Craig Dawson was lucky not to be punished defensively by Aston Villa having let boss David Moyes down in West Ham United’s 3-1 win on Wednesday night.
The Watford loanee has become a pivotal cog in the Hammers backline in recent weeks, with his no-nonsense style proving tenacious beside Angelo Ogbonna.
The pairing restricted Dean Smith’s Villans to only two shots on target during the midweek affair at Villa Park, of which both come in the final 35 minutes.
Aston Villa relentlessly found themselves restricted in the final third as West Ham took control of the game to record the double over their fellow claret and blue side, an accomplishment last achieved in the 2005/06 season.
But the tone was almost set on the other foot in the 27th-minute, when Jack Grealish pounced on a miscontrol from Dawson and played a brilliant reverse pass through to Ollie Watkins. The striker could only bend his shot around Lukasz Fabianski and onto the outside of the post, though.
Watkins’ effort came moments after Michail Antonio had failed to break the deadlock and minutes before Ross Barkley sent a good chance wide from a Villa set-piece, and either of those strikes nestling in Fabianski’s goal would have placed the Villans in the ascendancy.
Instead, West Ham rallied with Aaron Cresswell, Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal all having attempts on Martinez’s net, before Antonio thread Soucek in to score early in the second period and Jesse Lingard hit the first of his debut double to take the wind out of Aston Villa’s sails.
Dawson’s first-half error was a rare misstep from the £40,000-per-week brute, who was Moyes’ hero at Everton on New Year’s Day in a 1-0 win that sparked West Ham’s run of four straight Premier League victories.
He continually got his body in the way of shots as the Irons beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 last month, as well, and there was little more the 30-year-old could do to prevent Liverpool from winning at the weekend.
But his poor touch that freed Grealish to play Watkins in during the first half was not Dawson’s only error. He also turned over possession in dangerous positions a few times that on another day, could have seriously cost West Ham had Villa made the most of their opportunities.
And had those chances been taken by Villa, Dawson would not have been able to atone for his off moments by producing two vital stops in the second period, with a block and a pivotal diving challenge to deny Watkins a brace.
At worst, his off night resulted in Dawson committing his first error in claret and blue that led to a shot being taken on goal, per SofaScore. And Moyes will be keen for Wednesday’s performance to be a rare blip and not a tone-setter ahead of Saturday’s London derby with Fulham.