Nottingham Forest 2 – 1 Aston Villa
The callow youth, idolised in poetry but whose lustre on the football pitch is dimming. Fast.
Jack Grealish’s petulance was not the reason for defeat but a significant contributing factor. A lengthy spell on the sidelines will follow his red card – the second of the season – through suspension and testing Steve Bruce’s patience once too often.
When Bruce arrived at B6, there was a suspicion that he didn’t approve of Grealish’s attitude; his behaviour at the City Ground proved why. The first booking was stupid, the second petulant. Reduced to ten men, the already wavering defence eventually gave way.
His wasn’t the only youthful error. Sam Johnstone has yet to provide us with conclusive proof that he’s better than what we already had in the squad and his failure to hold onto a shot allowed Assombalonga to equalise just before half-time.
It was a match which began reasonably well for us. Hogan and Kodjia showed signs of a building a useful partnership. The former dragged the defence out of position with a good run, allowing Kodjia to stride forward and score from the edge of the area.
Despite that setback, we looked the more likely of the two sides to win the game until Grealish’s dismissal. Elphick went close from Hourihane’s free-kick, while Hogan had a decent effort saved.
Even though we were down to ten men, it seemed that we’d ridden out the Forest storm. To lose that late in the game is sickening. Bruce said he was “distraught”; I’d rather he was furious.
Even with one man less, we should be able to close out the game. It’s a sign of our lack of confidence that we can’t kill matches off, despite spending a small fortune on experienced players.
Overall, it was a vastly improved performance from the trip to Brentford. Mind you it’s hard to think of many worse games than that? Preston, perhaps?
That’s scant consolation for another defeat which sees us left closer to the bottom three than the top six. Eight points ahead of Blackburn Rovers, we keep kidding ourselves that as Bruce put it, “back to back wins” will sort us out.
The question is, when are those wins coming?
Yes, we have to wait for the side to gel, but there’s no guarantee that will happen any time soon. The remaining fixtures this month only contain one match which I think we should be looking at as a ‘banker’ – and with Villa, I hate using that term – and that’s Ipswich.
Barnsley, Newcastle, Derby and Bristol City; they all need the points for different reasons at both ends of the table. We face a fight and have to prove ourselves ‘up for it’, something which we have struggled to do this year.
Post-match, Bruce hinted that the three at the back which I have to say made us look stronger for most of the game, will be continued and worked on during the week. Let’s hope it pays dividends soon.