Dave Woodhall is getting mildly excited about Villa’s upturn in form.
A week’s a long time and all that…
Seven days ago I was saying that Steve Bruce’s biggest challenge was to make the Villa team believe that they could win again. Any win would do, any way possible. Twice in five days he’s managed it and for the first time in a long while there’s a few vague noises of optimism coming out of Villa Park.
Seven points and two goals conceded in three matches makes this the best week for a long time. Fulham were always going to be an awkward side to beat; they might not be too pretty to watch but until Saturday they hadn’t lost away and it was soon clear that this run wasn’t built on free-flowing football. The first half was uneventful (which is a polite way of putting it) although Villa always seemed the more likely to be able to step up their game after the break.
One reason for this was the personnel on the bench. Too often we’ve had an “Oh shit, not him” moment when a player who invariably treats a game against the Villa as his own personal benefit makes a late appearance. Robbie Keane made a speciality of it, as did Robbe Fowler for those with longer memories. On Saturday it was our turn as Ross McCormack enetred the proceedings with seventeen minutes to go.
I don’t know how McCormack has done against Fulham over the years but he certainly did well enough when he was playing for them, scoring more than forty goals in two seasons, for them to know his ability and be duly worried. He didn’t have to be particularly outstanding when he came on after 73 minutes but his presence was enough to unsettle the Fulham defence, which in turn helped lead to the phenomenal winner from Jonathan Kodjia.
A final score of 3-0 wouldn’t have flattered Villa and although in the circumstances it was understandable that nerves were jangling as the game entered its final phase, the visitors scarcely looked like threatening an equaliser. In the end it was a routine win of the sort that normal clubs, in normal circumstances, manage more often than not.
Next Sunday is, of course, the Big One, or so the media would have you believe. Personally, I’d rather play its importance down. Only one thing matters this season, and that depends on every game not just a couple. To talk about getting within three points of Blues is fine, although overhauling them is only a start.
Finishing above the Blues won’t neccessarily get us promoted. To be sure of going up we’ll have to finish above teams such as Brighton and Norwich, which means that, to my mind anyway, playing them is every bit as important as the chance to win some local pride. Having said that of course, I’ll be cheering as loudly as anyone if Villa get a winner next Sunday and if it’s as spectactular as Kodija’s effort against Fulham so much the better.