Dean Smith was in “disbelief” that Aston Villa were not heading back to Birmingham with all three points after they twice surrendered a one-goal lead before going on to lose 3-2 at Burnley.
Ollie Watkins’ 10th goal of the season put Villa ahead inside the first quarter of an hour but the visitors squandered a number of opportunities before half-time and their profligacy would come back to haunt them.
An unmarked Ben Mee converted a corner and although the excellent Jack Grealish restored Villa’s lead, they were left stunned as Dwight McNeil’s cross-cum-shot trickled into the net before Wood’s header gave Burnley victory.
Smith took no solace in being part of a five-goal thriller at Turf Moor and the Villa head coach was simply bewildered they were not out of sight before the interval.
“It’s no consolation at all,” he said. “The word I would use is disbelief. We should have been at least three goals up at half-time and it would have been game over.
“I just said to the players, ‘it’s a difficult league to win in’, but we’ve just thrown three points away with really poor defending and basic errors, really.
“We’ve had lapses of concentration where we haven’t defended hopeful balls and you’ve got to go and do that, you’ve got to work hard to win games in this league.
“We spoke about it before that’s one of the main ways they’re going to try to score goals: from a cross or a header or a set-piece. They showed more desire. We’ve gifted three points away there.”
After breaking the deadlock, Watkins burst through on goal but took a touch too many and his effort was smothered by Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope before Ross Barkley volleyed against the crossbar from the rebound.
Pope produced a number of important saves but there was also some terrific last-ditch defending from Burnley as they restricted their opponents to just the one goal before half-time.
Smith – whose side have slipped to 10th in the standings but have two games in hand on Chelsea and Arsenal, the two immediate sides above them – insists they do not lack a ruthless streak.
“I’ve got no complaints about the performances this season, you don’t win nine in 18 games if you haven’t got a ruthless streak, so we’ve certainly got that,” he added.
“But with the quality that we’ve got, we should have been more than a goal up in the first half. With the quality we’ve got at the back, we should be defending set-pieces and crosses better than we did.”
Burnley have scored three goals for the second game in a row – they won 3-0 at Fulham in the FA Cup with a largely second string line-up – while they came into this fixture as the division’s joint lowest scorers this season.
Only five goals had come at home this term before Villa’s visit but despite Burnley being outclassed in the opening 45 minutes, manager Sean Dyche insists there was no dramatic half-time team talk that swung the contest.
“Villa were excellent in the first half, by far the better team,” Dyche said. “They looked more confident with the ball, had a good shape without the ball, we didn’t really ask too many questions, they did.
“But our diligence saw us through that half well. It was a soft goal from our point of view, but then there were blocks by our centre-halves, Popey made a couple of big saves and we stayed in it.
“I said to the players at half-time, ‘I don’t think they can be as strong in the second half and we can do miles better’. There was no shouting or screaming, it was just pointing out what I felt was the obvious.
“The second half was a completely different feel. The mentality to see the game through and do what you need to do to win a game, we’ve never been short of that, I don’t feel.”