Aston Villa vs. Preston North End: Player Grades from 1-1 draw

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11: John Terry of Aston Villa celebrates after the Sky Bet Championship match between Aston Villa and Birmingham City at Villa Park on February 11, 2018 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11: John Terry of Aston Villa celebrates after the Sky Bet Championship match between Aston Villa and Birmingham City at Villa Park on February 11, 2018 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images) /

Keinan Davis and Lewis Grabban came to the rescue on Tuesday as Aston Villa crawled back for a single home point. Grabban’s second-half penalty equalized Preston’s opener as the match finished 1-1.

That was quite the unorthodox match if I do say so myself. Steve Bruce deployed the typical 4-2-3-1/4-1-4-1 formation with Birkir Bjarnason covering for the injured Albert Adomah on the left wing and Josh Onomah covering for the injured Jack Grealish in central midfield.

Villa actually performed reasonably well despite the absence of its two best attacking players. The movement itself was rather stagnant and predictable, but the claret and blues threatened with a half-dozen, half-chances.

Then disaster struck. Preston, taking a corner from the left (Villa conceded way too many corners on the evening), caught Sam Johnstone sleeping with an awful attempt at a punch. The ball was finger-tipped out to Preston’s Tom Barkhuizen who floated it over Johnstone and in. After that, it got really ugly as several players started trying to do too much. Robert Snodgrass, dealing with a knock, suffered a series of poor turnovers while Josh Onomah and Conor Hourihane pressed wildly (and ineffectively) leaving Mile Jedinak exposed.

For the second-half, Bruce made a pair of changes as Lewis Grabban replaced the injured Snodgrass at right midfield. Rather unorthodox, alright.

But Keinan Davis came on too, to lead the line alongside Scott Hogan. Villa reverted to a much-needed 4-4-2, but the personnel selection was quite poor to be honest.

Luckily for Villa, Davis earned a penalty in which Grabban converted (albeit, softly).

I think Tuesday’s match was an important lesson in, “just because something worked, doesn’t mean it was a good decision.”

GK. Aston Villa. SAM JOHNSTONE. 4.5. Where to begin, man. Sam Johnstone goes from making zero mistakes in thirty matches for Villa to two in two matches. Poor performance and even poorer distribution. Sam, if you’re reading this, stop lobbing balls over Scott Hogan and his 16.20% aerial challenge win percentage. Upgraded one point for a string of strong saves in the second-half.

6.5. Axel Tuanzebe came to play. He was dominant in the air and provided a wide element as a decent attacking fullback from the right side. Five aerial duels won before being withdrawn for Ahmed Elmohamady in the 85th-minute.. RB. Aston Villa. AXEL TUANZEBE

7.5. Slick passing and very calm in possession. Chester went into halftime without misplaying a single pass. I noted on our Twitter feed, but the Wales player could side seamlessly into defensive midfield. Mountain of a second-half performance ending on 92% passing and two key blocks.. RCB. Aston Villa. JAMES CHESTER

5.5. Should have earned a second-minute penalty for having his shirt ripped, but John Terry was mostly blah. Sloppy passing for most of the evening.. LCB. Aston Villa. JOHN TERRY

6.0. Strong attacking presence from the left side for Alan Hutton. He was a bit haywire in possession, but he provided some good attacking moments for Aston Villa. Won four aerial challenges at halftime, <em>eight </em>in total.. LB. Aston Villa. ALAN HUTTON

MILE JEDINAK. 4.5. Mile Jedinak had a match to forget and some of it not through his own doing. Josh Onomah and Conor Hourihane had full authority to press aggressively through the middle. When they didn’t win possession it left two surging Preston midfielders on Jedi in isolation. No bueno. Other than being a great outlet for clearing the ball, meh.. CDM. Aston Villa

Poor match, but it is his fitness that remains the key talking point.. RM. Aston Villa. ROBERT SNODGRASS. 5.0

6.0. Shoe-horned into playing left midfield yet again after some injuries, but Josh Onomah did pretty well. One of Villa’s better players in the first and he held down his flank in the second. Nothing incisive via attack, but the performance will do. Did you notice Preston only attacked the right? (Grabban/Jedinak’s side). CM. Aston Villa. JOSH ONOMAH

5.0. Only 45 minutes of action, but Conor Hourihane got the axe over Mile Jedinak at halftime. 28 touches before being withdrawn.. CM. Aston Villa. CONOR HOURIHANE

Aston Villa. BIRKIR BJARNASON. 6.0. Stats didn’t love the performance, and BB was quite sloppy in possession, but I thought his game as a whole was really crucial. Linked-up well with Onomah in the first before settling in as a true central midfield player in the second.. LM

CF. Aston Villa. SCOTT HOGAN. 5.0. Scott Hogan was really not very threatening at all. Lewis Grabban and Keinan Davis outshined the center forward. Ended with 21 touches, which is actually better than usual, but certainly not anywhere good enough playing 45 minutes in a 4-4-2.

All data provided by WhoScored match center. Aston Villa go again on Saturday with an away fixture to Sheffield Wednesday.