With the home fans expecting relegation to be confirmed and confused by caretaker manager Eric Black’s team selection, they had little to cheer as they faithfully filed in to Villa Park. Many resorted to booing at the mere mention of the men who have let them, and the club, down this season.
As the game got under way, the visitors, as they so often do, got off to the better start. A combination of poor defending and a back heel from Gradel allowed Grabban to rush towards goal after five minutes but the diving Guzan saved his low shot.
Looking characteristically toothless in attack, the Villans allowed the Cherries to dictate the play and certainly didn’t seem to be offering anything to appease the unforgiving crowd or to encourage people to return to the thousands of empty seats around the ground.
The visitors created chances down both flanks but were unable to make their breakthrough.
After seventeen minutes, all Westwood could do was send the ball towards the heavens from twenty yards out as the Villans’ goal drought stretched past the six hour mark.
As the clock ticked closer to half time, most were expecting the hosts to concede. They almost did after forty minutes, when a Bournemouth free-kick was swung into the Villa penalty area. King proved overly ambitious with his failed attempt at a volley and the danger was averted.
Jeers then rang around Villa Park as Bacuna lost possession deep inside his own half.
The mood turned sourer still as a low cross allowed the unmarked Cook to flick the ball past Guzan from five yards out on the verge of half-time.
Potentially forty-five minutes away from relegation, the start of the second half saw Lyden replaced by Gestede but there was little sign of the goal the hosts needed, as they continued to give the ball away all too easily.
The only show of defiance came from the home fans, who sang, ‘Villa ‘til I die’ as their team was put to the sword yet again.
A meandering run from Ayew just after the hour mark offered some hope, although his perfect pass was wasted as Richardson failed to connect with it when he should have buried it.
Bacuna was left to clear after the ball was whipped in to the six-yard box. Even a decent effort from the man who had misjudged the mood of the fans with his ill-advised comments about the direction he saw his career going in was greeted with cries of ‘Champions League? You’re having a laugh!’
The game was put to bed after seventy-four minutes, when the latest defensive error in the 2015-16 catalogue saw Clark fail to control Cissokho’s pass. The howler gifted King his fifth goal of the season, as he powered his way into the penalty area and clipped the ball over Guzan.
The atmosphere was toxic and some Villa fans were seen waving white handkerchiefs, months after those on the pitch had surrendered to relegation.
Ayew provided the disheartened home fans with a rare reason to cheer in the eighty-third minute, picking up the ball on the edge of the area and holding off three defenders to send a fine low shot beyond Boruc’s reach.
It was scant consolation for weary fans as the hosts fell to their eighth consecutive defeat, ensuring nobody was left in any doubt as to why this sorry season has resulted in relegation.
Speaking post-match, caretaker manager Eric Black said:
“Not going down today is a small consolation. We’ve conceded poor goals, but we have to remain professional until the end.
We didn’t create as many chances as we would have liked. Ultimately, if you concede poor goals it will be hard to score.
I’m sure it’s not easy to play in that atmosphere but there have only been two or three victories here this season so I won’t be criticising the supporters.
They turned out again today, which I find remarkable. This is certainly not down to the supporters.”