Steve Bruce signed Scott Hogan to get Aston Villa promoted. But last night Hogan’s bizarre intervention stopped a certain goal that would have significantly eased the pressure on Bruce’s job.
Bruce is under serious scrutiny at Villa and will not be helped by this draw against a Middlesbrough side that played for an hour with a man down.
Villa still have just one win after seven games and Languishing near the Championship’s relegation zone, Bruce’s points tally of seven is the same as Roberto Di Matteo’s at this stage last season before his dismissal in October.
Adama Traore was given his marching orders four minutes into the match for a horror lunge
Referee James Linnington had no option but to dismiss Traore for a foul on Conor Hourihane
Britt Assombalonga looks to win the ball back for Middlesbrough with them down to 10 men
ASTON VILLA (4-3-3): Johnstone, Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Taylor, Lansbury, Jedinak (Hogan 46), Hourihane, Snodgrass, Davis (Kodjia 70), Bjarnason
UNUSED SUBS: Samba, Whelan, Steer, Hutton, Adomah
SENT OFF: Lansbury
MIDDLESBROUGH (4-4-1-1): Randolph, Christie, Fry, Gibson, Da Silva, Traore, Leadbitter (Howson 72), Clayton, Downing (Johnson 46), Baker, Assombalonga (Fletcher 82)
UNUSED SUBS: Konstantopoulos, Friend, Shotton, Bamford
SENT OFF: Traore
REFEREE: James Linnington (Isle of Wight)
Owner Tony Xia tweeted an angry emoji after Saturday’s 0-0 draw at home to Brentford and it must be assumed his mood is no better now.
It could have been different had Hogan managed to shift his body quicker 15 minutes from the end.
Jonathan Kodjia forced a fine save from Darren Randolph with a far post header and Conor Hourihane’s volleyed rebound was heading in until Hogan inadvertently blocked on the line. Bruce wheeled away in angst.
Villa certainly put a shift in and were unlucky not to win but that must be put in context of having an extra player from the fourth minute, until Henri Lansbury levelled proceedings in the second half. Villa were given a helping hand early by a ex player.
Adama Traore had a reputation for making confounding decisions when wearing claret and blue and returning to Villa Park last night the 21-year-old produced another perplexing moment.
For some reason the former Villa winger launched into a scissor tackle on Conor Hourihane inside four minutes, totally missing the ball and instead taking out his opponent.
Robert Snodgrass was cautioned as he looked to leave an immediate impression at Villa
Henri Lansbury goes down under the challenge of Middlesbrough keeper Darren Randolph
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Hourihane was going nowhere fast and though no injury was done referee James Linington made the understandable call to send off Traore for serious foul play. Traore protested but he had left Linington little choice.
Boro had actually gone close beforehand, Sam Johnstone diving to save Ben Gibson’s header from a corner, but from then on Garry Monk’s team battened down the hatches.
Villa struggled to break down the ten men, with a recurring criticism of Bruce’s side in evidence again as attacks lacked a sense of design.
The chances came more by happenstance. Snodgrass drew a save from Randolph after a Boro mistake and Neil Taylor’s deft chip to release.
Marvin Johnson was brought down cynically by Lansbury resulting in a straight red card
The ex-Nottingham Forest midfielder can’t believe the outcome of his foul as he is dismissed
Villa manager Steve Bruce cuts a dejected figure after seeing a good chance go begging
Bruce looked to take the initiave by making a double change at the break, sending on Albert Adomah and Hogan and it nearly paid off immediately. Adomah’s cross from the left was palmed out by Randolph only as far as Snodgrass, who hit a shot against the underside of the crossbar.
Just as it seemed Villa would lay siege though, their advantage was wiped out by another act of madness. Marvin Johnson led a rare Boro counter-attack that Lansbury decided to halt with the most cynical of professional fouls. Johnson was by no means through but it could well have led to a goal-scoring chance and again Linington had scant room for maneuvre.
Bruce played his last card with 20 minutes left, sending on Kodjia for his first appearance since breaking his ankle in April. But it was Britt Assombalonga who charged through and brought a fine stop from Johnstone.
Villa continued to press in search of a winner but nothing they tried came off and the familiar sound of boos filled the air at Villa Park at the final whistle.