Aston Villa 2-1 Ipswich Town Six Things: double Tammy

Tammy Abraham – bbc.co.uk

Tammy Abraham’s brace gave Aston Villa renewed hope in their play-off push in a 2-1 win over Ipswich Town. Here’s our Six Things from the game.

Villa’s bright start

Unsurprisingly, Aston Villa dominated possession early on, targeting the left flank via the lively Anwar El Ghazi. That proved the source of their sixth minute opener, when Abraham headed home from close-range, following a well-flighted left-sided free-kick from Conor Hourihane. Albert Adomah could have added a second for Villa on 32 minutes, after tapping into the net when John McGinn’s fierce shot was parried, but was ruled offside. Goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski, replacing Dean Gerken in the Ipswich starting line-up, was often called into action in the first half, although some of Villa’s efforts, like one from Hourihane in the latter stages of the first half, lacked the power to truly test him.

Ipswich’s caught in a quandary

After conceding the opener, the visitors had more possession than they had expected to and that did not necessarily work in their favour. Luke Chambers, 33 and James Collins, 35 did not do too much wrong if we were to go by the manual for old-school centre-backs, but their lack of comfort and ability on the ball was a problem. The first half front-man was Will Keane who is a willing runner, but not the type to win aerial duels and that left Ipswich in a quandary; they did not quite have the personnel to play short or go long and the resultant uncertainty in their play fed into the hands of Villa’s tenacious pressers, like McGinn and Glenn Whelan. When Ipswich finally hit the target late in the first half – a shot from Trevoh Chalobah was hit straight at Lovre Kalinic – it was due to not pre-planned build-up play but rather their hosts gifting them the ball in the final third, with the likes of James Chester and Neil Taylor culpable at times.

Double-Tammy

Earlier this month, there were fears that Tammy Abraham could be set to leave Villa and finish the season at Wolves. Instead, he decided to stay in B6 and that move could have a big say in the Championship play-off race, because the Chelsea loanee’s goals have been crucial to keeping Villa in the hunt. The 21-year-old, who occupied Chambers and Collins with his athleticism and clever movement, was denied a second shortly before half-time, but good goalkeeping from Bialkowski only delayed his brace. After McGinn was fouled in the box by Ipswich’s Matthew Pennington, who did not look too comfortable at right-back all afternoon, Abraham coolly slotted home from the spot.

Subs suited Town

Paul Lambert responded to the second goal by replacing Keane with Collin Quaner. The Huddersfield loanee had been used as a wide forward while at his parent club but here, he made an impact down the middle through his powerful running. Quaner occupied Villa’s defenders which meant there was more space outside the box for others like Freddie Sears, who got the Suffolk side back into the contest with a thunderous strike into the top right-hand corner on 76 minutes. By contrast, two of the three substitutions Dean Smith made were almost Steve Bruce-esque, with defensive performers in Ahmed Elmohamady and Mile Jedinak replacing Adomah and El Ghazi respectively. One wonders whether, when Jack Grealish gets back fit, Villa will be able to look after the ball better in the closing stages when defending leads, because the latter stages of this game turned into the kind of scrap that suited Ipswich. Luckily for the hosts, they held on.

Tractor Boys must stand by Lambert

It looks an uphill battle for Ipswich to survive, but it is important that they stand by Paul Lambert, come what may. Their poor summer recruitment meant the Scot inherited a squad that has proved not strong enough for this level; and it is very difficult for any team to stay up when bedding seven new players into the squad mid-season. Lambert has given every ounce of his energy towards lifting the mood around the club and the post-match reception he got from supporters suggests there are elements of the work he is doing that they appreciate. Defeat for Rotherham means the gap to safety for Ipswich remains seven points – and next week’s hosting of Sheffield Wednesday gives them a reasonable opportunity to gain ground. Even if the worst happens this year, however, Lambert deserves an opportunity to turn things around.

Villans must learn to manage games

At Walsall and Brentford, Dean Smith worked with patient owners and loyal fans who stood by him when his sides endured poor runs of form. At Aston Villa, the culture is slightly different: owners tend have lofty aspirations and there are many supporters who have a certain vision of where they feel the club should be. Sometimes those kind of pressures can throw a manager off-course. It might be that the anxiety Smith felt to get that second victory in nine influenced his substitutions, which could have tipped the game into Ipswich’s hands; given that Villa have dropped 11 points from winning positions under his watch, this might not necessarily be a new issue. In future, a game management blueprint closer to the one we saw in the Second City Derby back in November might ease the jitters.