Aston Villa 1 Leeds United 0
Another game, another defeat but daft as it sounds, I didn’t think we were that far away from nicking a point in this one and once again we need to remind ourselves just how “new” and inexperienced some of this side are.
“Bailey, Bailey, Bailey Peacock-Farrell, his name’s so long he’s got no song, Bailey Peacock-Farrell” deservedly won the man of the match award from Sky to go with several he’s already won at Elland Road since his introduction a few short weeks ago. Obviously when your keeper gets the MOTM award you clearly have not been the best side in the match but against another one of the so-called best in class sides in this season’s Championship we at least made a fist of it. Another youngster who has come on leaps and bounds is young Tom Pearce who, to me, looks more and more like the young Sam Byram we first saw break into the side in pre-season at Farsley Celtic under Warnock in 2012. In Tom’s first game against Wednesday he looked understandably nervous and tentative but last night from the off he looked assured and confident and no one would have picked him out as only being in his second game; similarly with Paudie O’Connor albeit Paudie looked good even in his first game last week. Some ‘good uns’ for the future methinks.
If I have one criticism of the performance at Villa Park, it is one that has been increasingly obvious as the season has gone on; we just do not seem able to pass the bloody ball! Time and time again last night a Villa attack would break down through some dogged defensive work and the defence would present the midfield with the clean ball. Then within seconds our midfield would pass, clip or launch the ball straight back to someone in claret and blue! Pablo Hernandez is always one of the worst for doing this but I excuse him because we know what he is trying to do – play that killer pass through the eye of a needle that will create a chance – but everyone was doing it last night! Simple balls clipped out towards the wing would be struck too low so ‘the man in the middle’ could intercept it with his head; a short pass would be so far off the target that it would be signalled a ‘wide’ on the cricket field; or if the ball did go to feet it would be to a man already wearing a Villa player like a blanket round his shoulders. Yes, if we could pass we’d be a lot more dangerous.
This season is draining away like the waste water down a plug-hole and yet there is something fascinating about watching us at the moment. The young players are getting their chances and thus far they have all grabbed them and it’s great to be seeing them develop as we did with the Byrams, Cooks and Taylors in the recent past. For the time being we also have two of the best players in Championship football in Hernandez and Saiz although Samu is struggling to show his class at the moment. I’m guessing the rest of the team don’t quite have the confidence to gamble on his ability to get past a player and make the runs Samu needs around him for fear of leaving us exposed if Samu fails. We need to find a way of playing that suits what Samu can do for us.
Our big issues though remain in both boxes; a defence that cannot be relied upon to keep a clean sheet and an attack that cannot be relied upon to make the right choice in front of goal. Until we correct those problems we will struggle and the only way to correct them is to find quality players to put in those areas. Three games to go folks, just enjoy the last few miles.
Aston Villa Leeds Utd
Possession 53% 47%
Shots 17 9
On Target 5 2
Corners 5 4
Fouls 7 10