Report: Villa (1) v (1) Huddersfield – Visitors provide a revealing test of squad & stamina.

After our comfortable victory over Rotherham, Huddersfield came to Villa Park with an impressive 100% record.  It was a cliched game of two halves, with Villa dominating the opening 45 minutes, whilst the visitors controlled the second period.

All in all, there is much to mull.  Amongst everything there are certainly positives, but equally, there remain glaring issues unresolved as the transfer window looms ever nearer to closing.

On the basis of our first three fixtures, it’s certainly beginning to dawn that this could be a varied and unpredictable season at the very least.

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The first half Villa looked composed and had Huddersfield completely on the ropes.

Gestede had an early goal ruled out for offsite.  

McCormack soon after grabbed the opener, his first for the club, with a straightforward header.  Given the pressure and chances, it seemed all but certain that Villa might extend their lead.  The opportunities came and went, Ayew notably having a glorious chance cleared off the line and Huddersfield were no doubt grateful to go in just a goal behind.

The second half turned affairs completely on their head.

Huddersfield grew into the game as Villa’s players faded visibly.

Westwood, a terrier in the first half looked leggy.  Tshibola, dominant just minutes earlier, became a weary spectator.

More worryingly were the figures who became anonymous.

Grealish, so threatening in the first half disappeared before our eyes.  A real disappointment.  Jordan Ayew cut a wasted figure, switching from touchline to touchline in pursuit of the ball to little or not effect.  Bacuna and Cissokho were exposed repeatedly in the wide areas to good results by Huddersfield.

Gestede, a lively & dangerous figure in the early exchanges, was reduced to hopeless flick ons as his service disintegrated into pointless hoofed balls.  Rudy is a player with limited strengths, which when isolated as he was, renders him completely useless.

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Villa, however, looked to have negotiated the storm, with Gollini pulling off a fine save at full stretch to deny an acrobatic effort when only a goal seemed probable.  The young Italian also saved bravely after the ball miraculously found its way to an unmarked opposition player bearing down on goal.

There was good fortune also.

After a soft free kick was conceded on the edge of the area, Gollini could only watch (like the rest of us) as the effort struck the inside post.  After the inevitable goalmouth scramble for the rebound we breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Then a moment of madness.

Gollini, attempting to clear a dangerous ball, managed to thump his clearance into the oncoming striker.  The ball, naturally rebounded into the Villa net.

There are a number of ways of looking at this and the result.

We were actually really quite fortunate to be leading before the clanger.  The equaliser wasn’t unfair on us, it was our just desserts.

We had been utterly outplayed, over-run and out-thought for the best part of 30 minutes.  It was arguably even fortunate that we weren’t already behind.

There is also a need to keep things in perspective, but not to blinker ourselves to the obvious.  The goalkeeping clanger, is a clanger.  There’s no getting away from it.  When was the last time you witnessed a goal conceded in quite such comical fashion?  And we’ve seen a few.

Gollini is a young, inexperienced goalkeeper.  He has to learn quickly but may also require some protection from the manager in time.  This is his second high profile mistake in three league games afterall.

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Overall there is much to be taken from the game.

We have the makings of a threatening, dynamic and talented team.  What we must master is a ruthlessness, alongside a discipline to see the job through over 90 minutes.  This will hopefully come together, with the benefit of more game-time, fresh recruits and the benefit of experiences like those encountered tonight.

Next up is a trip to Derby County this Saturday at 5:30pm.

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