After Aston Villa exited the Carabao Cup at the hands of fellow promotion rival Middlesborough, many supporters were left a little on edge.
Yesterday Steve Bruce and his men returned to Villa Park on the heels of a 3-0 victory last Saturday at Barnsley. To face Mark Warburton’s Nottingham Forest side, the Villa manager selected the same starting XI and 4-4-2 formation that had success last weekend in South Yorkshire.
After Albert Adomah’s goal in the 15th minute and a first half in which Forest were unable to manage a shot on goal, things felt far more comfortable.
However, in a seemingly familiar fashion, it looked as if things got a little too comfortable in the dressing room at Villa Park. Forest stormed out of the halftime break and notched an early equalizer.
In the end yesterday’s match against the Reds was a tension filled affair. Fortunately for the claret and blue, Conor Hourihane’s goal from a free kick in the 60th minute turned out to be the difference as Aston Villa were able to hold on for a 2-1 victory.
Those three points put the club into the top 10 in the Championship and just two points off of the promotion spots.
After notching back-to-back victories in the league for the first time since April, Steve Bruce surely hopes that he, like Chubbs Peterson, has eased the tension at Villa Park.
Here are the full player ratings -- based on a scale of 1 to 10, with five being an average performance -- for Saturday's 2-1 victory over Nottingham Forest:
GK: Sam Johnstone, Rating: 7
Johnstone’s first half was incredibly uneventful. Forest at times bossed possession, but they failed to manage a single shot on goal. The second half was far different as Forest ended up with five total shots on target. Of those five, Johnstone saved four including two consecutive vital saves in the 55th and 56th when Forest were threatening. He then later made a world class save on Kieran Dowell’s free kick in the 85th minute. Those three saves were absolutely massive yesterday.
He's going to be a tremendous goalkeeper.— Barry Martin (@oldschoolanchor) September 23, 2017
He has definitely showed that this could well be the case.
LB: Neil Taylor, Rating: 5.75
Much like Elmohamady, Taylor got plenty of touches in both halves yesterday. When Forest had Villa a bit ragged at the back late on, the Welshman notched a key block that allowed Conor Hourihane to clear the ball into the Reds’ half. One supporter said of that block:
“Neil Taylor might have just secured us the win.”
We’re not going to debate the merits of that claim. However, that play alone was enough in our eyes to bolster his rating a bit. On Saturday, Taylor put in another good shift at left-back for Aston Villa.
CB: James Chester, Rating: 6.5
Within the first quarter of the match, Chester was huge as he single handedly stopped Forest’s attacking advances three different times. Even though he was fortunate that Daryl Murphy’s header went wide in the 66th minute, the Welshman was pretty solid for the much of the match. On the day Chester led the claret and blue with seven defensive clearances on the day.
CB: John Terry, Rating: 6
As the match was approaching halftime, the Sky Sports commentary was singing the praises of Villa’s pairing in the centre of defence. Terry and Chester both played rather well in the first half. However, in the second half they found themselves under the cosh as Forest’s attack was far more effective.
Daryl Murphy definitely got the better of Villa’s captain to level the match. Even with that said, Villa’s captain was important in stopping a couple of Forest’s attacking advances late on.
RB/RM: Ahmed Elmohamady, Rating: 6.5
Elmo successfully completed four of his six attempted tackles. He also led Villa’s back line with four interceptions for the match. Like last Saturday at Barnsley, yesterday Elmo led Villa in total touches with 77.
Against Mark Warburton’s men, he was once again silently effective.
RM: Robert Snodgrass, Rating: 6 (substituted off, 87th minute)
Snodgrass and Whelan were awful— Cameron (@VintageAdomah) September 23, 2017
This was seemingly a prevalent assessment of the Scot’s play in yesterday’s match at Villa Park. Maybe you also feel that way, but we don’t because statistically Snodgrass did not do too poorly:
· 55 total touches
· 5 successful tackles while leading team in attempts
· 3 offensive aerials won; 2 defensive aerials won
· 2 blocks
· 2 defensive clearances
On top of those statistics, Snodgrass also showed that he could get balls into the box from attacking positions. Furthermore, his forward run helped open up Forest’s defence allowing Jonathan Kodjia to play Albert Adomah in for Villa’s opener (see below).
Suffice to say his play Saturday afternoon on the pitch was not as bad as many ‘Villains’ made it out to be.
CM: Conor Hourihane, Rating: 7.75 (co-MotM)
This was massive:
It’s starting to look like Aston Villa got one hell of a bargain when they brought him in for £3.5m from Barnsley last January.
With just eight Championship matches thus far, Hourihane’s five goals are the most from a Villa central midfielder since James Milner managed seven for the entire 2009-2010 campaign!
As Jack Grimse suggested over nine months back, the man can ball in midfield.
CM: Glen Whelan, Rating: 5
The Irishman was the target of a fair amount of criticism for his performance against Forest. According to analytics, Whelan’s play yesterday was on par with that of John Terry.
To be fair to Whelan, he did do a lot of the little things well, particularly in the first half. For instance, making smart runs tracking back on defence isn’t flashy, but such runs are rather important. Overall Whelan certainly had his share of poor moments, but on the whole, he was average.
LM: Albert Adomah, Rating: 7.75 (co-MotM)
The Ghanian’s three goals in the last two Championship fixtures match his entire tally from all competitions last campaign. After yesterday Adomah now has 4-in-4!
He was outstanding, particularly going forward. He notched two total shots on target while creating three chances. Adomah also managed to complete 88% of his seventeen total passes.
That play was enough to share our Man of the Match honours with Hourihane.
ST: Keinan Davis, Rating: 6.5 (substituted off, 71st minute)
Davis once again demonstrated his ability to hold-up the ball and spark attacks. The 19-year-old had 28 total touches yesterday, 27 of those were in Forest’s defensive half. He also showed off some fancy footwork, particularly in the 28th minute when he opened up a bit of space in the box to get himself a half chance.
Saturday’s match saw another bright performance from the young striker.
ST: Johnathan Kodjia, Rating: 6.75 (substituted off, 79th minute)
Kodjia lived up to his nickname yesterday as he posed a threat to Forest’s back four. His beautiful turn and subsequent through ball to Albert Adomah got Villa the opening goal of the match.
There were criticisms levied on social media that ‘Jimmy Danger’ was selfish yesterday. Certainly there was one attacking move where Kodjia should have laid it off to Adomah on his left.
However, on top of his assist, the Ivorian striker had team-leading five successful dribbles. As the Sky Sports commentary team aptly pointed out, it’s an asset to have someone who can grab possession in the 18-yard box and earn a free kick after dribbling 40 to 50 yards. One of Kodjia’s dribbles ultimately earned the free kick that Conor Hourihane so beautifully slotted home.
Villa have looked far more threatening going forward with Kodjia in the starting XI. So we’ll say, keep attacking ‘Jimmy.’
CAM: Josh Onomah, Rating: 4.75 (substitute, 71st minute)
This might be too generous in the eyes of some. In his twenty-five minutes against the Reds, Onomah had his worst outing for Villa this season. We’ll leave it at that.
ST: Scott Hogan, Rating: N/A (substitute, 79th minute)
After the 79th minute Forest had the best of the attacking play. By that time it appeared that Steve Bruce rightfully instructed his side to preserve the lead that was by no means secure. Other than drawing a long overdue yellow from Matt Mills, Hogan did not really have much of an opportunity to make an impact.
RB: Alan Hutton, Rating: N/A (substitute, 87th minute)
When the Scot came on late for his fellow countryman Robert Snodgrass, many supporters seemed to have a reaction similar to this:
To be fair to the Aston Villa manager, given the side he selected, it was tactically the right move to make.