Aston Villa 0 – 1 Ipswich Town
Who would have thought that we’d look fondly on September’s five consecutive draws? The knives are out in the rags, with Steve Bruce the target. Five defeats in six games and no wins in eight tends to have that effect.
The bottom three are still at arm’s length but with Barnsley, Newcastle and Derby all want the points as much as we do, and the way we have played in recent weeks, losing all three isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.
As with the rest of the season, a lack of concentration for ninety minutes proved our undoing. We must surely hold the record for most goals conceded in the last ten minutes of a game. Changing the manager hasn’t solved that problem so either Bruce is not the man for the job – and his record suggests he is – there is something in the fabric of the squad which holds us back from progress.
It’s hard to know why we are suffering in front of goal. Even Ross McCormack scored for Forest at the weekend so is it just a (very long) phase we’re going through? Hourihane and Lansbury both saw decent efforts saved and a pleasant afternoon’s football lay ahead.
The chances continued to come and go, with Bjarnason denied by the woodwork. When you get to half-a-dozen wasted chances, an uneasy feeling grows, like a scratch you can’t itch. It drives you to distraction which is just a short drive from despair.
Even Jonathan Kodjia got in on the act, drawing a good save from Bialkoswki. At half-time, the talk of missed opportunities and mediocrity filled the air, not just about Villa but the game itself. Like us, Ipswich have known better times and this season is another of unfulfilled promise.
The second half saw them become more adventurous, almost as if reaching half-time level was their first target. Taking points became more of a possibility, with Huws, Diagouraga and McGoldrick served notice that Ipswich were wanting to take more than a point from the game. Almost as if our inability to score fed their self-belief.
But this match followed a familiar pattern. With ten minutes left Baker’s header cleared the bar before McGoldrick cleared a header off the line.
And then the sucker punch arrived. As Villa pressed forward, it duly arrived; Huws’ celebration told its’ own story. Ipswich hadn’t won away from home since before Christmas yet we presented them with a belated present.
Our inability to score is costing us dear; before it was an inability to score enough, now any goal will do. Four blanks in six games tell the story of our season; we’re not prolific enough for our leaky defence.
We haven’t kept a clean sheet since the win at Queens Park Rangers and when you go eight games without repeating that, you need strikers who will find the net. Midfielders must chip in with their fair share.
The upside is that we’re creating chances; if we weren’t doing that, we really would be in the cart. That may yet come…