Jordan Ayew’s rash decision making cost us against West Ham at the Boleyn Ground midweek and after the complete lack of intent shown by the board in January, everything Villa orientated was again tainted with depression. To add to that, rumours had been flying around in every paper that Rémi Garde was in doubt about his position at the end of the season, which I for one would be sad about if he decided to leave. Furthermore, with all of our strikers either suspended or injured, our attacking hopes were invested in none other than Gabby Agbonlahor, a man who’s a little bit like marmite; you either love him or hate him and he’s been left in your cupboard for about a year just rotting.
Prematch Fan Thoughts
The weather matched up with the mood around Villa Park once again, with torrential rain lashing down from the skies and harsh wind completing an unpleasant combination. Any last drops of a survival hope were all down to this game, even though almost every Villa fan had 95% accepted relegation and were looking for fight more than anything.
I was fairly optimistic we could get something out of this game with Norwich’s defence being dreadful and them losing four on the bounce previous to this game providing that optimism for me. As well as that, when clutching at straws you could say that our recent record at home against Norwich is pretty decent, with the last meeting ending up 4-1 to Villa.
On route to Aston train station, two o’clock arrived and so did the team news as Rémi made one change, with Ayew making way for the returning Ashley Westwood. Moreover, there were changes to the bench as 17-year-old attacker Keinen Davis was given a golden opportunity by Garde after impressing for the U-21’s recently. Davis got a move from Biggleswade Town, when some Villa scouts snapped him up from the non-league side.
A youngster being given a chance certainly excites me and when players like Easah Suliman are winning awards, it must bode well for the future and reaffirm the clubs identity when it comes to producing talent. Hopefully we can harness the potential in our youth squads instead of releasing or selling them all on the cheap, as we did with our Next Gen Cup winning side. Overall, it was a pretty dull prematch atmosphere that was difficult to soak in when I was getting soaked myself.
The first half of the game was pretty dull in truth and even though Villa dominated most of the possession, the first pivotal moment fell the way of Norwich and Sebastien Bassong. He drifted into the box and met a cross from the right-wing, only for the ball to hit the ground and bounce over. A let off for us and most definitely for Idrissa Gana, who is prone to losing the ball in positions that are similar to that quite regularly.
However, the next pivotal moment came in favour of us, Jores Okore was fouled after dribbling out of defence and Carles Gil stepped up to swing the ball in. The ball was one of quality and Joleon Lescott, the man who was previously rumoured with a move to LA Galaxy, met the ball, heading it past Norwich’s keeper; via a slight deflection. 1-0. That concluded a very dull, dreary and most of all wet first half nicely.
The second half came and we looked a lot more confident and relaxed in possession than in previous games when taking the lead. I suppose it was crucial that we got the goal when we did in order to give Garde a chance to calm the players down and get them focused on finishing the job. This composure led to an earlier chance for Gabby, after he was picked out by Gana and fired straight at Declan Rudd. However, minutes later Gabby was found again by a fantastic ball from Jordan Veretout and with the Norwich goalie rushing out he stayed calm and finished it with his left foot. 2-0.
After slating Gabby for weeks about a million and one issues, I have to put my hand up and say well done after he worked his socks off for the team and sealed the victory nicely.
I was happy for him and that goal meant he’s scored in all 11 seasons that he’s played in competitively for the club, so well done Gabby. Especially well done for saying that the media chat a load of s**t at times, which they certainly do when Villa are involved.
The rest of the half was very positive for Villa as the best chance to wrap up the game properly fell to Leandro Bacuna, who lacked composure and blazed over the bar. We defended well after some risky moments at the back towards the end with tired legs, but we got across the line with three big points in our possession. Special mentions go to Gana, Jores Okore and Joleon Lescott, who were all-star performers when it came to winning the ball back and protecting our goal.
32,000 turned up on an absolutely horrible day where the mood as a Villa fan had hit an all-time low once again in this dreary season. However, the atmosphere was fairly good, especially in the second half when the players were expressing themselves in the final third of the pitch. It did lack that explosion of noise when it came to reciting some of the classics in the Lower North and there were only two or three moments where the Holte End and North Stand came together in song.
A key moment came though, when for the first time in months Gabby’s song was ringing out around Villa Park as an appreciation for his work ethic and good performance leading the front line all on his own.
It wasn’t the best atmosphere of the season I’ve experienced, but it certainly wasn’t the worst as the players definitely jeered up the fans, who were mostly just happy to be winning a game comfortably for once. Although, there were slight nerves when being 2-0 up, as fans around me anxiously joked about the 3-2 Leicester result.
Post-Match Fan Thoughts
This result in hindsight could be viewed as one which just provides false hope or extends our misery further until we’re finally relegated towards the end of the season. However, for some optimistic folk and others who probably drank a little too much after the game, survival looks a little less impossible as they scan the fixture list hastily up and down whilst comparing Leicester’s great feat from last season. Which in truth, could provide great motivation for the players, Leicester were three points off what we are now at the 29th game, giving us 4 games to exceed that total if we can.
The next game at home against Liverpool is another massive one, but win that and things will look a hell of lot better.
Away Fans Score – 5/10
The Norwich fans looked miserable and were miserable when it came to funny chants and banter flying around. They rarely sung, which is a stark contrast to Villa away fans, who’d give everything to switch places with them in the table. Poor effort from them.
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