Bruce out, MacDonald temporarily in. With the change in manager came a change in formation and personnel. The U23 coach choose not to bring any youngsters up to the first team — probably because with the current talent and makeup of the squad there isn’t much room on the bench for them with the exception of CB.
No James Chester because of a red card suspension so Alan Hutton playing at was given the armband. (2013 Villans would not believe the end of that sentence).
Team news: It's three changes from Tuesday's 3-3 draw with Preston with @OrjanHNyland1, @JamesBree_97 and Neil Taylor all coming into the starting XI.— Aston Villa FC (@AVFCOfficial) October 6, 2018
Alan Hutton takes the captain's armband.#PartOfThePride #AVFC pic.twitter.com/kopwpiWBDc
And in the opening minutes Villa made their mark. Grealish was fouled (drink) in a perfect spot for a Hourihane cross. The Irishman put the ball in a perfect area from Tammy Abraham to flick it into the net. It was not an easy finish and showed the kind of class the loanee has.
Abraham seemed to relish the chance to play up top on his own and very nearly turned provider with some great footwork to skip by two defenders. Sadly the low cross was defended well and what could have been a great highlight is a mere footnote of a very positive opening 20 minutes. Teams traded some long distance efforts but neither goal keeper was tested and Villa could not make their dominance of the play count for a second goal.
At the quarter hour mark Millwall pulled level giving the home fans something to cheer about. A free kick was sent to the far post — headed back across and Shane Ferguson hit a powerful shot that was deflected in. In fairness even without the deflection it looked destined for the back of the net.
Axel Tuanzebe made a goal saving tackled only a few minutes later as Millwall took control of the game after the goal. The hosts continued to their pressure for the next 15 minutes but never really challenged Nyland.
Hourihane tried to create a bit of magic from a set piece (earned by Grealish getting fouled again (drink)) on the edge of halftime. But it was easily captured by the keeper.
In the end — the first half fizzled out with each side feeling like they controlled the match for periods but it was a pair of set pieces that made it onto the scoreboard.
One formation/strategy note from the first half. McGinn and Bjarnason formed a solid base in midfield that allowed Grealish to have plenty of room to roam and create in the #10 Role. Getting Jack on form is one of the keys for the TBD manager.
The second half started with a resounding thud as Villa clearly didn’t have enough tea during the break to stay awake. Only two minutes after the whistle Villa were once again unable to clear their lines effectively and were punished for it by Tom Elliott.
Villa managed a few half changes in response — but the attacks were disjointed and interrupted by many giveaways. James Bree actually came the closest with a diving header off an excellent low cross from Elmohamady. The young right back had no defenders around him and should have scored.
On the hour mark Millwall — off yet another set piece — headed off the cross bar. With 30 minutes remaining and down a goal — Kevin MacDonald must have felt the pressure to make changes and push for an equalizer. And five minutes later Aston Villa made their first change with Elmohamady off and Kodjia on.
The move was an attacking one but right after the change Villa were forced into more last minute defending — this time with Captain Alan Hutton making a last ditch tackle.
After struggling with an ankle issue for about ten minutes — John McGinn was taken off for Yannick Bolasie with 20 minutes to go. Bolasie made a mark right away with a beautiful one touch layoff pass. And then a yellow card for a nasty tackle.
Having a winger on the pitch allowed Villa to widen the play. Hourihane did a decent job on the right side trying to do the same. Ultimately the attacks sputtered out without testing the opposing keeper. Millwall knew their job was parking the bus and frustrating Villa. It worked. As Villa pushed Millwall were a threat from counter attacks and set pieces.
Adomah made a late appearance — marking the first time all match with two actual wingers on the pitch.
There was no moment of skill 90+ this week. No last second bail out to make a poor performance look okay.
One win in ten.
In the end — it was a disappointing performance, capping a disappointing week on the pitch for Villa. In two week’s time Aston Villa will have a new manager (most likely) and the fate of Villa will be in his hands.