To hear Steve Bruce’s post-match comments, you’d be forgiven for thinking Villa were hard-done by last night. In reality, another frustrating night of football means the Villans have picked up just one win in nine attempts. The pressure continues to mount on the manager…
Friday night’s fixture against the Robins was one that will truthfully not live in the minds of the travelling faithful for long. Two goals, both scored during the first-half of the match, were mere interruptions in what many would qualify as a drab affair.
The first memorable chance fell to former Villa graduate, Andi Weimann. The Austrian forward latched onto a dangerous cross from the right flank. His stretching header blazed over the bar from relatively close-range. With such a bad miss, you could be forgiven for thinking that the ex-Villa man feared scoring in front of the thousands of travelling fans.
It did not take long for Villa’s luck to run out, however. Just after the quarter-hour mark, Josh Brownhill’s low drive from distance left keeper Nyland in no man’s land and hit the back of the net. Initially, the goal appeared to be another disappointing addition to Villa’s defensive woes, in particular Nyland’s efforts between the sticks. That may still be the case, yet replays suggest that a fair deflection was involved, perhaps relieving an element of the blame.
Nonetheless, questions will continue to be asked of the defensive line. Jedinak’s selection as a centre-back continues to be scrutinised. Personally, I found that his aerial presence was notable during yesterday’s fixture. However, there are still too many moments in which a stray or improper clearance fails to reduce the pressure on our back line.
A Distinct Lack of Energy
Despite falling a goal behind, the men in claret and blue never appeared to threaten any danger of getting a goal back. On the ball, the passing resembled something even I bettered at Under 13’s youth football. Villa failed to gain any real rhythm. Too many balls seemed rushed and were aerial. The truth is, there is an distinct lack of energy and confidence in Villa’s performances.
Even so, Villa managed to reach the halfway mark all square. Having won a free-kick a little way into Bristol City’s half, Conor Hourihane’s searching cross found the head of Birkir Bjarnason. The ball whizzed off his head giving Maenpaa no chance in the Robins’ goal.
The commentator on AVTV – after regaining a lost audio for what was one of several times – exclaimed that the goal would change Bruce’s half-time team talk. In reality, the fans hoped it really had no effect. Big change was needed in the second-half.
A Different Villa?
However, the Villans did show an inkling of what they are capable of doing for the first ten minutes of the half. Soon, McGinn – following his wonder-goal in the defeat to Sheffield Wednesday – managed to test City’s keeper with another shot from distance. This time, however, the keeper was in with a shout and managed to prevent the Scot giving us the lead in this encounter.
As the half progressed, the play once again began to dry stale. In essence, both teams will surely look at this performance and know that they can provide more. Despite the obvious need for an injection of pace, or indeed any new element to change the game, Bruce held his cards close to his chest until the 75th minute.
Loanee Yannick Bolasie replaced the ineffective Jonathan Kodjia, with both men receiving equal pantomime villain-treatment from the Bristol City fans. In truth, the substitute failed to make too much of an impact in the fifteen minutes he was given. However, his introduction will hopefully serve as a further boost to his fitness.
As the frustrating game grew to a close, the plucky as ever travelling Villa faithful made themselves be known. Later, videos would surface of the fans singing, “Now you’re gonna believe us, we’ll be there or thereabouts..”
It remains to be seen how Villa will make the step-up from thereabouts.