A game that either team could have won ended up being a 0-0 draw. I don’t agree with a lot of the reports that it was a drab game - OK it wasn’t a classic, but certainly there were some talking points and controversial moments.
There has been and will be a lot said on the apparent Tyrone Mings ‘stamp’ on Nelson Oliveira, and this has certainly divided the fan bases, pundits and media, with some being outspoken such as Dave Kitson who asked for a ten-match ban!
Back to the game and it did have its moments; a couple of yellows for dives in the box, penalty shouts that on another day would have been given, and an excellent save from Emiliano Martinez. Really, apart from high-class play, you had the makings of a decent contest.
As usual the argument is that teams should be coming and walking all over us. As one tweeter said, ‘£80m and we can’t beat Reading’. I hate this viewpoint, I really do. There is no such thing as a dead cert; a high probability yes, as otherwise you wouldn’t get shocks in football. Any team that walks out onto a pitch has to have the right mindset or you can get walked over by anyone.
Expensive players give you a high probability of winning, but that’s it - probability. Commitment means everything, and this is something we are starting to see at Reading which we haven’t for a long time.
On to the social scene, and yes Mings dominates it, but I have tried to pick a few other points up as well, such as the lack of support for Dean Smith and the current expectations of the Villans.
Wow a Villa fan!
I honestly hope @OfficialTM_3 is banned for his stamp on Nélson Oliveira. There's no excusing that disgusting act, #AVFC supporter or not.— Crippy Cooke (@CrippyCooke) February 2, 2019
Mings has previous with this too - stamping on Zlatan - so I don't buy anyone telling me it was accidental.
Another performance today that shows we really aren't ready for promotion. If you want to go up you win these games, staying down and building a team for next season should be priority #avfc— Savo Jones (@savoavfc) February 2, 2019
Oh every team has one! (Chris Gunter anyone?)
Taylor still getting pelters despite playing well today and us keeping a clean sheet. #avfc pic.twitter.com/r9bPMYAZT4— MW (@turneravfcuk) February 2, 2019
Also Swift should have been sent off clearly! #avfc— TW Villan (@Villan66332686) February 2, 2019
Shocker! Tom Daley eat your heart out
Hate seeing one of ours doing this. Pathetic #AVFC— ⚽️GrassrootsCoach1️⃣8️⃣7️⃣4️⃣ (@TheTremontiPick) February 2, 2019
That’s what I like to see from a supporter: supporting. Wait...
1 win from last 6 games against Preston, QPR, Wigan, Hull, Ipswich and Reading is dire and along with our poor start means this season is done in terms of top 6. The summer can't come quick enough #AVFC— Mark (@markavfc40) February 2, 2019
You thought the ref was awful...
Frustrating game, didn't do enough to win it. Hardly had a shot in the second half. Awful ref - one of the worst so far, decision making was terrible. A general lack of desire was evident from many players. On the plus side Mings looked solid, keeper got a clean sheet. #avfc— Paul Millar (@_Honki_Tonk_) February 2, 2019
£80m can’t beat little old Reading? Shame on you...
Aston Villa just let me down for £400, Reading... READING?! Spent £80m in the championship and can't beat Reading cba man #avfc— Mr Page (@reece_page_9) February 2, 2019
I could list all the articles that have coverage of the game, but they only talk about the Mings stamp, and believe me there’s a lot all saying the same thing. However, I will share a couple and try and find some other reports on the game!
So Mings first and, starting with the Mirror, they have some lovely graphic pictures of the cuts and shots from while Oliveira was being treated. Similarly the Metro have the same take on it; they go as far as saying its surprising the referee didn’t punish Mings.
Right, back to the actual football. Birmingham Live actually give us credit, they break from the pack saying it was edge of your seat stuff - not the drab affair that 0-0s normally are!
The BBC is as factual as ever saying that Villa were held and had the better chances, which directly contradicts Villa’s local paper. Perspective eh! Over at Sky Sports they have the highlights - surprise surprise there’s no sign of the Mings challenge or the penalty appeals, but hey what do you expect? They also go against the game, calling it “dull”.
Finally, Football.London does a huge amount as you would expect on the Mings challenge, but also manage to write-up the game as well. They call it an impressive performance from Reading, but point out that the subs made hardly any impact (more on that below), and I agree with Jonathan Low on that.
It was a bad, bad challenge and there’s plenty of viewpoints already around this. I would like to focus on something else that got my attention. There’s a little bit of freshness around this team. Players that previously haven’t had the best of seasons are starting to stand up, and the recruitment from Jose Gomes is excellent.
What the effect of getting rid of Ron Gourlay and Paul Clement is will need a bit of a longer-term assessment. However, the sudden impact of Gomes and Howe is there to be seen. We have gone from mediocre displays, poor recruitment and canned answers to something a bit more interesting.
We’ve had a really good window by offloading some players and bringing good kids into the mix. The displays (bar Swansea City) have been decent, and Gomes is genuinely interesting to listen to; very rarely does he make excuses, and his comments after the Swansea defeat were a breath of fresh air.
There has to be a downside though, and here’s how I see it. I watched the Amazon All Or Nothing series on the All Blacks, and one thing that stood in my mind with this was Steve Hansen’s comment around his subs. They have to make an impact and that’s their job. As soon as they come on they are ready to go, and he drilled them in that 15-20 minute spell in maximum impact in the shortest space of time. Impact players off the bench can change a game, and if anything that’s probably the one area where we are weak.
My only concern is whether our improvements are too late. Are we too far adrift or can Gomes get a run started? We all know in this division that three wins make a huge difference, but as I started this column off it’s the mindset of the players, coaches and fans that is so important. If we all believe we can escape this then maybe we have a really good chance. For one I do believe!