Aston Villa lost yet again this time away 2-0 at Championship leaders Newcastle United and my be without Scott Hogan who went off injured and could be out for a number of weeks.
Let’s make no bones about it. Villa are in trouble. Deep trouble. They seem to be advancing at the same pace as Leicester City have recently done in the Premiership by sliding down the table at such a rate that safety seems more than a lifebelt away.
So first things first, how was the performance away at the top side in the division at least in the way of support as well as standings. Well actually not bad seeing some of the culinary delights served up by the Villa since the turn of the year, in fact so bad have the team been of late that serving up a bland pie may be the only answer, after all that’s what the Sutton United reserve goalkeeper, 46 year old Wayne Shaw did in the 83rd minute of Sutton’s FA Cup match against Arsenal last night. And by the way he is now being investigated by the Gambling Commission as one bookie offered 8 to 1 on him eating a pie during the game and one punter went away with a five figure sum.
Sadly Villa were nowhere near the meat pie’s last night, it was more like humble pie. They know they are in trouble and Bruce put out a decent formation that gave as good as it got until the first goal went in just before half time.
After that misfortune went Villa’s way again as an own goal sealed the points for the Magpies and then two players were injured although not at the same time. Dwight Gayle the leagues top scorer with 20 goals limped off in the first half and late in the game Scott Hogan, Villa’s January 12 million quid buy from Brentford landed badly after a corner and was taken off.
How Villa wish they had a striker firing on all cylinders like Gayle and what they would give for those 20 goals. Struggling to find the back of the net in 2017 has been Steve Bruce’s Achilles heel. Three or four weeks ago Villa were sitting merrily in the top half of the table with an outside chance of making the play offs, since then rocked by defeat after defeat and worse putting in dreadful turgid performances they’ve slipped worse than Torville and Dean on a rocking horse. Three weeks ago the Villa were 11 points clear of safety and by last week this had dropped to just 7 points clear of safety. Now there is only a 6 point gap to Wigan in 22nd and do you know what their goal difference is only 1 goal worse than Aston Villa’s. A loss this coming weekend could put them from 17th in the division to 20th. Scary times for the Holte End mob.
Yoan Gouffran netted the opener from four yards and another goalmouth scramble resulted in Henri Lansbury turning the ball into his own net.
Villa as mentioned remain six points above the relegation zone, having collected only one point in 2017, although Steve Bruce’s side had more than matched the Magpies until they fell behind.
Iceland midfielder Birkir Bjarnason went closest for the visitors, failing to hook in Hogan’s flick-on from close range and later having a shot saved by Karl Darlow.
Newcastle’s opening goal came soon after Gayle’s departure, with Villa failing to properly clear a Matt Ritchie cross and French winger Gouffran tapping in.
After that, the hosts took control and often looked likely to extend their lead, although the second goal which took them above high flying Brighton in the table came in fortunate circumstances. Jamaal Lascelles met Jonjo Shelvey’s corner and his effort hit Lansbury, who was lurching at the near post, before ricocheting into the net.
Interviewed after the game Villa manager Steve Bruce said “Scott’s injury compounded the night, because we obviously fear the worst.
“He’s definitely turned his ankle over and we don’t know how serious it is until we see X-rays and scans. The consequences of losing him are huge, but let’s hope it’s not as bad as what we think.
“I thought we were decent in the first half, Newcastle hadn’t been near our goal, and yet we gave a poor goal away. After the restart, we’ve given another one away and the second one was comical and the two or three opportunities we’ve had, we’ve not taken them. That’s where we are at the moment.”
In truth Bruce talked up the team a little in his post match interviews and knows it doesn’t get any easier from here on in. However Bruce as we know is a manager and a survivor who has been through many turbulent times – dare I even mention the Hull City debacle last season so if you want a man at the helm who can pull this around then Bruce is as good a man as any.
Villa striker Scott Hogan was carried off on a stretcher late on and will have further scans today. However Villa are now winless in nine league matches and it’s not only Scott Hogan that Villa need now, probably Hulk Hogan and Crocodile Dundee himself Paul Hogan could probably do a better job goal poaching than what we’ve seen lately.