Aston Villa looked every bit a side playing its third game in seven days. For 60 minutes Sheffield Wednesday dragged Villa around Hillsborough. Even the 4,600 Villa supporters that made the trip to Sheffield couldn’t keep the promotion chasers from slipping up and it seemed that maybe the playoffs would have to do. It took just
Then, n the blink of 19 hectic minutes, Villa pulled off an unlikely smash and grab and headed back to Villa Park well in the mix for the second automatic promotion spot, keeping the heat up on a Cardiff team with a 4 point lead.
For most of the match Villa looked lifeless and disinterested. Still, they closed strong and a helter-skelter afternoon in South Yorkshire sent the Villa faithful home happy - if not a bit exhausted. On to the player ratings:
Sam Johnstone - 6 - Sam couldn’t do much to stop the goals but his saves were critical to keep Villa in the match before eventually taking control. Still needs to work on his distribution, but Bruce’s first signing is proving his worth once again.
Ahmed Elmohamady - 6 - Another reliable performance from the Egyptian. He continues to link up with Snodgrass quite well and get the play moving forward up Villa’s right side. Elmo had a rough first half defensively, but bounced back in the second half. Won a few critical tackles as Villa worked to close the game out.
James Chester - 5.5 - Today wasn’t one of the Welshman’s better days. The partnership with John Terry has been solid all season but the first half today might have been the worst showing the pair has had together. Chester at times looked a step slow lacked the typical cohesion with Terry. Villa settled down in the second half lucky to be down only 2-1. Take the three points, file it away, and move on to next week.
John Terry - 5.5 - For some reason, maybe the run of games, the captain just didn’t look ready for today. Like Chester, he settled things down in the second half and gave Villa a chance to snatch it late. Not sure if his presence in the side helps with the resilience, but this Villa team doesn’t fold like so many squads before. Clearly, Terry must be an influence in terms of belief. A block and three key interceptions while Wednesday attacked. A last gasp tackle in the 76th minute appeared to be risky but nicked the ball in the eyes of referee Neil Swarbrick. A lesser-known player may have not been given the benefit of the doubt.
Alan Hutton - 6 - Seems to be one of Villa’s better performers this season. Disappointing to see him go off in the 50th minute as Villa’s injury troubles mount. It takes a bit of luck to get out of the Championship and Villa’s players need to stay healthy for what portends to be a dramatic finish down the line to end the season. Up until the injury, Hutton saw most of his action in the Wednesday half of the pitch with more touches (46) than Josh Onomah (41). Battled hard as Onomah offered little defensive support.
Robert Snodgrass - 8.5 - Hard to imagine where Villa’s season would be without Snodgrass. Easily once again the Man of the Match - assisting on Whelan’s game-tying goal in the 67th minute and converting the penalty late to ice the game off. Snodgrass aggravated both the Wednesday defense and supporters playing keep-away late and drawing a seemingly endless stream of free kicks. Snodgrass rocketed his spot kick and found the back of the net even as Owls keeper Joe Wildsmith guessed the direction correctly. With Grealish and Adomah out, Snodgrass carried Villa’s attack when it was needed most.
Glenn Whelan - 7 - Whelan should have come off at halftime. Villa’s midfield was getting overrun and his partnership with Hourihane looked ineffective - impotent in attack going forward and doing little to prevent Wednesday from running roughshod over Villa. Bruce, however, stayed with the midfielder. Whelan played better in the second half and rewarded Bruce’s faith with his first goal since 2011. Out of respect, the former Wednesday man didn’t celebrate the goal.
Conor Hourihane - 7 - Netted the match winner on a nice volley as the ball bounced around the top of the box. Struggled early on but fought hard. Led Villa in tackles with eight. Hourihane is up to 9 goals this campaign and seems to be scoring at a rate of one goal every three matches. Would love to see that continue as the season winds down.
Josh Onomah - 5 - What to do about Onomah? At what point do Villa seriously consider ending the loan period or simply just sit the Tottenham youngster? Onomah tempts but gives very little end product. He has four goals on the season but had no shots against Wednesday. What’s troubling is the young man exhibits everything Villa want in an attacking midfielding - physically strong and comfortable on the ball. But nothing seems to happen with him. He did commit to six tackles yesterday but his body language screams he’d rather be elsewhere. As Villa push for promotion, he’s becoming a huge question mark. Is the effort there?
Lewis Grabban - 7 - Bagged his second goal in two games for Villa, this time from open play. Villa had no significant scoring chances until his goal brought them equal. He scrambled the ball home after a jumble in front of the net. At times it is clear he’s not on the same page with his attacking counterparts, but he brings a solid effort. Given injuries up front he’s looking a shrewd signing.
Scott Hogan - 6 - At best it could be said Hogan put in a shift and showed a commitment to the cause. Very little service early on hindered his chances. At worst, he’s showing a tendency to slip into deep cold spells were goals just aren’t coming and he’s making little impact on the match. His inability to thrive off Snodgrass’s service seems a bit confounding and is something to watch going forward. Hogan could slip to the bench as Grabban continues to settle in and score goals.
Neil Taylor - 6 - Came on for an injured Hutton in the 50th minute. He didn’t have too much to do early but became involved late when Villa were trying to kill off the game. Overall a solid performance as Villa didn’t seem to give up anything when Hutton went off.
Keinan Davis 6.5 - Davis led the forward line when Hogan went off for Jedinak. Showed some strength and contributed some nice hold up play when Villa were trying to close out the match. Not much of a goal threat but gave Villa something to play off.
Mile Jedinak 6 - Did his job and helped Villa see it out. My guess is Bruce was happy to throw him on late to seal the win.