Another three games in a week gave Villa six points and some more signs that everything is going to be all right. Then one of the better performances of the season against Sheffield Wednesday saw a nice win at Villa Park. What did Villa fans learn from the win at Rotherham, the loss at Huddersfield and the win against the Owls?
BETTER THAN IT SOUNDS
You know, one of these days Villa will put together 90 minutes of good stuff, not just 45. A 0-2 win away from home, even if it is to struggling Rotherham United, is just what the doctor ordered – and it set a GOOD record as opposed to all the awful ones last season (three wins in a row with clean sheets for the first time in nearly seven years).
But it wasn’t all that convincing. Yes, the Millers keeper had a good game but it took an own goal to open the scoring. And while Kodjia was Jimmy Danger on-the-spot to wrap things up it was far nervier than it should have been. A big save from Johnstone kept Villa’s win intact. Bruce lamented all Villa’s wasted shots on goal, but he makes the point that Rotherham are way adrift from safety and with a little more clinical finishing this could have been a cricket score.
HUTTON’S NEW DEAL
Alan Hutton was injured for the game at Huddersfield, but was celebrating his new contract which apparently was based on an option he had linked to appearances. It hasn’t gone down well with a lot of fans.
It’s a tough one. He’s a veteran, he’s calmed down (largely), he’s an experienced international, he took a pay cut for the good of the team, when he signed his last new contract. He made the point of throwing his shirt to the fans after the win at Rotherham.
According to Bruce he’s the first at training and last one to leave and this after being bomb-squadded for most of two seasons. But he was also part of the worst team in Villa’s history, is caught out offensively and defensively, can’t cross for toffee and for all his loyalty, he looks like an average Championship-level right-back at a time Villa need more…
BREE-ZY DOES IT
… and James Bree looked good in the defeat at Huddersfield, which doesn’t bode well for Hutton’s long-term future (with DeLaet waiting in the wings).
In fact Bree was unlucky not to ruffle Huddersfield’s feathers from the very start, but for all their promising approach work in the first half (sigh) Villa couldn’t make the break through and were beaten by a pretty routine set-piece that snuck in past a helpless Johnstone.
A draw here would have sent a message. A win would have been a great result. But in the end it was a standard 1-0 point-grab for a form team in the Championship and another game that exposed Villa’s lack of composure/luck in front of goal.
Perhaps the most promising sign of Villa’s short-term future was the fact that three home-grown players made the bench with two making an appearance as the game wore down. Perhaps they were called up because of Bacuna’s suspension but the emergence of Blackett-Taylor, O’Hare and Davis was something for Villa to cheer. If they can play a part this season and next in getting Villa back on track, it will prove a lot of people wrong (until we sell them or let their contracts run out and lose them for free… sorry but it’s happened enough times).
WEDNESDAY WIN (ON SATURDAY)
More encouraging signs from the win against another highly-placed team – and a mile away from the first game of the season when Villa got a rude awakening at Hillsborough.
Key to the win was obviously the in-form man Kodjia. But just as important was Jedinak who is protecting the back four, giving them an out ball, and starting attacks with his vision. This is the player Palace fans told us we were getting.
Villa have been a soft touch all season, but a few wins and with Hourihane and Lansbury settling in the team not only seems to have turned the corner, but are developing an identity.
The play-off hunt is as good as over but to have this team get used to winning, with a best XI that picks itself? All they need is a few more goals distributed among the midfield and fans can be optimistic for the first time in a long time.
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