The three points against Crystal Palace last week were a huge boost, but it was crucial that Villa kept the ball rolling against high-flying Leicester City on Saturday as they look to build up a head of steam over the next few weeks and get their battle for survival going in earnest. The recovery from 1-0 down to draw 1-1 with the Foxes indicates that Rémi Garde and his players may yet have the fighting spirit they so desperately need in the remaining months of the season.
Here’s a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of Saturday’s draw.
In the wider context of the season, this was about maintaining momentum. Given the two clubs’ contrasting league positions, Villa were never likely to beat Leicester – what they did do, however, in avoiding defeat was stretch their unbeaten run in all competitions to three matches and suggest that maybe, just maybe, this team is starting to learn how to get results from games.
I would venture that it is no coincidence that each game of this three-match unbeaten has seen Mark Bunn selected in goal ahead of Brad Guzan. The former Norwich City man seems, albeit at this early stage of his chance as the club’s number one, a safer pair of hands than his American counterpart. True, there were one or two hairy moments, most notably when Bunn was yellow carded for taking out Jamie Vardy early on as he came to attempt to win the ball ahead of the striker. The keeper was also arguably partially culpable for Leicester’s goal when he was caught in no-man’s land as Vardy flicked a first-time lob towards goal after Villa’s defence had been hopelessly caught out.
However, Bunn saved Riyad Mahrez’s penalty after Aly Cissokho had been penalised for handball, and there is just generally none of the hernia-inducing stress that comes with watching Guzan play in recent times. It would not be too much of a surprise to see Guzan start in the cup replay with Wycombe on Tuesday night – Bunn certainly deserves the chance to continue as first-choice league goalkeeper.
Another player who took his chance on Saturday was the much-maligned Rudy Gestede. The striker is a player of limited talents, but only eight minutes after being sent on by Rémi Garde (who got his substitution spot on, incidentally, bringing Gestede on for the ineffective Carles Gil with 25 minutes still to play) his perseverance brought the equaliser. His control may have been clumsy, and the finish took a slight deflection, but it was a hugely important goal, and one which suggests that the former Blackburn man still has a role to play.
Click next page for the ‘Bad & Ugly’