A matter of routine

Dave Woodhall watches Villa win again. It’s getting a habit.

“You’re nothing special, we win every week.”

That was the song I heard as I was making my way out of New Street for a couple of post-match celebration drinks. I don’t think whoever was singing it was particularly serious but it did show that this winning habit could become routine. That’s three out of four, which is an incredible turnaround for a team that had previously only won that many in 39 games.

Blackburn on Saturday was much the same as Fulham a fortnight earlier – a poor first half, step up a gear in the second, score one more than the opposition and see the match out without too much difficulty. The only difference was that Blackburn got the first goal, which a month ago would have been game over. Now though, I’m starting to get a feeling that’s happened rarely during my lifetime. Andy Gray in the seventies, Alan MacInally the following decade and Christian Benteke a couple of years ago. You knew that however poor the match and how unlikely a winner seemed, they were going to score at some stage. The same is happening now with Jonathan Kodjia. He can’t be compared with those others who scored at a higher standard just yet, but Kodjia has an aura about him that something is going to happen.

And happen it did, twice over. Jack Grealish gets bundled in the box, Kodjia scores the resultant penalty. Mile Jedinak hits a perfectly-flighted ball over the defence, Kodjia runs on to hit the winner. Just another day at work for a man who by the end of the season might have carved himself a place in the pantheon of legendary Aston Villa forwards.

Of course, this being the Villa, Kodjia had to injure himself scoring the goal, which led to a premature substitution that in turn saw the somewhat controversial arrival of Ashley Westwood – and he nor any other player should be booed during the game, particularly as they make their entry onto the pitch. Kodjia’s injury meant Villa settled for what they had rather than chasing another goal, which meant a couple of scares in the final stages but looking back Pierluigi Gollini was scarcely called on to touch the ball.

Blackburn’s goal apart, Villa’s defence was as solid as it has been for a long while, which in itself is down in no small part to the impressive recent form of Jedinak. He may have come in for some criticism during the early part of his Villa career but our midfield enforcer has improved no end in the past few weeks. Skill is one thing but there’d always be a place in my team for someone who can put his foot through a ball so effectively, and not necessarily the round one.

The one mildly frustrating thing about the game is that Villa don’t seem to be moving up the table as quickly as we should. To get eleven points from five games and still be fourteenth is a bit annoying but at least we’re staying in touch with the play-off places. Up next is Brighton away, which despite being shifted to Friday night for what might be the most inconvenient away trip will still see an away allocation that sold out within days. It’ll be the toughest game of the season so far and anything Villa come away with will be a bonus but equally, as confidence rises with every game, when you have a striker on top form anything is possible.

One final thing about routine. I was with a couple of family members who live away and because of various commitments haven’t been able to watch the Villa for a long while. Those of us who go regularly might get a bit blase, cynical almost, about going down the match. If you aren’t that lucky then it’s still a place to approach with excitement, to stare around in open-mouthed wonder on arrival and to have to be almost dragged away from at the final whistle. Sometimes we need such a reminder that for all the misery it’s caused us over the years, Villa Park is still the greatest place on earth.

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