To many Aston Villa supporters, the play-offs have been inevitable since Villa lost back-to-back games against QPR and Bolton, soon after opening up what seemed to be a final path to automatic promotion by beating table-toppers Wolves.
The rose-tinted supporters who still clung to mathematical possibilities of automatic promotion, were finally put out of their misery this weekend, as Villa came up short against Derby, but Cardiff City’s win made the result academic anyway.
The time for a season autopsy will be after the play-offs, but saying that, there is no achievement in getting into the play-offs unless you’re going to win them. Especially for a club like Villa.
Villa’s dominating performance in the second half against Derby will give supporters heart, that with a bit more luck in front of goal, their team is capable of taking the game to their play-off opponents and scoring a few.
There’s one final game of the regular season to go, before the play-off games commence, so in the meantime here’s five reasons to be cheerful after the final home game at Villa Park against Derby County.
Going a goal down in front of a full house in many ways was good preparation for the play-offs for Villa. Rather than go through the motions in the final few games and lose momentum, the player’s response to being 1-0 down was to up the tempo and dominate proceedings, creating many chances.
If Villa return from the away leg of the play-offs needing to make up a deficit, then the Derby game was a dress rehearsal. With a little more luck, Villa could have scored three or four.
With their overall 72% of possession, it seemed at times they were playing against 10 men.
MOMS has been saying for a few weeks now that Villa’s special weapon in the play-offs will be Lewis Grabban. The on-loan striker’s goal against Derby was his eighth for the club, since coming in on loan in January, and his 20th overall for the season (12 at Sunderland).
As Ron Atkinson once told MOMS in an interview, “this is a division that if you’ve got goal scorers, they’ll get you out of it.”
Grabban is a natural finisher, who is currently on song. He also gets involved and has a sound awareness of his teammates around him, which puts him ahead of both Scott Hogan and Jonathan Kodjia, in terms of the Villa pecking order, as Villa’s play-off striker.
With Kodjia though, you do get the feeling he also has a part to play in these play-offs.
By the same definition, Villa’s main rivals in the play-offs (at this stage), Fulham, have Aleksandar Mitrovic in red hot form.
It’s going to be interesting…
Aston Villa will have the best home form of the season of any team in the play-offs. Their record of W 14 D 7 L 2 was the third best in the division, behind Cardiff and Wolves.
As MOMS stated at the start of the season, there was the real possibility of Villa going through the season unbeaten at Villa Park, and when you look at the defeats to QPR and Sheffield Wednesday, you feel like it was a missed opportunity.
Obviously, to gain automatic promotion, we needed to turn some of those draws into wins and be one of the two best home teams, but home advantage will be a real one in the play-offs.
No team will be looking forward to coming to a packed Villa Park and playing Villa.
41,745 packed into Villa Park to mark Villa’s biggest attendance of the season, bigger than the Blues game. It was a good workout for Villa fans for what hopefully will be two other mass gatherings before the season is out. Another one at Villa Park and then at Wembley.
The attendance also meant that Aston Villa boasted the best accumulative home attendance in the Championship this term, even though the Upper Trinity remained closed for most of the games this season.
Sunderland’s relegation plight certainly contributed to the statistic, as the Stadium of Light does have a bigger capacity than Villa Park.
Promotion is Promotion
Back in the day, fourth place meant NO PROMOTION. So, we can be thankful for small mercies. If the current play-off teams remain the same after the final day of the season’s fixtures, then winning promotion via the play-offs will be tougher than normal, in terms of the calibre of teams.
As pointed out above, Villa have the best home form of any team in the play-offs and the best away fans of any of the play-off teams.
If Villa get to Wembley, then if Villa’s supporters can repeat the atmosphere they generated against Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final, then it’ll be as a good as a goal head start.