Easing into gear

Dave Woodhall sees Villa win 4-0 away at Burton Albion.

With the possible exception of Forest Green Rovers v Coventry City, there’s no greater ‘how the mighty have fallen’ fixture than Villa playing at Burton Albion. As usual, I’ll say that this is no disrespect to Burton, who’ve performed miracles to get to this level and stay there. Nevertheless, Villa shouldn’t be playing league games here but until the time that we don’t have to again, the least we can do is smash the opposition out of sight with the minimum of fuss. No offence, like.

It’s taken twelve months longer than it should have, but Tuesday night showed that Villa might be finally getting it right. Burton have got a good home record and they started positively, trying to get Villa on the back foot from the off. That commendable approach lasted for as long as it took Keinan Davis to put Villa into the lead and from then on the result was never in doubt.

Goals from Albert Adomah (a great finish at the end of some slick first-time passing) and Robert Snodgrass made sure the game was won by half-time and although there was the customary second-half fadeout, this was down to the fact that by then the tempo had dropped to something more like a pre-season friendly. We knew we’d won, Burton were just anxious not to let in any more goals and with one more exception, from Josh Onomah, they succeeded. Four goals, and none of them from our £25 million strike force. when they stat hitting the back of the net regularly the rest of the league will be in trouble.

The swagger with which the Villa players completed the second half brought back memories of our hapless slide out of the Premier League, when time after time we watched as a team turned up at Villa Park and scored as many as they wanted before declaring. It’s no fun when it’s happening to your team, but when you’re in front it’s absolutely great.

Villa are finally showing what they can do. We’re attacking with purpose and defending as a unit. Winning at Burton isn’t proof that we’re there yet but the way in which it was achieved shows that we’re on the right track. That’s what happens when the manager (eventually) finds/stumbles on a successful formula and sticks to it.

I hope Burton stay up, not only because what Nigel Clough and their other managers of the period have done is incredible, but their supporters have also retained the non-league belief that being in the vicinity of the other team’s fans doesn’t necessarily mean the world’s about to end. As a result of this and some sensible police and stewarding, Villa supporters (probably bloody gloryhunting locals) in other parts of the ground were able to get behind the team and both sets of fans seemed to tolerate each other’s company, even of the locals weren’t exactly enjoying themselves.

And so on to Saturday’s game, at home to Bolton. We’re on a roll, they’ve got two points all season. That would normally set alarm bells ringing but the new improved Aston Villa will see such opponents as something to be swept aside without a second thought, as a precursor to the more difficult games we’ll be playing next month. Or something like that.