Struggling Aston Villa again failed dismally to improve their lowly position as they were held by battling Boro to a second Championship goalless home draw.
Villa had few excuses as for an hour they battled against 10-man Middlesbrough after Adama Traore had been sent off in the fourth minute. In a game which failed to hit any high notes, Villa’s Henri Lansbury was also shown red midway through the second half.
Steve Bruce made four changes as he reverted to a more experienced line-up, and Boro, fresh from their first away win in 13 months, certainly made a positive start with Ben Gibson quickly testing the ability of Villa’s talented goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, who was forced to make an impressive save to his left to keep out a well-directed header.
The game exploded in dramatic fashion in only the third minute when Traore received a direct red card on his return to Villa Park. The returning Villain took out Conor Hourihane with a sliding tackle, both players finishing on the touchline. Card happy referee James Linington consulted his linesman before brandishing a red much to the anguish of the ‘speedy’ midfielder.
Villa’s poor finishing was highlighted when Davies cleverly put Robert Snodgrass in possession only for the Scot to shoot weakly straight at goalkeeper Darren Randolph.
As to be expected Middlesbrough had to mount a rearguard action and at times they had a back line of seven players thwarting Villa’s weak attempts to open the scoring as illustrated by Randolph making saves from Lansbury and Snodgrass.
The barren first half resulted in Villa drafting in Scott Hogan and Albert Adomah but the home side still conspired to make heavy weather of their task. Five minutes into the second half Adomah produced a left wing cross which Snodgrass met with a shot which rattled the crossbar.
Villa’s current plight was emphasised late in the game when Hogan himself brilliantly blocked Hourihane’s shot while on the Boro goalline.
Villa have now scored only one goal in their last three games and their lack of goals was emphasised in this latest performance as they failed to take advantage of 10-man Middlesbrough for an hour.
“It is endless and it is a huge frustration in a big game especially when the referee did his best to level things up with the sending off of Lansbury.
“I thought the decision on Lansbury was a yellow card as we had three players behind the ball and in my opinion I didn’t think it was a red card.
“I don’t like seeing a player sent off but Middlesbrough’s Adama Traore left the floor and it was reckless, dangerous and awful. But he deserved the red card.
“When it was 10 again 10 it was a better game but we created enough chances to have won.”
“Playing against an experienced and a good team we were under no illusions.
“I thought we started the game exceptionally well on the front foot. But you have to face adversity. We did that after Traore was sent off so early in the match and that was the most pleasing aspect of the game for me.
“It was more than a point. It was good to see the true character and the true mentality of the group.
“There are a lot of new players in a squad gelling together. Knowing this will stand them in good stead going forward.
“We have to build from clean sheets and if we put together a strong defence ethic we will able to win games and be in a good position.”