The Chalkboard: Aston Villa are stealing the advantage thanks to opposition red cards

In all honesty, Aston Villa were pretty poor over both legs of their play-off semi-final with West Brom.

For 75 minutes against the Baggies in the first leg they were up against it and in the return fixture at the Hawthorns they also struggled to get a foot in the game.

Yet, football is a funny game and, lo and behold, Villa are potentially just another 90 minutes away from a Premier League return after prevailing on penalties.

On the chalkboard

For all the hard work Villa have done in a bid to achieve promotion, they’ve had certain circumstances handed to them on a plate.

There’s a tale of four red cards that have and still could benefit Villa. Because of that, they’ve gained an unexpected advantage.

Ahead of their semi-final meeting with West Brom, Hal Robson-Kanu was suspended after he picked up a red card against Derby. The Welshman, had he been available, surely would have taken a penalty in the second leg shoot-out. Advantage number one.

Advantage number two came in the form of a red card for Dwight Gayle. Before his red, he’d been sublime, scoring the opening goal of the tie. Had he played a full part, Albion may have come through themselves.

A third red card then played into their hands at the Hawthorns. Chris Brunt, one of Albion’s chief men from set-pieces was sent off and consequently couldn’t take a penalty.

You’d have betted on him to score, but instead, Albion were reliant on a host of defenders who didn’t look up to the job from 12 yards.

As if that wasn’t enough, another suspension has played into their hands ahead of the final. Derby’s Scott Malone was sent off against Leeds and, as a result, Ashley Cole will likely play at Wembley.

At the age of 38, having to deal with the likes of Andre Green or Anwar El Ghazi is the last thing the left back needs. Malone is hardly consistent himself but he’d have been a more reliable option.

“Fair play nonsense!” – Watch one fan’s astonishing defence of Leeds’ controversial goal against Villa on Sunday in the video below…

Instead, Cole will be a huge weak spot for Villa to target next Monday. If Dean Smith’s men are able to exploit him, there could be plenty of space in behind for the Villans to prosper.

Green was able to make Stuart Dallas look completely out of his depth last month when Villa took on Leeds and, with that in mind, he simply has to target Cole if he starts.