No trouble at t’Millers

Dave Woodhall on Villa’s 2-0 win at Rotherham.

You shouldn’t really celebrate beating Rotherham in the league – you should still be angry that we’re playing them in the first place. We won’t be visting the magnificently-named New York Stadium next season, but that’s because of their ineptitude rather than our ability.

Before the game Steve Bruce said his squad was “down to the bones”. That’s as maybe, but we still had room on the bench for Jack Grealish and Jordan Amavi, in their way maybe the two most frustrating players in this division, as well as the ludicrously overpaid Micah Richards, and it shows the massive disparity in resources between the two teams.

Naturally, despite this gulf, there wasn’t much difference between Villa and the doomed Millers in the first half. Villa had chances to score without really getting on top and as ever, there was the fear that calamity was just a mistake away. Both Amavi and Grealish came on, the latter lasting barely ten minutes before going off again- the annual lengthy injury list may have taken longer to arrive this season than usual but it’s here now with a vengeance.

With both teams unwilling to commit the game started to feel increasingly like a pre-season friendly, which wasn’t helped by the number of empty seats. As usual we’d sold ours out as soon as they went on sale, but the attendance was some 1,300 below capacity. Admittedly Rotherham’s form isn’t exactly helping their crowds but it was a bit of a sobering thought that Villa can’t attract more than eight thousand of their supporters to watch our galaxy of ‘stars’.

Fortunately Villa imposed their quality a bit more as the second half progressed. Conor Hourihane was particularly impressive, we got an own goal and could have had a couple more, although the tendency to sit back and protect a lead was still worryingly there. Fortunately Jonathan Kodjia’s late breakaway goal calmed the fears and gave the scoreline a better look.

It wasn’t a classic performance but on reflection it was straightforward enough and if Villa were top of the league it would have been considered a professional afternoon’s work – turn up, do enough to win, go home. If that isn’t the attitude this time next year there’ll be trouble.

Three consecutive wins without conceding a goal is, as you’ll have read by now, the first time this has happened since 2009-10. Given that those wins seven seasons ago included one at Old Trafford I’ll hold back from celebrating too much but it’s a bit of progress.

We’ve now got a couple of much trickier fixtures coming up at Huddersfield and then home to Sheffield Wednesday. These would be difficult enough with a full squad to choose from, never mind the limited options currently available – which makes the logic of getting rid of three strikers during the transfer window even stranger. These two games should be helping to secure a play-off spot, not part of a general drift toward the end of the season with the only real interest the hope that the team will be showing signs of progress ready for next season.

If the unbeaten run is still intact this time next week I’ll start to think that maybe Bruce is starting to put things right, as well as curse that it’s happened two months too late.