A report on last nights game where Andy Boyle was given Man of the Match
Villa masterclass against sloppy North End
Plenty of opinion after the game regarding what went wrong for North End but in the cold light of day Aston Villa played close to their potential and we played nowhere near to ours. Add to this the tactic of zonal defending which led directly to the first goal and a horribly sloppy pass by our Talisman that led to the second. Villa had well over £50m of talent on the field and it showed on a night when quality reigned supreme over attempted quantity. In fairness to Alex Neil we have most of our defenders out with injury and insult was added to those injuries when Woods and Earls had to go off at half time. Nevertheless North End put a decent show on in the second half but never at any time in the game did we look like we were going to score and I doubt Villa will get a more comfortable three points away from home this season.
North End started the game with Andy Boyle and Alan Browne coming in for Paul Huntington and Callum Robinson as Alex Neil chose to stick with the 4-2-3-1 which, until recently, has served hime so well. It wasn`t long though before the Villains were stamping their authority on the game and Maxwell made a superb save with the game just a few minutes old. It wasn`t long, though, before the visitors were in front as North End set up to zonal mark from a corner on the right. The plan was very poorly executed and I counted four Villa players on the edge of the North End box with only one White shirt near them. James Chester had the fairly simple task of knocking the ball home but it looked shocking defending from North End. Bad went to worse when Ben Pearson badly mispaced a pass and the quick counter saw Robert Snodgrass send Maxwell the wrong way and give the visitors a very comfotable lead at the break.
Woods and Earl, who both had treatment in the first half, did not reappear for the second period and were replaced by Gallagher and O`Connor. Alan Browne went to centre back as the crowd held its breath and feared the worst. Actually, in the second half, North End looked to have a bit more shape about them with Gallagher controlling things and at least we kept the ball better although we did look vulnerable on the counter attack as we tried to chase the game. The only decent attempt on target, that I can remember, was a Gallagher shot and that was easily saved by Sam Johnstone who had little to do in the Villa goal. North End nearly conceded late on but I suppose it was a moral victory keeping a clean sheet in the second half with the personnel we had in the defence.
A bad night for North End, then, in front of the Sky cameras as we really are now down to the bare bones for Saturdays trip to Ipswich. Too often in this game North End were content to lump the ball up to Hugill and hope for the best but against a defence like Villa`s it was all very much to no avail. I thought that Andy Boyle did well on his first league start of the season and I also thought Kevin O`Connor did nothing wrong in the second half when he replaced Josh Earl at left back. Two points from fifteen isn`t good and I suppose the managers first job for Saturday is to have a roll call of who is fit and available. Clearly we are on a bad run at the moment but it is no good moaning about it as we as fans and the players must just stick together until we come through this bad patch, which we will, and start to bring the points in again.
PRESTON 0-2 ASTON VILLA
FISHER 6 BOYLE 7 WOODS 6 EARL 6
PEARSON 5 JOHNSON 6
BARKHUIZEN 6 BROWNE 6 MAGUIRE 5
MOTM: Andy Boyle