In the bleak midautumn

Villa draw 0-0 again, this time with Middlesbrough. Dave Woodhall ponders the situation.

One of the good things about relegation was supposed to be that the games come around so quickly you haven’t got time to dwell on a bad performance. Deal with it and move on before you know it. That’s the theory.

The practice has become all too obvious. Villa’s bad performances are usually followed by another bad performance soon afterwards so there was some trepidation in the air as we welcomed title contenders Middlesbrough to Villa Park on a foul night when everyone with more sense was at home. There was also a feeling of anticipation – would Adama Traore be able to turn over the most pedestrian defence in the Championship, and if so would that be the turning point as far as Steve Bruce’s relationship with the crowd was concerned?

Traore soon made sure that he wasn’t going to kepe his part of the bargain with a fourth minute challenge on Conor Hourihane best described as ‘reckless’. 86 further minutes to stretch, press and generally do all the things Villa never do, against ten men. And they weren’t going to change the habit.

The rest of the first half was tediously pedestrian. Boro were happy with the point they started with, Villa seemed equally happy to let them have it. At least there was some improvement after the break. Scott Hogan’s arrival let to a bit more bite up front and the team finally woke up to begin passing the ball around in the vague direction of the visitors’ goal.

Then Henri Lansbury forgot one of the basic rules of referees, namely that if he gives a straight red against one team in the first half, there’s every chance he’ll even things up in the second. it wasn’t the brightest of tackles, although my totally biased judgement says a red was undeserved.

Villa hit the post, Hogan managed to block a shot that was about the cross the line, Jonathan Kodjia made a welcome re-appearance, we missed a couple more good chances. It was that kind of night. On the balance of play, possession statistics and other meaningless figures, Villa deserved a win. But we didn’t get one and the crowd edged closer towards that turning point.

Incidentally, and I’m making no judgement one way or the other, I wonder how many of the people who complained about the performance (which they had every right to do) would have said what an exciting game it had been had Villa scored three of those chances, let the same number in, and we’d finished with a scoreline similar to the one at Molineux at the same time?

But it didn’t, we failed to score again and Villa are still eighteenth in the league. We’re a third of the way through Springboard September (and I’m copyrighting that one) with just two points to show from two winnable games. The comparison with Roberto di Matteo grows ever-stronger.

On Saturday we’re at Barnsley, in a game that’s been moved for Sky TV coverage. Sky’s solicitors are probably checking the contract for loopholes as I write.