We have eight on board, do I hear nine? Do I hear nine wins in a row for Aston Villa?
That was the hope for Dean Smith, the players, and all Villa supporters for a Friday matchup with struggling Bolton. The storied club is struggling because of ownership struggles... Villa fans can understand that feeling and hopefully can commiserate in a respectful manor. But those feelings should not prevent high-flying Villa from taking care of business.
Bristol City drew with Reading before kickoff — meaning Villa’s lead remains 3 points (+ better GD) on even matches. Villa are five clear of dropping out of the playoffs.
Tyrone Mings and Jack Grealish were back for Villa — both slot right back into the starting lineup sending Mile Jedinak and Conor Hourihane. Both can feel a little hard done because of their performances but difficult choices have to be made. And with a match in only three days — some rotation could occur. Also John McGinn is on yellow card watch — two more and he is suspended for three matches. The suspension can include playoffs but any cards picked up in the playoffs do not count toward the 15 mark. So be smart John!
But enough of setting the table — let’s get to the match.
The opening ten minutes showed Bolton’s ability to defend well keeping ten men in their own half. Villa held the ball for almost the entire segment of the match besides one corner for the hosts. But nothing cam of the possession as the passes weren’t quite able to connect.
Once Villa began to swing the ball from side to side in the attacking end — holes opened up. I’d love to see a goal line replay of a John McGinn header that was cleared off the line in minute 15. It seemed to be over — but goal line technology does the job so a piece of the ball must have been on the line.
Elmohamady picked up a yellow card just after that almost goal. And shockingly — that was Elmo’s first yellow card of the season! The Bolton free kick was terrible and Villa remained in control of the match. Except for when the midfield gave away the ball. Always annoying when they do that. But credit to this midfield — they do very well to try to get possession back when they lose it. In previous years we’ve seen Villa players sulk after mistakes — but that is not in the character of the squad.
It is a football cliche — but 30 mins into the game I found myself saying “This match really needs a goal to open things up.”
But it was Villa’s goal that was the target of the next big chance. Donaldson took a long ball over the top and forced Steer into his first save of the match. Donaldson always seems to have a good game against Aston Villa.
Five minutes were added to the first half after Gary O’Neill stayed down on the pitch after colliding with Neil Taylor. It was the Villa defender who began the calls for medical attention Thankfully a stretcher was not needed but O’Neill was unable to continue in the match for Bolton.
Two and a half minutes into added time Steer made a dumb mistake. A long cross came in from Villa’s left. The keeper punched it but may have struggled looking into the sun because he barely got anything on the ball and what touch he did get sent the ball right to a Bolton attacker in the box. Thankfully a pair of Villa defenders were in position to block the shot which would have almost certainly broken the deadlock.
Halftime saw an end to a bit of an uninspired half.
And Dean Smith worked his magic. Two minutes into the second half, Tammy Abraham turned goal creator. He came deep for the ball — and attacked down the right wing. His far post cross was in the perfect place for Captain Jack Grealish. He headed into the back of the net and Villa were off and running up 0-1.
The goal seemed to ignite the squad. Minutes later El Ghazi forced a save from the Bolton keeper. Grealish almost doubled his tally with a wonderful shot from outside the box. But Ben Alnwick was equal to that one too. Alnwick also saved a Mings header — and in the opening ten minutes of the half.
Frustration did not sent in for the visitors.
The goal scoring duo of Grealish and Tammy — were soon back at it. A ball over the top found Grealish as the most advanced player. After a good piece of control Jack saw the angle was not good — so he sent the ball into the box — and to the waiting head of Tammy Abraham. Tammy made no mistake — and scored his 25th goal of the campaign.
On the downside — after forcing the ball over the line — Tammy stayed on the ground. Keinan Davis came on right away. Abraham walked off holding is left arm in his shirt as a makeshift sling. That worries me. I’ve screwed up my shoulder (had surgery in the fall — more on that at the end of the post). Could be a minor injury... but it scares me.
After the second goal — Aston Villa seemed happy with the lead. Bolton made a few challenges — the best coming from set pieces.
With 20 minutes to go — it seemed as if Dean Smith was ready with Andre Green and Conor Hourihane... but then Axel Tuanzebe went down seemlingly without contact. Smith then made the smart chance with Hourihane on for McGinn (NO YELLOW CARD!!). It was quickly followed by Mile Jedinak on for a struggling Tuanzebe.
Keinan Davis had a pair of chances — once with his head once with his feet. But he couldn’t quite connect with either one. Some improvement on the finishing will hopefully come with more playing time. The talent is there — and his ability to be in the right place is a positive. He may be called up and must step up if Villa are going to achieve the season’s goal of promotion. A third attempt saw a shot go just wide of the post.
Aston Villa comfortably saw out the match with confidence. Heck Tyrone Mings even took a shot from 35 yards out. Bolton — after a long year, off the pitch problems, and now relegation — just didn’t have the fight today once they went down. As I said at the top — spare a thought for the fans of the club. Good luck to them and hope the ownership crap works out for the best.
We are all waiting on info about Tammy’s injury. If it was a dislocation — that can be a quick recovery but if there is damage to the labrum or rotator cuff it could not be. One of the big problems with dislocations is doing it once makes it more likely you’ll do it again. And if it happens in a match — you really can’t play through it because every step is painful and you can’t swing your arms in certain directions (the specific direction depends on the where/how the dislocation happens. (Writer’s note: I’m not a medical professional in any way. But I’ve dislocated my shoulder a dozen or so times and finally had a 270-degree labrum repair surgery in the fall. So my thoughts come from my experience and nothing academic.) We will cover whatever we hear right here on the blog.
Back to Villa.
In a row.
Brilliant — and roll on Villa.