The three moments that defined Aston Villa’s draw with Newcastle United at St James’ Park...
#3: Finally, A Goal!
Since Anwar El Ghazi’s goal just five minutes into the win at Leeds, Villa have been fairly toothless in front of goal.
They failed to hit the back of the net for the remainder of the game at Elland Road and then drew back to back blanks in the defeat away at Sheffield United and in the home draw to Midland rivals, Wolves.
For the majority of this encounter at Newcastle United, it looked like a third game would go by without a goal to their name, but in the 86th minute Villa finally scored…sort of.
Matt Targett’s cross was met by Ollie Watkins, who’s clever movement wasn’t in keeping with an uncharacteristically poor performance from him, but his header seemed to be glancing towards (and possibly beyond) the far post.
That was until it took one heck of a deflection of former Villa defender, Ciaran Clark, which completely wrong-footed Martin Dubravka in the Newcastle goal; hitting the underside of the crossbar and nestling in the back of the net to give the visitors the lead, with just four minutes remaining.
#2: Stoppage Time Frustration
There has only been one occasion this season where Villa have failed to claim all three points after taking the lead.
Despite a very poor performance at St James’ Park, Villa found themselves ahead with four minutes to go, plus any additional time to be added on at the end.
Given Villa’s record when leading this season, combined with the standard of opposition on the night, this should have been a relatively straightforward task.
Whilst Joelinton was causing problems for Tyrone Mings, Newcastle created virtually nothing, excluding a Jacob Murphy shot in which cannoned back off the bar just before Villa took the lead.
Mings and his defensive partner, Ezri Konsa, had actually dealt well with a barrage of Newcaslte crosses into the box, but in the last seconds of the game, Villa’s concentration slipped.
A long throw into the box was cleared away to El Ghazi on the edge of the box and an ill-timed lack of composure saw him give the ball away cheaply; allowing another ball into the box.
Whilst over-hit, the ball was recovered on the opposite flank by Murphy, who was allowed to turn on the ball, get his head up, and whip one last cross in.
The ball was thumped home by the head of Newcastle skipper, Jamaal Lascelles, with just five seconds of added time left on the clock to ensure the home side came away with a deserved point.
#1: Poor Game Management
Let us be clear; in no way, shape or form did Villa deserve to win this game.
That being said, having taken the lead in the 86th minute, there’s no way they should have left the North East with anything less than three points.
Newcastle are a poor team who rarely look like scoring when they have everyone fit, so considering they were without, arguably, their only three players who are likely to cause any damage in Callum Wilson, Miguel Almiron, and Allan Saint-Maximin, they really shouldn’t have come back to get anything from this game.
In between the two goals, Villa had two counter attacks where they outnumbered the Newcastle defense and on both occasions, managed to make a mess of it.
After failing to capitalize on the first attack, they should have been a lot smarter when the second one came around.
By this stage, they were into stoppage time and finding themselves in a 4-on-2 presented two options; punish Newcastle with a second goal to kill the game off for good or take the more streetwise option of heading for the corner flag to eat up some valuable seconds.
To be fair, there was actually a third option – pass to a clearly offside Watkins and surrender possession back to the home side in order to allow them to launch the ball up the pitch for one last time.
No prizes for guessing how Villa handled the situation.
As stated earlier, Villa deserved no more than a draw from the trip to St James’, but they really should have come back to Birmingham with all three.
Recent performances have been below-par, but whereas a sticky patch last season would result in four or five defeats on the bounce, at least this season Villa are picking up results and points here and there.
Fans are right to feel disappointed in the recent showings, but the huge progress made in the last 12 months must not be forgotten about.
Villa go into a tough game against Tottenham Hotspur this weekend, and will no doubt be hoping that Jack Grealish is available again to help inject some much needed creativity into the team and optimism into the fan-base.