This article is part of Football FanCast’s Off the Bench series, which places in-game managerial decisions and squad selections under FFC’s microscope.
Aston Villa could only come away with a draw against Burnley at Villa Park on Sunday, and Dean Smith’s replacement of Matt Targett with Neil Taylor could have cost the Villans all three points.
The Midlands outfit have not had the best start to the season despite plenty of investment in the summer, having won just one league match so far. They would have been hoping for all three points here in a winnable game, but they will have to make do with one.
They did take the lead twice, and were 1-0 up when Targett picked up a potential injury and needed to be taken off. Taylor had started all of the team’s Premier League fixtures up until this one, and so was therefore making his first appearance off the bench.
It was unfortunate that the former Southampton man was unable to carry on. He was having a good game up to the that point, contributing well defensively with three clearances and one tackle, and the home side had managed to keep the Clarets out with him at left back.
As the only realistic alternative on the bench, Smith had no choice but to throw on the Wales international, and he will no doubt be ruing his misfortune. Quite frankly, the 30-year-old had a nightmare.
Villa were leading upon his entrance, but it was all level within seven minutes of his introduction, and Taylor must shoulder a fair amount of the blame for the way he allowed Jay Rodriguez to totally outmuscle him in the air. Granted, the striker is taller, but it was still far too easy for him to nod into the corner.
The second Burnley goal was also partly down to him. Matt Lowton had far too much time to whip the ball in from the right and pick out Chris Wood, who was never going to miss from inside the six-yard box.
Overall, his performance just didn’t cut it, and he was a total passenger defensively. In the 29 minutes he was on the field, he failed to make a single tackle, interception or clearance. Burnley cleared attempted to play down the left flank and, although it didn’t work against Targett, the former Swansea man struggled.
Of course, Smith cannot really be blamed for the change as it was forced upon him. But he will certainly be frustrated by how badly the substitute turned out, and he will surely be hoping that Targett’s issue is not too serious.