Matthew Lowton was considered one of the Villans' bright young hopes last season but it has all gone horribly wrong this term for the right-back
Matthew Lowton will perhaps always best be remembered at Aston Villa for his dipping, swerving, crashing volley which handed Villa the lead with just three minutes ago in a crucial relegation clash at Stoke.
The 3-1 win was the springboard to Villa's survival and Lowton, who had already impressed with his work ethic and such defensive assuredness for one so young, seemed to be thriving on the vacancy opening up on the right-hand side of Villa's defence, with Alan Hutton considered surplus to requirements.
Lowton was a breath of fresh air in a struggling Villa side after his arrival from Sheffield United in the summer of 2012 and, given manager Paul Lambert's willingness to incorporate the latest starlets into the first team from an early stage, the 24-year-old went from strength to strength.
The assumption, naturally, within Villa Park was that the Chesterfield-born Lowton would go on to cement his spot in a defence which endured some tough times last season, no less than when they were beaten three times in succession during the festive period, with scorelines of 4-0, 8-0 and 3-0 only adding salt to the wound.
This season, though, has represented nothing but a setback in Lowton's progression at the club, with a series of poor performances and the added competition for his position in the form of Leandro Bacuna.
Bacuna, admittedly from a more attacking position, impressed yesterday evening in the 2-1 defeat to Arsenal, while Lowton was largely culpable for both goals and almost let the Gunners in on many other occasions.
He partially redeemed himself with one of the best crosses seen this season, as he whipped the ball in for Christian Benteke to stoop, nod home and haul Villa back into the contest.
But Lowton's earlier peccadillo or two had ultimately left the game out of Villa's reach. His defending for the first against Nacho Monreal's give-and-go with Mesut Özil exposed a hint of naivety in Lowton, who did not do enough to prevent the Spaniard from running clear and cutting back for Jack Wilshere to open the scoring.
Wilshere then picked out Olivier Giroud just seconds later and, while the Frenchman was perhaps slightly fortuitous with his touch, Lowton's defensive position was haphazard at best as he tried desperately to get in a block on the Frenchman.
Twice more in the second period, Lowton was unable to contend with pressure down his flank, with it looking more and more apparent that the Gunners were pinpointing their left wing as the area of weakness, and one to exploit.
Monreal and sub Kieran Gibbs both stepped inside far too easily to engineer shooting chances for Arsenal, with Lowton looking exhausted from the triangles being zipped around the Villa rearguard at pace.
His cross, something he has become increasingly renowned for during his stay at Villa Park, was out of the top drawer, but it was a minute act on an otherwise worrying night for Lowton, whose stock has plummeted since his wonder-strike at the Britannia Stadium last season.
image: © Ben Sutherland