Dave Woodhall on Villa’s midweek draw with Huddersfield.
The tragic events of the previous morning understandably cast a shadow over Villa Park on Tuesday night. Dalian Atkinson was the epitome of a flawed genius but this was time to remember the genius, not the flaws. Crowd and club both did his memory proud.
A healthy crowd of almost 35,000 was further proof of the optimism that’s beginning to grow and Villa had spurned two good chances before many of them were in their seats. The team dominated the first half with just the one goal to show for their superiority – Leandro Bacuna put over what caused a groan of despair before the crowd realiesd that what had seemed at first to be an over-hit cross was in fact an inch-perfect ball to the feet of Jack Grealish, who responded with an equally inch-perfect cross to the head of Ross McCormack.
Unfortunately, that was the only goal of the half and equally unfortunately, Huddersfield began strongly after the break, and I realised that I was in the presence of that most persistent of irritants, The Bloke Behind Me. The Bloke takes many guises but they’re all noisier than anyone else in the vicinity, assured of their own superior knowledge of all footballing matters and invariably in the company of colleagues who believe them to be the funniest thing since Morecambe and Wise.
My own personal Bloke reminded us every time Huddersfield got the ball that this would be their goal “and they deserve it”. Villa will, apparently, be lucky to stay up, there hasn’t been a decent signing since Ron Atkinson was manager and we should never employ foreign ers. I wasn’t surprised to hear the Bloke regularly pronounce Bacuna’s surname with heavy emphasis on the middle syllable.
That aside, Villa had to cope with some persistent Huddersfield attacking and seemed to have got over the worst when for the second time in three matches Pierluigi Gollini ruined a faultless display with a rush of blood to the head. Many’s the time you’ve seen a deflection go wide with the relief of knowing that it could have gone anywhere. With Villa, you know it’s going to end up in the back of the net.
Heads dropped and Huddersfield attacked in the final stages but ultimately they seemed happy enough with a draw. Villa, naturally, less so but if you’re going to endure setbacks you have to make sure you learn from them. Amo ngst others we have a central defensive partnership that have been together less than a week so naturally there will be some slip-ups along the way.
We also need strength in depth, which was summed up best by The Bloke Next To Me as I was leaving. Villa, he said, just don’t have the players to bring off the bench when the starting eleven are tiring. At the moment we have a team. Now we need to build a squad.