Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard hopes his players can channel frustration from the last two matches into securing a positive result when they face Burnley in their final home game of the season on Thursday.
Five days on from being beaten 2-1 at Villa Park by Liverpool, Gerrard’s men were held to a 1-1 draw at the ground by Crystal Palace on Sunday, with Ollie Watkins’ 69th-minute opener being cancelled out by a close-range finish from substitute Jeffrey Schlupp 11 minutes later.
Prior to breaking the deadlock, Villa’s attempts had included a trio of Danny Ings shots being sent off-target, and Watkins then struck wide as the hosts were unsuccessful in a late push to reclaim the lead.
They ended the day lying 13th in the Premier League, four points behind 10th-placed Brighton with a game in hand – Villa have two more to go, with the Burnley contest being followed by a final-day trip to Manchester City.
They have been seeking a first top-10 finish in the division since 2011, and Gerrard said: “It’s on but it’s slightly more difficult now. We needed to really take control of that and take maximum points (against Palace).
“But my players are frustrated and I really like that they are frustrated and hopefully we can go and take that frustration out on Thursday night because if we want to be a more consistent team at home, we have to be more ruthless and clinical in front of goal.
“That’s two games now in a short space of time where we’re a little bit frustrated we haven’t taken big chances we’re creating. But we’re doing ever so well to create them.”
Gerrard also said his team had been “naive” with regard to the equaliser, which came when they gave away a free-kick and failed to fully clear Conor Gallagher’s delivery, with the ball then being worked from Joachim Andersen to Marc Guehi’s head and on to Schlupp for a tap-in.
Watkins had given Villa the lead by getting his boot to Lucas Digne’s cross as he battled with Guehi at the far post.
The England striker, for whom it was an 11th league goal of the season, had been a doubt in the build-up due to an ankle injury sustained against Liverpool.
And Gerrard said of Watkins: “I think a lot of players wouldn’t have even been available, he’s battled through and put himself and his body on the line again for 90 minutes. He’s a warrior, he’s strong, and he’s a delight to work with.
“Maybe that’s the reason why he wasn’t firing on all cylinders in terms of taking his chances, but his performance was fine for me.
“We asked him to really play with the eye of the tiger second half, and he certainly did. He deserves all the credit (for the goal) – great cross from Lucas, but without Ollie breathing down his (Guehi’s) neck, we don’t get that goal. The presence of Ollie and the pressure he has put on the defender has led to a goal.”
Palace boss Patrick Vieira, whose side are a point and a place better off than Villa, declared himself “really happy” with his side’s display, but did also feel they might have scored more than the one goal they did.
“We tried our best but when we get to the last third we don’t always make the right decisions,” Vieira said.
“Of course, we need to keep working and improving, but this is one of the areas that next year we will have to be better. There was a space for us, with the way we played and the chances we created, and we should score more than one goal.”