Dave Woodhall on Villa’s win against Cardiff.
In 1977 Villa won the League Cup after a second replay at Old Trafford. Despite trailing for much of the game they equalised with a shot from Chris Nicholl that’s now generally reckoned to have been hit from somewhere near Stockport. Leandro Bacuna’s opener against Cardiff on Saturday wasn’t from such a distance and probably won’t go down in Villa folklore but it deserved a better stage than a mundane Premier League game.
Up until the time Bacuna hit that free-kick the afternoon had only been notable for a larger-than-usual police presence on Witton Lane, presumably based on the visitors’ reputation. Neither Villa’s home form nor our (lack of) goalscoring record seemed like improving and there was little chance of the moment of magic that a team has to be able to conjure up to win such matches if they’re going to have any success. Then up stepped Bacuna, and the match was won.
Libor Kozak made certain with a header six minutes from time and not only did Villa get their second home win of the season but they did it without conceding – for the third time in five matches. It may have only been Cardiff, the most unadventurous opposition we’re likely to play all season, but they still had to be beaten and I’ve seen better Villa teams than the current one give up and settle for a goalless draw in games like this well before Bacuna’s goal. Add the fact that we were without at least five first-choice players and what seems on paper a routine win was actually a lot more praiseworthy. Last week I said that if we played football we’d beat Cardiff; for fifteen minutes that’s what we did and it was enough to get the points.
The win leaves Villa eleventh in the table. It isn’t spectacular but it’s a start. As I drove home I heard Paul Franks on WM, repeating the same “Will Villa fans be happy to finish mid-table forever?” mantra he’s been chanting all season. I wasn’t aware that there had been a rule introduced whereby your final place in this season’s table is where you will finish forever – mid-table come May will be a big improvement on the last two seasons, therefore it should be acceptable. Next season it won’t be – we’ll be looking to improve again. While this is happening performances are bound to be inconsistent, so let’s be grateful for the three points and take it from there.
All the players who arrived in the summer have shown signs that when on form they improve the squad; if they do it on a regular basis then we’ll have the strength in depth that’s been missing for years. I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve matched one of the big sides for an hour then they stepped up the tempo, brought on substitutes who were as good as the players they replaced and won the game with a couple of late goals as our players tired. We did it ourselves on Saturday and that can only bode well for the future.
Normally I’d be disappointed that there’s an international break coming up, particularly after Villa have won. However, two weeks without a game should help get some of the injured players fit again and set us up better for the Monday night TV showing of the oldest derby in league football. Not, of course, that Sky will bother mentioning such a fact.