Dave Woodhall on Villa’s draw with Fulham on Saturday.
Never let it be said that once I have an idea I don’t go on about it ad nauseam. For example, my theory that Villa only start to play once they realise they’re in trouble usually gets an airing round about this time every season, and from then on I bring it up at every opportunity.
It seems to be happening this time round as well. The embarrassingly bad team of January has been replaced by one that fights for every ball and as we’ve seen lately, is prepared to battle through adversity. The downside is that once they think the hard work has been done they switch off again. That seemed to be the problem on Saturday, and it started before the match. We had another big gate but unlike, say, the QPR game where the sense of anticipation was evident, the crowds around Villa Park before kick–off seemed more subdued and the atmosphere flatter.
Whether this was because it wasn’t a particularly important game for Fulham, or whether Villa were complacent, I don’t know, but the first half definitely lacked the edge of our last few matches. Maybe it was the grey, drizzly, weather – although we should be used to that by now.
Whatever the reason, the game picked up in the second half when Charles N’Zogbia put Villa into the lead only for Fabian Delph to miscue a clearance from a corner and equalise for Fulham. It was hard on Delph, who has been our most improved player of 2013, and his day was completed when he missed a straightforward chance minutes later. The visitors started to play and briefly even pushed on for a winner, helped by some odd substitutions courtesy of Paul Lambert, but they, too, gave up and seemed to have settled for a draw well before the final whistle.
Sunderland winning at Newcastle was a bit of a blow, although it means the entire Geordie Nation are still in trouble, but those two points dropped leaves Villa’s fate still in the hands of others. It’s frustrating to think that yet again, one mistake can undo what would otherwise have been a profitable afternoon’s work.
Finally, today marks the 24th anniversary of Hillsborough. Whatever you might be doing, stop for a moment to reflect on the memories of 96 football supporters, the fight for justice and above all, remember that if you went to a football match at that time it could have been you.