Dave Woodhall on Villa’s 2-0 win at Wigan.
Another Saturday, another Villa win. It’s over a month now since the last time the team ruined my weekend; football’s almost becoming enjoyable again.
The latest chapter in a seemingly-interminable season was very similar to our previous travels – venture to a bleak northern outpost, to play a side destined for relegation. Do badly in the first half, improve after the break, score twice and celebrate another three points. On Saturday it was Wigan, against who we never enjoyed the best of records in the Premier League and at whose ground the Gods of the weather always seem to have something special saved up. This time it was rain, which at least eased off during the match but made for an unpleasant wander around the soul capital of the world (if you’re arguing about that last point, remember that it’s in Greater Manchester. Therefore whatever the claim to fame, they’re the capital of it) before and after.
Villa supporters made up a third of the 14,811 crowd but whoever they supported nobody had much to shout about in a turgid first half that saw Mile Jedinak show that he can do a job as an emergency central defender but is also a vital part of the Villa midfield. Unfortunately he couldn’t be in two places at once and Villa were grateful that Sam Johnstone is improving match by match. Talking of emergency cover, Alan Hutton isn’t a right-sided midfield player but I do wonder what he’d be like in the centre, where his ability to kick opponents might come in handy and his habit of being stranded twenty yards in front of the ball would be harder to achieve.
As the second half wore on Steve Bruce utilised what should have been our biggest asset this season – he was able to bring on anything between £15 and £20 millionsworth, depending on whose figures you believe, of substitutes in the shape of Henri Lansbury and the fit-again Scott Hogan, the latter the first example in living memory of a Villa player returning from injury ahead of schedule. Such strength in depth should have been coming into its own in a situation like this, when Villa are trying to break down struggling opposition towards the end of the season.
It worked, with James Chester scoring from a corner then Hogan getting his first Villa goal with a header from an Albert Adomah cross, but these should have been vital points in a promotion push rather than cementing Villa’s place in the top half and finally removing the last traces of relegation worry. Excuse me for stating the obvious once again, but the team’s recent upturn in form has given rise to frustration that it didn’t start earlier and while that’s better than the fear and disappointment it replaced, it’s no less annoying for that.
Still, no injuries and a fortnight now in which to hope that our internationals return unscathed from their travels and to look forward to the visit of Norwich, themselves still aiming for the play-off places and therefore a decent test of how good the Villa now are.