For a moment there I thought I was actually going to be talking about an Aston Villa win. But you can always rely on the Villa losing this season, despite leading twice in the game at Vicarage Road and being 2-1 ahead on the 90 minute mark. Classic Villa.
It’s not often nowadays that a defeat hurts. I shouldn’t let it, especially because it doesn’t make a difference to our shambolic points tally, but it did. Ironically, it was a sting in the tail. Just when you think Villa are playing well, and have the possibility of getting a win, they rob us of that little ecstasy associated with three points.
In the week that one Villa fan resigned as captain following a string of embarrassing off the field antics, a Blues fan with his late double strike left us all pulling out our hair with despair.
Starting XI Verdict:
Eric Black did not fail to disappoint in showing us once again that even I could become a manager. This time, it wasn’t the fact that Bacuna and Lescott still remained despite both players producing awful displays against Southampton last week, it was his formation. The dreaded 3-5-2 formation. Please give me strength.
Tim Sherwood’s experiment with that formation still haunts me. Crespo in a back three with Richards and Lescott, sends shivers down my spine. I could only hope for a better display this time round.
On a positive note, 19-year-old Kevin Toner was one of those three defenders. Making his full debut, following his first Premier League appearance last week, the young defender was terrific during a game which saw his experienced counterpart allow Troy Deeney all the space in the world. Toner also showed plenty of fight and desire, reminding us that we might still have a bright future in the form of some of our blossoming academy players.
Ciaran Clark also returned to the starting 11, after recovering from an injury that kept him on the side lines last weekend. Clark’s commitment can never be questioned even if he does have a tough afternoon, and that was the case against Watford as he grabbed the first goal with a brilliantly taken header.
Black’s Game Management:
To be honest to Black, it was all going well until Aly Cissokho was sent off. Despite my initial reservations regarding his chosen formation, it actually worked.
However, it all went belly up when Cissokho received a red card for his challenge on Anya. Instead of bringing on Micah Richards, the only defender on the bench; Black brought on Carlos Sanchez, slotting Bacuna into the right side of the three at the back which meant Ciaran Clark was shifted out into the left-back position. That’s what it looked like anyway. The positioning for both of Deeney’s goals appeared as if the players didn’t even know where they were supposed to be.
Had Richards been brought on, he could have slotted in at right-back with Hutton moving across to fill Cissokho’s position. This would have meant that the back three, that had been doing well up until this point, would not have been tinkered with. But no, Black disregarded all the common sense he had. Even if he was determined to bring on Sanchez, the Columbian has played at centre-back before. Or, we could have just reverted back to a four at the back with Clark at left-back and Sanchez sitting just in front of the centre halves. If I can see it, it begs the question why Black can’t.
Then, in the 88th minute, Black trumped his previous mistake. Gana, who was struggling with a knock sustained during the game, made way for Sinclair. Scott Sinclair. Yes, Sinclair, the man who doesn’t have a defensive bone in his body. For the love of Villa, Jordan Veretout was sat on the bench!
Anthony Taylor made all the right decisions. Unfortunately for Villa, those right decisions ultimately contributed to their 11th consecutive defeat, equalling the record set in the 1962-63 season when Villa were playing in the old First Division.
On the stroke of half-time, Idrissa Gana tripped Abdi 25-yards out to earn a yellow card. The Swiss midfielder added to the punishment, dusting himself down before curling a sumptuous shot past Mark Bunn and into the bottom-left corner after Cissokho had turned his back in the wall.
With 16 minutes left, Deeney found Ikechi Anya who, haring down on goal, was brought down by Cissokho.
There were question marks over whether the tackle was in fact a fair one, he seemed to get the ball first, but lifted his leg needlessly to take the man too. Taylor had no doubts in dismissing the last man with the quick lifting of his red card.
It’s been a season to forget for Aston Villa and everyone associated with the club (possibly my most exaggerated understatement of the year) but Kevin Toner will be able to look back on this campaign with a touch of personal satisfaction.
The teenager made his Premier League debut during last week’s defeat to Southampton after impressing with his courageous and gritty performances for the Under-21s side.
He brought the same attitude into today’s game and showed why it is important for Villa to blood in some youngsters sooner rather than later. In these games, the almost ‘meaningless’ games now we are officially relegated, it is the perfect opportunity to give any promising talents first team experience.
These players could be integral to our Championship season next year, and the more playing time they can get in competitive Premier League games the better. We have nothing to lose, and if Toner’s performance is anything to go by, their confidence won’t be affected because they are individually playing so well. Also, the fact that they are all proud of playing for the shirt goes a long way. If we lose, they are equally determined to do better in the next game as they are disappointed about losing.
I don’t particularly want to be giving this to a Bluenose, but fair play to Troy Deeney, he got the two goals that condemned Aston Villa to their 26th defeat of the season. However, this is the closest any Blues fan has come to a win over Villa this season, or next season for that matter (I hope I don’t have to eat my words).
Despite not seeing an awful lot of the ball throughout the game, Deeney kept his concentration right up until the final whistle, scoring two goals in the final three minutes. A glancing header and a curling finish won it for Watford, as Villa succumbed to the physicality of the Hornet’s striker.