Coming into this massive home game against Newcastle, the two sides had stark contrasts to the way they’ve started the season. Despite losing three games, Newcastle made sure they won the rest to live up to everyone’s expectations of potentially storming the league. Villa, on the other hand, have been slow to start but love a good draw against the likes of Ipswich and Brentford. Despite Villa still being unbeaten at home this season, the pressure was piled on in this particular fixture. Intense pressure to kick start our season and relight some optimism amongst fans, pressure to start converting our chances and most importantly, pressure to not concede in the final minutes.
Prematch Fan Thoughts
It was a massive tie and many fans, including myself, were definitely nervous about the way this game could go. Despite our love for winding up the Geordies, you have to hand it to them that they’ve certainly looked impressive in recent weeks. However, coming into this game, we’d actually lost fewer games than the Toon army and their promotion run had been halted by our neighbours in the Black Country. Wolves beat Newcastle 2-0 away from home and almost provided belief to Villa fans that we could recreate a similar feat.
The team news was fairly promising with Albert Adomah making his first start of his Aston Villa career and Roberto Di Matteo deciding that three at the back was the best way to make sure we weren’t overrun in midfield.
The only qualms and fears Villa fans had were that the formation could hinder our creative spark, but I was quite happy that Di Matteo had decided to respect the fact that Newcastle are lethal in front of goal, with Dwight Gayle already making a big mark in the league early on.
The first-half was a write off as Villa were completely shambolic in almost everything they tried to do. Despite an early opportunity for Jonathan Kodjia, which he definitely should have taken after he easily beat ex-Villa academy boy Ciaran Clark for pace, Villa failed to create much at all just as many fans predicted.
The biggest concern was the performance of Tommy Elphick, who I definitely don’t want to criticise too harshly as I feel he’ll turn it around if we keep the faith in him. He obviously made a crucial error in his decision making when it came to their first goal, but he also looked shaky on the ball after Gayle didn’t give him a moment’s peace.
Despite our terrible first half, which we luckily escaped with only a 1-0 score line from and we definitely have to thank young Pierluigi Gollini for that, we managed to get back into it. Newcastle let us back in after Aaron Tshibola started to pull the strings and drive the team on once he was substituted onto the pitch. Even though he’s so young, Tshibola is crucial when it comes to winning the midfield battle on the pitch and nine times out of ten so far in the championship, if you dominate the midfield, you win games.
The atmosphere was one of the best at Villa Park this season thanks to the fact it was a Saturday night game under the lights and undoubtedly the biggest tie in the league this season. The fans were decent at times, particularly in the second half and you could see the potential effect of a rocking Holte End on the player’s performances.
It was a great night to pinch a point off the Geordies and after Villa Park erupted and then six minutes stoppage time was announced, I even thought we could have won it. It was a good game for the atmosphere but I’m yet to see the atmosphere really hit peak levels and hopefully that will come as performances improve.
Post-Match Fan Thoughts
It’s another draw, yes, but even though we only took a point away from another game, this point was a valuable one. It was great to wipe the smile off of the Geordies’ faces and they were silenced in large parts of the second half whilst we piled on the pressure. So all-in-all this should be considered as a positive result. We created a lot in the second half but Di Matteo now needs to learn that five at the back is not the solution.
Even though we’re very lightweight in terms of dynamic midfield options, we either have to play Tshibola as much as we can and pray he doesn’t pick up too many knocks till January or we have to play three in the midfield to make up for his absence. Some may consider my reaction to Tshibola’s importance as a player as drastic but I firmly believe that with him playing, we can start to push on back up the table.
Our next two games are both away against Barnsley and Preston. If the long awaited away win doesn’t at least come in one of those fixtures, I’ll be devastated. It’s vital we try to get back to wins in these games in order to really kick on.
Away Fans Score – 8.5/10
I’m not going to lie, the Geordies were very impressive as away fans. They are very similar to our away support in the way that they give it their all and really get behind their team. However, they are also dissimilar to our away support because of the fact they go quiet when the result isn’t going their way.
Even though we both love the banter between the fans, it was a special moment when they joined in with the seventh minute applause for young Villa fan Jack Edwards. Rest in Peace Jack.
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