Dave Woodhall has a familiar feeling while talking about Villa’s draw with Norwich.
I’ve realised why it’s becoming so difficult to write about the Villa – almost every match report and comment for the past three seasons has been the same. With few exceptions Villa have either been defeated before kick-off or else managed to blow a promising position where a win was not only on the cards but would also have calmed a growing anxiety amongst supporters.
Saturday was definitely the latter. The ever-growing injury list (something else that’s been said with regularity since 2010) claimed Charles N’Zogbia in training and meant Villa’s defence was once again a makeshift one. That’s about all I can say in mitigation of a line-up which had better than me scratching their heads. Fabian Delph and Chris Herd in the same team is a red card waiting to happen (more on that later) and once more Darren Bent was dropped.
The team started apprehensively but went a goal up with Christian Benteke silencing his particular critics by showing a cool head, and suddenly Villa were well in control. Norwich looked relieved to go in at the break only a goal down and the scene should have been set for a comfortable win. Enter Phil Dowd. Joe Bennett commits a foul, he’s already been booked and it’s not Old Trafford so Dowd has no qualms about bringing out another card. And so the scene was set for what must be a leading candidate for the biggest managerial blunder of the weekend, anywhere.
A few weeks ago I praised Paul Lambert’s substitutions against the Albion and now they have to be criticised. I like Darren Bent. I think he should start every match, or at least be given enough time to save any game in which he’s on the bench. But there are also times when he’s best kept well away from the action and a combined scenario of the team down to ten men and defending a lead is probably top of the list. He scores goals; he doesn’t work hard. When sleeves need to be rolled up you may as well pull someone out of the crowd.
Norwich equalised, and to keep the theme going it was from a corner. If either team was going to get a winner it was them, and Villa’s poor start continued to break records. Something needs to improve, and soon.
Tuesday night gives the team an opportunity to boost some confidence with a League Cup game at Swindon. I’ve no doubt the home side will be up for it after a 4-0 win at Stevenage on Saturday and the national media will be scenting blood but there are two divisions between the clubs and Villa should be able to get through this one even if there might be a few scares along the way. After that it’s a trip to the north-east and Martin O’Neill FC. Two wins in their last twenty games, yet nobody is tipping them for relegation or slating their manager. Funny, that.