Aston Villa draw 0-0 at Reading in a game Dave Woodhall struggles to remember.
Reading is a fairly aimless sort of place. It’s too far from London to be interesting but not far enough away to be different. Their football club spent much of their existence in the bottom divisions then they found themselves with a rich owner, got to the Premier League and yo-yoed between there and the Championship for a bit before going back to their previously uneventful status. In the process they moved to another of those soul-less, identikit, stuck on retail park on the edge of town new grounds that will be as typical of the late twentieth century as Archibald Leitch’s unmistakable designs were of the period between the wars.
All in all, a trip to Reading is rarely memorable and Villa’s latest sojourn to the Madejski Stadium won’t feature in many great away days lists. It was cold, the teams did little to warm the crowd up and at the end of the match both had got a point and neither would have found it useful.
Tyrone Mings made his debut for Villa and did well, a minor controversy aside – and anyone who criticises him for what happened should look at the video footage and ask themselves how he could have avoided the impact. Football is so quick these days that accidents happen. Nobody’s to blame.
Apart from that, it was Villa’s first clean sheet for what seems an age but unfortunately it was also the first time we’d failed to score for approximately as long. Tommy Elphick hit the bar in the first half, Tammy Abraham missed a couple in the second. And that was it.
if the defence was solid enough then further up the pitch the usual shortcomings were once more in evidence. Anwar El Ghazi yet again defined the term ‘flatters to deceive’ and Jack McGinn was his usual workhorse self, while new arrival Tom Carroll came on late in the game and looked useful without ever seeming to have the touch of class about him that can transform such a game as this. But the fact is that without Jack Grealish Villa lack any sort of midfield spark and to labour a point that’s been made regularly over the past two years, for all the money that’s been spent it just isn’t good enough.
A draw moved Villa up the table but teams above us have a game in hand so that’s not too clever, either. Talking of which, of the five teams immediately above us, we’ve played four of them under Dean Smith. Away from home we’ve outplayed three, winning two and being robbed against the third. At home we beat one while barely breaking sweat. No, I don’t know either.
Next up are Sheffield United at home on Friday night. It’s going to be a much more difficult one than it should given the resources available to both clubs and the form Villa are in but a bit of that style we saw against the other promotion contenders and the performance at Reading really will be forgotten.