PREVIEW: PREMIER LEAGUE RETURN

After a 100-day shutdown, fans of the English Premier League welcome the return of top-flight football this Wednesday. Aston Villa host Sheffield United, before Arsenal travel to take on Manchester City at the Etihad. 

Join us for a detailed preview into the first Premier League fixtures to hit our screens since March, and read on to learn about all the new rules, regulations and TV enhancements that have been put in place.

PREMIER LEAGUE RETURN COVID MEASURES

The reintroduction of the Premier League will see managers, coaches and players subject to newly introduced Covid-19 measures, in an effort to ensure the safety of all those present at games. Televised fixtures will also undergo ‘broadcasting enhancements’ as a way to mitigate the behind-closed-doors matchday experience.

As per the implemented safety measures, players will not shake hands at the beginning of each fixture and are encouraged to refrain from spitting and clearing their nose while on the pitch. Additionally, during goal celebrations, players have been asked to keep a reasonable distance between each other. Surrounding the match officials in any case of controversy is out and ball boys and ball girls have been removed, with spare balls being lined up around the pitch. 

Teams can bring a bigger matchday squad, naming nine substitutes on the bench, with five allowed to enter the play per match. This change promises to add a new tactical dimension to the game – and perhaps favours the teams with big squads – while players and teams build up their match fitness in the coming weeks. 

From a television standpoint, fans will enjoy the introduction of a tunnel camera and be given the option to add artificial crowd noise while they watch the game. Broadcasters will also be able to show live video feeds of pre-selected fans as a way “to improve the environment both visually and acoustically”.

Through these measures, it is hoped that the Premier League navigates a successful and safe return to football, while also providing spectators with a number of options to help them further enjoy their viewing experience.

Now that we know what to expect in terms of the regulations when we tune-in this Wednesday, let’s dive head-first into a preview of the upcoming fixtures.

PREMIER LEAGUE RETURN BETTING

Aston Villa

A restart button was exactly what Dean Smith’s side needed, as numerous defensive errors and unfortunate injuries throughout the season have seen them slip progressively down the table into the relegation zone. All hope of keeping Villa afloat will be placed upon the shoulders of local lad and captain, Jack Grealish, whose incredible performances have attracted the attention of a number of big clubs in the league. With a game in hand, a win against Sheffield United will propel the Villans up to 16th place, where they will find themselves just one point behind Brighton & Hove Albion.

Sheffield United

Sheffield United have seen an immense resurgence since their return to the Premier League. Now in a seventh-place tussle for possible European places, the Blades have spent a season quietly capitalising on every point, refusing to lose against the teams currently around them. Manager Chis Wilder has stated that his players are in “brilliant condition” and will expect nothing less than a win, as the full three points will see The Blades climb above both Wolves and Manchester United and into fifth place.

ASTON VILLA VS SHEFFIELD UNITED: PREMIER LEAGUE BETTING ODDS

Although the travelling team, Sheffield United head into the fixture as favourites at 6/5 (2.20), with Aston Villa’s chances measured at 47/20 (3.35).

Manchester City

Finding themselves in a lonely second-place spot, the reigning champions stand 25 points adrift of the runaway league leaders and five points ahead of Leicester City. As Pep Guardiola prepares his team to tackle a travelling Arsenal side, questions over the squad’s mentality have surfaced. Will Manchester City choose to focus on other competitions in an effort to secure silverware this season? We’ll soon find out.

Arsenal

Mikel Arteta returns to the Etihad Stadium this Wednesday to face his former mentor, Pep Guardiola, in possibly the biggest test of his managerial career to date. With a renewed sense of optimism around the Emirates since the dismissal of Unai Emery, the Gunners have found some form, losing only once in their last 10 Premier League fixtures. Arteta will aim to use his inside knowledge of Guardiola’s approach to Arsenal’s favour, as a victory could not only shoot the Gunners up to sixth place but also send a clear message of intent to the teams around them.

MANCHESTER CITY VS ARSENAL: PREMIER LEAGUE BETTING ODDS

Manchester City find themselves as strong favourites at 1/3 (1.33), with the chances of Arsenal causing an upset calculated at 79/10 (8.90).

ENERGYBET

Keep up to date and enjoy markets on all the fantastic Premier League fixtures this midweek and weekend with EnergyBet.

Tune in to EnergyBetWorld to find out more information about live sports, as well as the exciting online world of esports, and stay informed about the biggest sports events from around the world.   

*Odds subject to change. Odds correct at time of publishing.

Aston Villa vs Derby County: Championship Play-off Final Betting Preview

On Monday, Aston Villa and Derby County will bring the English Football League play-offs to a close as they battle it out in the “richest game in football” at Wembley stadium and bid for promotion to the Premier League.   

Yes, it’s cliché to focus on the financial implications of this game, but when the rewards are so, well, rewarding, it’s hard to focus on anything else! By securing promotion to the Premier League the victors will guarantee around £170m into the club coffers over the next three years. For 2019/20 they’ll earn £95m, with parachute payments in 2020/21 and 2021/22 – should they be relegated after one season – totalling an estimated £75m across two seasons. Avoid first season relegation and the amount rises to a minimum of £300m. So, yes, this game is absolutely huge!

Aston Villa

For the second successive season Aston Villa’s entire campaign comes down to a single, all or nothing, Wembley showdown. This is an unusual position for Villa to find themselves in, having spent 28 consecutive seasons in English football’s top flight prior to their Premier League relegation in 2016.

Following last year’s devastating loss to Fulham, Villa started the season poorly and manager Steve Bruce was sacked and replaced by Dean Smith. Under Smith, Villa finished the season in superb form – which included a club-record streak of 10 victories in a row – and secured a fifth-place finish. In the semi-finals, they came from behind to beat West Brom in the first leg at Villa Park 2-1, before losing the second leg 1-0. As there are no away goals in the play-offs, the match went to extra-time and then penalties, with Villa winning the shootout.

Derby County

Unlike Villa, Derby have plenty of play-off experience. Unfortunately for Derby though, this experience mostly involves defeat. Aside from a play-off final victory against West Brom in 2007, Derby have lost finals in 1994 and 2014 (to ten-man QPR), and semi-finals in 1992, 2005, 2016 and 2018! This season though, things feel a little different.

Under Frank Lampard, the Rams have become a side for the big occasion and pressure situations. They defeated West Brom on the final day of the season to finish sixth and secure a play-off spot. Having lost the opening leg of the semi-final 1-0 at home to Leeds, they then conceded the opening goal in the second leg at Elland Road. With the chips down, they fought back for a stunning comeback and a 4-2 victory that booked their place in the final.  

ASTON VILLA VS DERBY COUNTY: PLAY-OFF FINAL BETTING ODDS

Aston Villa are favourites entering the final, with odds of 6/5 (2.20) for victory against Derby County. Derby aren’t complete underdogs though and find themselves priced at 9/4 (3.25) to win the game.

Aston Villa vs Derby County: Championship Play-off Final Betting Tips

Aston Villa have been by far the better side when these teams have met this season, winning both games by an aggregate score of 7-0 and are therefore favourites to win. However, Derby have made a habit of coming up big when it matters this season and have taken games to penalty shootouts (with victories against West Brom, Southampton and Manchester United) on numerous occasions this season.

We can see Derby forcing a draw in 90 minutes at 9/4 (3.25) and the game eventually going to the lottery of penalties. At which point it’s anybody’s guess, as Villa progressed via shootout success in the semis.

*Odds subject to change. Odds correct at time of going to print.

3rd round of the FA Cup

Millwall play Barnsley at home in a 3rd round FA cup tie that is of special significance to EnergyBet. Manager, Neil Harris can be pleased with his team’s home form in recent weeks. Millwall have won seven and drawn three of their thirteen home games this season. They will be hoping to continue this trend in their home tie against Barnsley who are just four places below them in the league. COYL!

Top of the Championship versus bottom of the Premier League

Championship leaders, Wolves take on bottom of the EPL Swansea City in an intriguing encounter. Wolves have been impressive all season and are nine points clear at the top of the league having scored a ton of goals. Swansea on the other hand having score just thirteen goals during this campaign may struggle at the Molineux.

Steve Bruce’s Aston Villa entertain League 1’s Peterborough United

Steve Bruce may be wondering what he must do to please the Villa fans. Villa are currently fifth in the Championship just three points from the team above and have a home tie against a team one division below them. A good cup run could well get some of the ‘Bruce out’ brigade on his side. A healthy turn out is expected at Villa Park as Villa are 4/7 favourites to progress.

Leicester City should be too strong for Fleetwood Town

Leicester travel to Lancashire to take on Fleetwood Town. Fleetwood who are mid table in League 1 are probably happy just to have drawn a Premier League team to excite their fans. Leicester have returned to something approaching title winning form in climbing back to eighth and should not really be troubled by the seaside club.

All the above teams are all included in our 3rd round weekend acca. Leicester City, Aston Villa, Wolves and Millwall all to win. £20 stake returns £199.50

Mid Table Position About Right For Inconsistent Villa

Aston Villa finished the 2016/17 season in 13th position in the Championship which it has to be said is about absolutely right for Steve Bruce’s man. The midlands club were fairly formidable at home with just 3 defeats in their 23 home matches in a mammoth 46 match season in their first season in the Championship following their relegation the previous year.

They scored 33 goals at home but the problem was away from the home turf of Villa Park. On their travels they were regularly sick as dogs with just 4 away wins to their credit all season. They couldn’t score particularly well away either with just 14 goals coming from their 23 matches.

They finished the season with 16 wins, 16 defeats and 14 draws and had a goal difference of minus one. Just two more goals would have seen Villa leapfrog both Cardiff City and Preston North End as all three teams finished on 62 points, four ahead of both Barnsley and fellow midland club Wolves.

Early in the season Villa looked in trouble as they managed just one win in their first 12 games under then new manager Steve Bruce who had left Hull City despite taking them into the Premiership the previous season.

Aston Villa were languishing in 20th place just one place off the relegation zone. They were drawing too many matches with 8 of those 12 games ending in stalemate with the opposition. Then a run of 7 victories in 11 games saw them up as high as 9th place and on the fringes of the play off spots. However a dreadful run of 7 defeats in 8 games saw them drop like a stone back into 17th position. In a topsy turvy see saw season they than 7 of the next 8 games to put them back up into 11th position but the chances of a play off spot were gone.

Steve Bruce lamented the long season of 46 games in the division but to be fair it is the same for the other 23 teams. A disappointing end to the campaign saw just one win in the last 6 games so Villa were like a Jeckle and Hyde team throughout the season and 13th place was exactly where Villa should have finished. With the season over Bruce can regroup, bring in new players, get rid of a sackful of underachieving stars and lower the wage bill. Steve Bruce is the right man for the job. He’s been there, seen it and done it and will overhaul the current squad without a doubt.

Villa lost the first game of the season to Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 but things looked up when they stuffed Rotherham 3-0 in the following match. Sadly for Villa this was a false dawn as everybody else also stuffed poor Rotherham at some point or other during the season. Villa took a bad defeat 3-1 away from Bristol City and then couldn’t stop drawing against Derby, Nottingham Forest, Ipswich and a decent draw albeit at home with eventual champions Newcastle United amongst other draws.

Successive wins in October over eventual play off teams Fulham and Reading put Villa back on track as they enjoyed a decent run which included draw at Wolves and a strong Brighton team down in Sussex before a 3-1 home win over Cardiff City.  A dreadful run at the start of the year until the end of February had the whole club rattled with a 3-0 defeat by Brentford probably the worst although a 3-1 home defeat by Barnsley took the biscuit as far as a lack of effort was concerned.

This awful period of the season was thankfully halted with a 1-0 home win over Derby and there followed 6 wins out of 7 with a solitary 1-0 defeat at Huddersfield. This was the only goal the Villa conceded in 8 games as the defence became miserly. Unfortunately this was not too last as the last 6 games saw only one win despite it being a 1-0 win over bitter rivals Birmingham City that potentially could have relegated City. Before this Villa had endured two successive 3-1 defeats at home to Reading and away at Fulham. On the last day of the league season Jack Grealish rescued a point for Villa in a 1-1 draw with Brighton which spoilt Brighton’s party. A win would have given the South Coast club the championship and not Newcastle.

In the cups Villa were defeated at the first hurdle going down 2-0 to Spurs in the FA Cup 3rd round in January and defeated in the EFL Cup by Luton Town in a dreadful 3-1 defeat as far back as August.

The pick of the players for me was midfielder Conor Hourihane, striker Jonathan Kodija signed from Bristol City and goalkeeper Sam Johnstone on loan from Manchester United and a keeper with a great future ahead of him wherever he goes.

As upside down seasons go this was it for Villa but I have no doubt with Steve Bruce at the helm that Villa will come back stronger next season and fight for promotion. This was our final season of sponsoring Aston Villa football club and it has been a privilege to report on their games this season and it only leaves the whole crew here at Energy Bet Casino to wish Aston Villa all the very best for the future!

Brighton Slip Up, Newcastle Win Championship As Blackburn Go Down

Newcastle United bounced back into the Premier League at the first atempt as champions as they snatched the Championship title away from Brighton on a dramatic final day.

A huge boisterous crowd of 52,276 at St James’ Park witnessed goals from Ayoze Perez, Chancel Mbemba and Dwight Gayle as the Magpies secured a deserved 3-0 victory over Barnsley for Rafa Benitez team in front of owner Mike Ashley. Manager Benitez has insisted for weeks that promotion was the only objective, but as he prepares for the talks with Ashley which will determine whether or not he remains on Tyneside, he will do so with a bonus piece of silverware sitting in the trophy cabinet.

Barnsley keeper Adam Davies did well to turn Atsu’s fierce shot over the bar after the winger had tricked his way past Elder with the visitors under intense pressure, and he excelled himself a minute before the break to deny the same man as he fired hard and low towards the far post.

However Perez hd notched the first with a nice flick on to open the scoring after 23 minutes.

Substitute Massadio Haidara blazed over from 12 yards just before the break and Perez tested Davies seconds after it as Newcastle dominated but struggled to kill off the game.

That changed when Davies dived to save Perez’s stinging 59th-minute effort, only for Mbemba to follow up from close range and make it 2-0.

Davies was called up once again 10 minutes later to tip over Mitrovic’s header and Shelvey struck the foot of the post two minutes later, but opposite number Rob Eliot had to make late saves from substitutes Marley Watkins and Elliot Lee to preserve his clean sheet.

Substitute Gayle added a third at the death and news of Villa’s equaliser sent the home fans into raptures.

Aston Villa’s 1-1 draw against Brighton was due to the Villa Park club’s goal from Jack Grealish in the last minute of a nervous encounter between the two clubs. Brighton should have wrapped up the game with a couple of chances and took the lead with a Glenn Murray penalty for which Nathan Baker was went off after clipping Sam Baldock in the box.

That was after 63 minutes but the 10 man Villa came back well to snatch a point.

With Newcastle Champions and Brighton runner up the four play off places up for grabs were all assured going into Sunday’s final games of the Championship. ready stayed in 3rd after thumping stuggling Burton 4-2. Reading had led 3-0 and were cruising it before two goals in 3 minutes for Burton put them right back in the game only for Grabben to clinch a 4th for the away side with six minutes to play.

Sheffield Wednesday nabbed 4th place despite losing 2-1 at home to an inform rampant Fulham who finish the season in 6th and play Reading in the play off semi Final.

Huddersfield finished in 5th after losing to Cardiff in a heavy 3-0 defeat and looked out of sorts in a poor run in to the season where they ended with a minus 2 goal difference. Fulham below them ended with a plus 28 goalscoring record Huddersfield will entertain Sheffield Wednesday in the other play off match.

Down at the bottom of the Championship it was mayhem as 3 big teams were battling for survival, Harry Redknapp’s Birmingham City, Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers and it was certainly a day for drama as all three teams won which meant relegation for Blackburn Rovers after winning the Premier League in 1995.

To rub salt into the wounds Blackburn were relegated to League One on goal difference, despite beating Brentford at Griffin Park by a superb 3-1 margin. Rovers began in the final relegation place, level on points with Forest with an inferior goal difference.

Charlie Mulgrew’s free-kick and Danny Guthrie’s strike put Rovers ahead, before Lasse Vibe flicked one back. Craig Conway’s spot-kick made it 3-1, as Bees’ Harlee Dean saw red but Forest and Birmingham City wins sent Rovers down.

Britt Assombalonga grabbed a brace as Nottingham Forest avoided relegation on goal difference with an emphatic win over Ipswich 3-0 victory at a sell out City Ground.

Assombalonga’s penalty settled early nerves and Chris Cohen’s deflected strike made it 2-0 after the break.

With relegation rivals Blackburn and Birmingham both winning, Forest’s safety was still not certain. 1-0 or 2-1 would have seen Forest and Blackburn equal so they had to be careful and not concede or put the result beyond doubt and they did the latter when Assombalonga then sealed victory with a fine solo strike to ensure Blackburn drop out and Forest stay in the Championship.

Harry’s luck was on the shine again as old Redknapp did another saviour act as Che Adams scored the only goal of the game at Ashton Gate as Birmingham ensured survival in the Championship. With both Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers winning their games, Blues also had to win to stay up.

But Redknapp’s side kept cool to earn their second straight victory. Blues’ goal came on 16 minutes from striker Adams, only playing as last week’s sending off was overturned following the game against Huddersfield Town.

Relegated Wigan finished the season with a 1-1 home draw against Leeds United and bottom placed team Rotherham who have had a horrible season by anyone’s standards ended on a brightish note by not losing. Their final match of the campaign also ended 1-1 although Tom Ince rescued Derby with a late penalty.

Finally Wolves beat Prestom 1-0 whilst Norwich hammered QPR 4-0 in a game of little relevance but a nice way to end the season nonetheless.

Late Grealish Goal Spoils Brighton’s Party

A last minute Jack Grealish goal earned the claret and blues a 1-1 draw and meant Brighton were robbed of the Championship title on the last day of the season leaving Newcastle United to be crowned as Champions.

His speculative shot from 25 yards squirmed to Brighton keeper David Stockdale’s left hand side and into the corner of the net in the 89th minute to leave Brighton players agahst and shellshocked. It was the only mistake Stockdale made in a solid performance but was enough for the Championship crown to end up in the North East.

Aston Villa for large chunks of the match looked exactly like they finished, a mid table Championship club with one or two decent performances but without full solidarity.

The Premier League-bound Seagulls were beaten by Bristol City and Norwich in their past two games with only three points required to seal top spot.

Glenn Murray’s penalty after Sam Baldock was fouled by Nathan Baker, who was sent off for the challenge, looked to be sending them towards the title.

However, Grealish’s equaliser handed top spot to Newcastle, who needed to beat Barnsley at home and happily obliged.

Brighton had their chances to win it and Baldock should have made it 2-0 with the goal gaping but Villa played a bit of a Jeckle and Hyde game, good in sections of the match and opened up at the back at will in others. Their point against Brighton means the Villa finish 13th in the Championship after relegation from the Premier League last season and lets be fair over the course of an up and down season that’s about right.

Sadly for the Seagulls, Chris Hughton’s side, who confirmed their return to the top flight on 17 April, also miss out on a fourth league title in 16 years with no other current EFL team having won more league titles since 2000 than the Seagulls.

Henri Lansbury who always sounded like a firm of London estate agents wasted their clearest opportunity prior to Murray’s opener, heading over the crossbar with the goal at his mercy. He also missed a chance in the second half and had a fairly rotten game all in all.

Visiting goalkeeper David Stockdale was also forced into several smart saves, the best to deny Conor Hourihane from long range although he looked to be at fault for Grealish’s late equaliser.

Having played the last half an hour with 10 men following Baker’s straight red card, the 31-year-old keeper was wrong-footed by the Villa midfielder’s strike despite appearing to initially have it covered.

Brighton will now have to pick themselves up after their stuttering end to the season as they prepare for their first top-flight campaign for 34 years. However Hughton is a man of immence experience and did good jobs managing for both Spurs and Newcastle in the Premiership so the blue and white stripes should be in good hands with Hughton holding the reigns.

Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce sporting cuts and bruises thanks to a couple of mole removals during the week was frank and to the point when interviewed after the game:

“We’re 31 points behind Brighton and that’s unacceptable. I’ve got to have a squad of players who can mount a challenge otherwise I won’t be sitting here [next season]. We’ve finished 13th and that’s the lowest I’ve finished in my career.

“The draw put a bit of a dampener on it [for Brighton] but they have got promoted. For us to be 31 points behind them shows the work I’ve got and we’re as jealous as hell.”

A deflated Brighton boss Chris Hughton:

“Today is a negative day, it’s difficult, but there are far more pluses. What these lads have achieved this season has been magnificent. David [Stockdale] has been excellent for us all season and he had made two very good saves from free-kicks before. There’s never any portion of blame. We have to accept it as a team.

“For us the season is finished and we have achieved our goal. We’re playing in a division where there are some very big teams, who have spent big money, and we have managed to come in the top two.”

Brighton will need a couple of players with good experience to bolster their squad in the summer and one would imagine Villa will have a huge clear out sooner rather than later so they have a good chance of being in Brighton’s situation. Lucky they have a manager with experience, strength and a good record and with the right backing Bruce can provide Villa with a good promotion challenge next season.

Blackburn Win In Close Encounter Over Villa

Lowly Blackburn kept their chances of staying in the Championship a boost with a close hard fought 1-0 win over Aston Villa. It was all one way traffic in the first half with Blackburn on the offensive knowing that only a win would give them a chance of staying in the division. Three times in the first half Blackburn almost took the lead through Nyambe, Graham and Jason Lowe. In fact Blackburn were head and shoulders above a subdued Villa.

Having dominated the first half, Rovers opened the scoring when Danny Graham converted a Jason Lowe cross to lift an Ewood Park crowd with little to cheer this season. Sure Aston Villa had more possession in the game with 56% however they concentrated the ball in the midfield area and never really looked dangerous except the odd touches from Anthony Kodija.
Aston Villa would have relegated Blackburn if they had won but strangely more than a few Aston Villa fans actually wanted the hosts to win. Chants of: ‘Come on Blackburn’ echoed from away end as a section of the 6000 travelling supporters cheered on the home side.

 
Obviously Villa fans wanted Blackburn to do well in the hope of their bitter rivals Birmingham City being relegated instead. This result did Birmingham and their new manager Harry Redknapp no favours though and Birmingham were left to their own devices with a 2-0 home win over Huddersfield Town in a game full of incident. Lukas Jutkiewicz missed an early Blues penalty after Che Adams was fouled. Adams was then sent off following a 23rd-minute challenge on Martin Cranie but Jonathan Grounds put Birmingham ahead four minutes before the break. Craig Gardner doubled the lead from Blues’ second penalty, following Dean Whitehead’s foul on Jacques Maghoma.

 
In a tense atmosphere in front of a 26,914 near full house, Blues wasted a glorious chance with their missed eighth-minute penalty, after Adams was brought down by Mark Hudson. Victory kept Birmingham out of the relegation zone and, with just one match remaining, they are two points above Blackburn and Nottingham Forest but have an inferior goal difference. So it will go down to the last kick of the season to see which of the three teams will join already relegated Wigan and Rotherham in League One next season.
For Aston Villa they looked jaded and at times out of touch knowing it’s a mid table ending to a season that started with hope, spiralled into near disaster, had a fantastic run coming out of winter and a tepid ending to the campaign.Blackburn fought tooth and nail for the three points and deserved them although it took Rovers until after the break to get the winning goal. Danny Graham’s goal was enough to seal victory for Blackburn Rovers who live to fight another day.

 
The claret and blues just couldn’t get going as their troubles on the road continued, they looked lethargic and bored. Four wins in a Championship season away from home is simply not good enough and Villa need to change that next season. Whether they will be up against Rovers or their bitter rivals, Blues, will only be decided next week.
The hosts’ keeper David Raya had denied Jonathan Kodjia with a good save that was Villa’s best moment. But it is far from what Villa are capable of. Despite their deserved win, Rovers remain in the drop zone on goal difference, but will stay up if they better Nottingham Forest’s final-day result, after Forest lost at QPR. Tony Mowbray’s 22nd-placed Rovers travel to Brentford on Sunday, 7 May, while 21st-placed Forest host Ipswich in their final game and 20th-placed Birmingham travel to Bristol City.

 
Blackburn could survive even with a defeat at Brentford, should Forest lose by two goals more than Rovers, while victories for both sides would leave Birmingham needing a win to avoid the drop. Complicated? It could well turn out to be.Villa came into the game on the back of a derby win against Birmingham, and having conceded, brought on Gabriel Agbonlahor in a bid to change the game and they rallied, despite losing Kodjia to injury. However, Blackburn showed great spirit to keep Steve Bruce’s side at bay and they survived the five minutes of added time to given themselves significant hope for the final day.
Rovers Manager Tony Mowbray had the team on a seven-game unbeaten run since his arrival in late February, then Rovers then lost three games in a row to dent their hopes.
However, they have regrouped to record two wins and two draws to give their survival bid a huge lift.

 

Tony Mowbray had this to say:
“Danny Graham has been unavailable for most of my time at the football club and is way off fitness-wise where he should be, but players like Graham, when you need a goal and you need to win a football match, you have to have him on the pitch.”
“The last couple of home games have been nervous for us, but I thought we started really well today on the front foot, played a lot of the first half in their half, asked questions of them.”
“Whilst it didn’t get us a goal first half, it gave us a momentum that we took into the second half, got the goal and saw the game out.”

 

Steve Bruce was his usual honest self:
“That’s arguably the worst we’ve played since I’ve been here, but a big club like ours, away from home, four wins all season, is nowhere near good enough to where we should be.”
“Too many times I’ve seen us play the way we did today, where we haven’t done enough in every department.”
“We were absolutely hopeless. Hopeless. And unfortunately away from home I’ve seen that too many times. Not good enough and I’ve been here the best part of six months and too many times I’ve come away like that and thought, ‘Dear oh dear, that was inept’.”

It is obvious Bruce will put his stamp on the team in the summer. I can’t wait for the summer sales.

 

Agbonlahor Fires Birmingham Into Trouble

Back from injury, his future uncertain and with many pundits saying he was ‘yesterday’s man’ Gabby Agbonlahor scored the only goal of the game in a tense tussle as Aston Villa beat fierce rivals Birmingham City 1-0 at Villa Park.

It was Harry Redknapp’s first game in charge of the Blues and he like the rest of us watched a poor game of football that neither side deserved to win but win Villa did to put more pressure on Birmingham with just two matches to go to conclude the season. Continue reading “Agbonlahor Fires Birmingham Into Trouble”

Villa’s play off hopes gone for a Burton

Kodija scores another early goal for Aston Villa but battling Burton keep up hopes of staying alive in the division with a point.

Villa’s minimal chances of an outside play off place were thwarted by a determined Burton desperately in need of points, any point as they drew one apiece at Burton’s Pirelli stadium.

It’s fitting that Burton’s ground is called the Pirelli stadium because Aston Villa did look tired throughout the match and the home side came from behind to improve their hopes of avoiding relegation with a draw that hampers Aston Villa’s late Championship play-off push.

Villa looked set for an eighth win in nine games when top scorer Jonathan Kodjia scored his 19th Championship goal of the season in the third minute.

But former Villa youngster Lloyd Dyer, who also used to play for West Brom and Birmingham, levelled after 61 minutes. He latched onto Kyle McFadzean’s angled pass to fire home a searing drive. The equaliser had been coming and after nearly 450 minutes of Villa not conceding, Dyer fired in to level the scores as Villa’s defence appeared to stop.

Bruce immediately introduced Jack Grealish and Conor Hourihane but it made no difference and now Villa must look to next season as their play-off hopes were ultimately extinguished with this draw. To even be talking about that seems incredible after that horrendous Villa winter when nothing went right and nothing went in.

As for Nigel Clough’s team? That equaliser lifted Burton five points clear of the relegation zone, while Steve Bruce’s Villa are now 11 points adrift of the top six with five games to play, thanks to Sheffield Wednesday’s win over title-chasing Newcastle. Villa remain in 11th position.

Villa took the lead when Ivory Coast international Kodjia – a winner at the Pirelli Stadium with former club Bristol City in August – swooped on a poor pass from Burton defender Ben Turner to race in unchallenged and slot past goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin.

Since Kodija’s signing in late August, Villa have netted 38 times in the Championship, of which the Ivorian has now netted 19 of those and that includes him missing five games because of his involvement in the African Cup of Nations.

But the visitors’ key player limped off with a dead leg on 36 minutes, to be replaced by Scott Hogan, and they failed to press home the advantage and Villa were wasteful at times. In fact with Kodija out of it, Villa’s threat was dampened and Burton got back into the match.

Burton had bags of set pieces but couldn’t muster anything with them and although they deserved a draw they got it with their only on target shot of the game.

Burton’s Marvin Sordell glanced a header just off target early in the second half before Dyer deservedly equalised with his sixth goal of the season – only the second goal Villa have conceded in their past nine games.

Brewers substitute Lucas Akins fired just wide late on, while Villa went close through Jordan Amavi, and the home side also had to be thankful to Turner at the end, when the defender made two crucial clearances.

Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce was ever honest John in is reaction to the game:

“We have to admit that we were poor. We lacked sharpness and some of them were running on empty, to be honest. In my experience, that happens when you play two or three games quickly after an international break.”

“It was frustrating but Burton are good at what they do. It’s never easy to come here. We knew that. But, after getting off to a good start, we have to take care of the ball better than we did.”

Burton Albion boss Nigel Clough was equally honest in his interpretation of the match:

We deserved a point after the start we got off to.  It was less than ideal to give a team like Villa a goal start after a couple of minutes, especially with them being so resilient and resolute in defence of late.”

“We knew it was going to take something to break them down and we had to take the game to them which I thought we did for the majority of the game.”

A draw was a fair result for both teams in the end. Burton will be happy with a point and Villa will be admiring the holiday brochures. Bradford or Barbados Steve?



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