Villa beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 on Saturday. Dave Woodhall bears witness.
Villa played two games last week but if the players couldn’t be bothered with one of them neither can I. So onto the latest saga to take place at Fortress Villa Park.
In glorious fence-sitting tradition there are two ways of looking at Saturday’s result. You can either take heart from the old adage that a team who don’t play well but still win are onto something, or you can say that Forest were poor, and better opponents would have taken at least a point. Which side of that particular fence you fall on might also be down to whether you think Steve Bruce is still the best man for the job, or whether you’d rather he never darkened our doors again.
The eternal optimist in me says thanks for the points and let’s keep this run going. It might not have been a great performance but there were signs that Villa are gradually improving. There’s a bit more balance to the side and best of all, we’re not reliant on one man for goals. Albert Adomah showed commendable composure when rounding the keeper to put Villa in the lead and Conor Hourihane’s matchwinning free-kick put him second-top goalscorer in the Championship.
To someone brought up on wingers such as Tony Morley and Ray Graydon, who could usually be relied on to get into double figures every season, and deadball experts of Gordon Cowans quality, they were goals to relish. Once Jonathan Kodjia starts putting the ball in the back of the net our lack of goals should be a thing of the past.
Naturally, there were a few points of concern. Villa should have been out of sight in the first half, but rather than press home their superiority they sat back after the break with the usual result. Our midfield is invariably way too deep and one or two players are still failing to live up to either their reputations or their ability. We still don’t press quickly enough and our inability to run off the ball is now approaching its twentieth anniversary, at least.
And after staying all that, we still won. We overcame a setback, and once we were back in the lead there were few problems. Sam Johnstone gets better with every game and John Terry is doing what he’s paid for. He marshalled the backline, used the ball intelligently and as he’s John Terry, he has an agreement with the officials that whenever he can’t be bothered running back, the flag goes up for offside or some other infringement. He’s John Terry; games are played to his rules.
Maybe that’s why Villa seemed like they’re finally learning how to run the clock down. Stoppage time was an object lesson in not doing anything daft, particularly important for a team who twelve months ago were turning conceding late goals into an art form. And there we were – a routine home win. Or at least if it wasn’t routine, it was as straightforward as anything we’ve seen lately.
Without playing particularly well, Villa now have twelve points from six games, and over the course of the season if that’s not promotion form it isn’t for the want of trying. This week sees a couple more winnable games, Burton away on Tuesday night and then Bolton at home on Saturday. Get those under our belt and we’re looking at the sort of run that breeds confidence and makes average players think they’re unbeatable.