend Peter Wyper to the list of Villains that we have sadly lost during this season. Pete was a life-long Villa fan who was among those that cheered the 57 cup winners on their return to the city from Wembley. Pete passed away yesterday evening following a lengthy battle with illness. He will be much missed by his family and friends – HEITS. My player ratings from our last game of this disappointing season are: Sam Johnstone – 6 – Was sent the wrong way from the spot but had earlier did very well on the 58th minute to block a shot from Baldock with his legs after the forward had got the better of Baker. Sam also did well to keep out a 77th minute shot from Bruno. If that was to be his last game for us it was a decent one but will it prove to be given he has now found his confidence with us? James Bree – 6 – Was found on the edge of the box by Bacuna on 78 minutes and his shot was deflected just over the bar. James Chester - 7 – Solid enough at the back as usual and is becoming a threat up front. Nathan Baker – 5 – Given his marching orders a little too readily for me in the 63rd minute when he clipped the heel of Baldock as he was pulling the trigger having reacted slower to a header on than the forward had. Neil Taylor – 7 – A good solid overall performance that was his best for us to date for me. Albert Adomah – 4 – Did the best of what work he did when they had the ball. His impact up front was once again only minimal prior to his 61st minute substitution. He is capable of doing a lot more than he did yesterday and than he has done of late. Henri Lansbury – 6 – Hit a decent 13th minute shot from around 30 yards that Stockdale pushed wide for a corner low at his left-hand post. He really should have put us ahead 7 minutes later when Pocognoli chested a Taylor cross back across the face of the goal to him but he turned his header inches wide of the far post with the goal gaping before him. Nice to see both Henri and Hourihane getting forward more often than has recently been the case and they can become a very effective midfield pairing with a pre-season behind them. Conor Hourihane - 7 – MOTM - Bent a free-kick around the wall in the 2nd minute of first half stoppage time which Stockdale did well to turn around his post. Hit a 56th minute shot from outside of the box that Stockdale got down low at his left-hand post to keep out and 2 minutes later Davis played the ball back to him inside the box and his shot was again saved by the keeper low at the far post. Eventually took an 85th minute free-kick from the edge of the box following Bacuna’s shenanigans that forced a save from Stockdale. Leandro Bacuna – 5 – Showed the same lack of discipline that led to his recent suspension for getting in the face of a linesman again yesterday when twice forcibly demanding the ball at free-kicks from Hourihane. When did he last score from a free-kick and what leads him to think that he should be in line to take a free-kick ahead of Conor (who tends to force a save rather than prod the ball into the defensive wall)? His petulance was more striking for me than what impact he otherwise had on the game yesterday. Will his name still be found on the team sheet next season or will his long-awaited move to a Champions League team actually happen? Jordan Amavi – 6 – Did well enough playing once again in an advanced role. Scott Hogan – 5 – Pounced on a sloppy half-hit 34th minute back pass from Pocognoli hitting a shot from inside of the box that was deflected just wide by Stockdale’s outstretched leg. Worryingly limped off the field following a clumsy challenge by Sidwell that the referee chose not to show any card for. Substitutes: Keinan Davis – 7 – Replaced Hogan in the 2nd minute of first half stoppage time and showed some promise for the future during the second half. Lansbury played a ball into the box for him to run onto on 50 minutes but penalty appeals were ignored by both the referee and his assistant when Dunk slid in to take Davis rather than the ball. He was not quite able to force the ball home near the goal line after Amavi had headed the resulting corner towards Chester at the far post who in turn had headed the ball goalward. Grealish hit a 69th minute cross and having turned nicely he hit a shot that forced a save from Stockdale. Had an opportunity to win the game when the ball fell to him off a defender with a minute of stoppage time remaining. Keinan ran to the edge of the box but his shot was a weak one and was easily held by a relieved Stockdale. Jack Grealish – 7 - Replaced Adomah on 61 minutes. Hit our late equalizer on the 89th minute. Taylor played the ball to him near the edge of the box and his curled shot went past a couple of defenders as well as remarkably keeper Stockdale who was left on his knees having failed to get anything on the ball as it went past him. This was a clear step up on some recent displays from Jack. Tommy Elphick – 5 - Replaced Amavi on 65 minutes. Half hit a 68th minute back pass that Murray ran onto before playing the ball unselfishly back to Baldock who saved Tommy’s blushes by making a hash of the scoring opportunity which left the ball being played clear after it hit Chester’s leg rather than the back of the net. Up the Villa! John Lewis
  25. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. The players' names will be added to the poll when a mod gets chance.