Aston Villa started with a bang, literally, as Keinan Davis was involved in a clash of heads within seconds with Barnsley’s Adam Jackson - who seemed to require stitches. Both players left the pitich temporarily. Without concussion checks.
Shortly after, Barnsley opened up Villa’s back four - requiring John Terry to cut out a neat pass across the box. After that, the game developed into counter after counter with both Villa and Barnsley taking their turn to punt and run. Snodgrass had a decent shot, but it was all relatively stodgy for a Villa team that needed to turn things around - and a Barnsley team looking to take a scalp.
It would be Villa who opened the scoring, however. A long pass from James Chester was dummied by Keinan Davis. The surging Albert Adomah poked the ball over the pressing defender and allowed the bouncing ball to do its thing, before adding a final touch to lock in the opening goal for Villa. One nil and boy, it was a weight off the shoulders.
Keinan Davis once agin provided the assist, inadvertently - by latching onto a Glenn Whelan ball before winning a penalty. Adomah dispatched the dead ball and doubled his tally, and Villa’s lead - amidst an agonised hurling of celebratory paper by a few Barnsley fans. The challenge won’t always result in a penalty and although Davis won the penalty, that decision won’t always go his way - no matter what the ‘actual’ result should be.
Despite Steve Bruce’s lack of tactics in previous game (or identity), Villa set their stall out and actually ‘did’ something The defence suffocated Barnsley and allowed Davis, Snodgrass, Kodjia and Adomah to do their thing. Of course, this is only going to work on occasions like this, where a team like Barnsley are going to go all out on you. Credit where credit is due.
Villa started off where they left off, with a goal. Unfortunately, the scorer - Kodjia - was offside, following a very tasty pass from Keinan Davis. As for the latter, he grabbed his first senior goal for Villa with a very fine header indeed. Just as the news broke that Harry Redknapp had lost his job at Birmingham City. You could not make that up.
Jonathan Kodjia looked fairly bright in his full return to Villa action after a cameo during the Middlesbrough match in midweek. He was replaced on the hour-mark by Josh Onomah. Good to see him not get injured again!
Barnsley almost grabbed a deserved goal on the 70th minute as Ugbo directed a header at goal, only for Sam Johnstone to smother the ball. At the other end, Adomah should have enjoyed his hat-trick, but his first touch carried the ball away from him after Davis gifted him a chance via the cross from the right side.
Barnsley couldn’t stop Keinan Davis, but injury could. Applause carried the youngster off the pitch and Hogan replaced him. Davis can chalk two match-winning performances up now - along with his first goal. Brilliant stuff from this man who fights every match for his future.
Barnsley’s Ugbo came very close to scoring once more, but poked the ball past the stretching Johnstone and around the post.
As for the man of the match? It might have to go to Keinan Davis despite Albert Adomah’s performance of Albert Adomah. He was everywhere once more and was the man who brought Aston Villa’s attacking contingent into play. Sky thought the same and dropped the award to him. Great to see.
Despite losing, Paul Heckingbottom must be in consideration to lead Aston Villa - or a club with some power - in the future. His Barnsley team are a real delight and what he is doing for ‘the Tykes’ is nothing short of incredible. He has cemented Barnsley as a real entity within the Championship and with this new ‘data-inspired’ takeover coming in, they could certainly make the Premier League within a decade. Stranger things have happened. Certainly, Barnsley could have easily been the team heading into the break with the lead. Despite Villa’s lead, Barnsley always looked capable and all credit must go to Villa for having a bit of guts about them during this away game.
Will things turn around for Villa and Bruce? Who knows, but this was a very good performance from a Villa team who didn’t lose faith when under siege, and who didn’t take their foot off the pedal at two-nil up. Let us hope that Bruce can keep this up. We’re all behind him, even if we are critical - even if we hope for change. We’re all stuck following this team, after all, but things look just a little brighter. Expect this to change though, if this result - like the Norwich game - proves to be the outlier.