Here we go. Another season starting with blind optimism and ending with relief that it’s over. Or this year the year us long suffering Villa fans something to cheer about?
Although I wasn’t too pleased with Connor Hourihane starting on the bench, player by player, our starting eleven looked solid. With the experience of Glen Whelan and Henri Lansbury in midfield, the crossing abilities of Elmohamady and, ahem, Bacuna on the wings, plus Gabby and Scott Hogan upfront in a 4-4-2. As we got underway however, it was clear that Villa were actually playing a 4-5-1 with Gabby on the left.
It didn’t take long for us to take the lead. After missing a one on one minutes before, Gabby converted Hutton’s low cross, lifting the ball over Alan McGregor from about six yards.
After this, Villa pushed on, and looked good too. Scott Hogan went close, taking advantage of Michael Dawson’s awful free-kick, taking the ball past the former Spurs man, then Marcus Henriksen. Unfortunately for Hogan, the ball ran away from him before he could get his strike away.
While Villa looked good, Hull looked like they’d been in Pryzm until the early hours of the morning. Especially the defenders who had been doing doubles. The moment that best summed their first half up was when Michael Hector’s over hit back pass went out for a corner. In fairness to the Tigers, three of their starting back four were debutants.
Late on in the half, Abel Hernandez nearly caught Sam Johnstone out with a half volley, before Frazier Campbell went close soon after. Ominous signs for the second half.
And when that second half did begin, Villa dropped their intensity completely. Exactly what happened on too many occasions last seasons. And guess what? Hull equalized. Kamil Grosicki, who had been the away sides shining light, showed a good burst of pace to get down the line, before crossing to an unmarked Jarrod Bowen who volleyed in for 1-1.
That goal really put Villa under pressure. Luckily, once a few substitutions were made, it subsided a little. Josh Onomah being one of those substitutes, came on in place of Scott Hogan for his debut just a day after signing for the club.
But it was another substitute who could’ve easily retaken the lead for Villa. Neil Taylor’s free-kick looped over the head of McGregor, but Andre Green, who had the goal to himself, could only put his downward header across the face of it.
The latter stages of the game it just turned into hoof ball as it usually does in the Championship. Villa sent on Chris Samba as a battering ram, and, although it did work to some extent, both teams ended the game with a point apiece.
Obviously, a draw isn’t the end of the world, but I hope Bruce sees it as two points dropped. Nonetheless, if Villa can replicate the first half performance against Cardiff City for the full ninety minutes next week, I can’t see why we won’t be leaving Wales with three points.
Gabriel Agbonlahor – Agbonlahor’s inclusion in the starting eleven suggests he might have a big part to play this season. Furthermore, the fact Hogan came off for Onomah instead of Gabby could mean he’s second choice forward, or maybe I’m just reading into it too much. Even so, the former England strikers tribute to Carl Ikeme after his goal was a class act.