Aston Villa hit rock bottom after failing to win against a League Two side in Wycombe last weekend and this home game was really their last chance for a ‘cue The Great Escape music’ moment. With all the negativity surrounding the club, this game was a great opportunity for some respite for Remi.
Prematch Fan Thoughts
With this fixture being one of those awkward winter mid-week games, many supporters couldn’t find it in themselves to attend the game after the club hit its lowest point (and I don’t blame them), around 28,000 (looked less) still got down to Villa Park with no expectation of any result in the slightest.
There was still that undertone of frustration and anger like there has been all season about the state of the club, but the amount of negativity I heard before the game wasn’t anything like I expected, there was barely any. Self-deprecating humour was in the air instead.
An hour before the game the team news came out and there were certainly surprising positives to take from it, Mark Bunn replaced Brad Guzan, Libor Kozak came in and Leandro Bacuna was selected at right-back. All of which showed that Garde had learnt a lot after Wycombe and felt players like Kozak and Bunn should be given chances. Kozak being the more obvious one of the two after Rudy Gestede was so lethargic in the FA Cup fixture, which many would believe he’d thrive in due to his height advantage and standard of opposition.
Overall there was a lack of expectation from fans and therefore the pressure was off in many ways. Despite the Holte giving Lescott and Guzan a reminder they weren’t happy with the duo’s alleged behaviour, booing their names when they were read out. Maybe Micah Richards’ words after the Wycombe game had an impact and supporters just wanted to “stick together”.
The first 42 seconds of the game summed up our season nicely as Wilfred Zaha played a one-two then struck the goalpost in front of the North Stand, immediately prompting fans to scream “wake up!” and the way Aly Cissokho erratically reacted, looked like he did indeed wake up.
The first half was pretty bleak after that but I would say if any of the two teams were on top it would have been Villa, with Jordan Ayew showing why fans appreciate his effort so much. Villa’s most notable chance came to Ayew, as Kozak headed Bunn’s ball up to him on to Ayew who fired a vicious volley into the side netting.
The second half came and Libor Kozak had an early chance with a deflected shot that almost smuggled into the corner but Palace’s keeper got down well to deal with it. But then, the magic moment happened after Villa got a corner, whipped in by Jordan Veretout direct to Joleon Lescott’s head, who probably should have done better with his effort, but it somehow managed to scramble over the line after Wayne Hennessey fumbled the ball.
The fans in the North Stand didn’t know whether to cheer or not until Mark Clattenburg pointed to the centre circle and indicated that we’d scored. The rest of the half went on for what seemed like an age as I almost expected Palace to equalise. I’ve faced similar late heartbreak before when Dwight Gayle found the top corner in the last-minute in a previous home meeting between the two sides.
Ayew could have topped off his fantastic performance with a goal after he pulled out some lovely skill but blasted it over the bar, making the final minutes all the more nerve racking. However, we did pull through even after Remi Garde refused to make a single change until the 91st minute, but it was brilliant. We Won!
The first half atmosphere was terrible, but so was the football and with fans expecting the same old Villa to turn up there was no reason to shout. Even the Crystal Palace fans were quiet but I suppose it was a freezing Tuesday night after all, so it can’t be helped. The second half’s atmosphere however was a lot better, with Ayew and Kozak’s contributions lifting the fans to be in good voice.
The goal cranked Villa Park into life with fans singing all the usual classics and singing them loud. The Villa Park faithful were trying to help the players get over the line with their support, even if there was some quiet nervy moments, Scott Dann’s miscontrol in the final minutes comes to mind. When the final whistle was blown, a sense of relief and joy broke out from every fan and with ‘Hi-Ho Aston Villa’ being played and the players celebrating on the pitch, it was a brilliant feeling to have after all we’ve been through this season.
Post-Match Fan Thoughts
Again, my mate who’s a Leicester fan gets a mention as he said before that all they needed to catapult themselves to safety last year was a lucky win. We face them on Saturday night and if we get another victory, even though it’ll be tough, everyone can really blast out the Great Escape music then.
It’ll be interesting to see if Garde decides to stick with Ayew and Kozak as there looked to have a potential understanding developing between the two.
Anyway, even if it was a long time coming, it’s certainly a relief for the team and Garde to pick up his first win and I really hope we can kick on and do something unbelievable. If you’d pick any club to do something historic and extraordinary you’d pick Aston Villa Football Club. Believe.
Away Fans Score – 6/10
I’ve seen Palace’s Holmesdale Fanatics on TV before and it’s great that the club allows their ultras group to have an involvement in the ground, unlike ours. However, they only filled the bottom tier and were pretty much silent all game. It was a cold Tuesday night but that’s still no excuse in all honesty, as the emotionally battered Aston Villa fans and team both managed to outdo their opponents on the night.
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