Villa notched up their fourth straight league win on Saturday, as Dave Woodhall reports.
Another comparison with our relegation season – there were times back then when you could get 10/1 on Villa winning at such unlikely venues as Stamford Bridge or the Etihad. Come to think of it, Villa Park was an unlikely place to see the Villa win but we’ve been through that before as well. Bolton were as much as 10/1 to win on Saturday, which says a lot more about their ineptitude that it does about Villa’s invincibility, despite three straight league wins going into the game.
Anyone anticipating a goal-fest was doomed to disappointment. Villa have never been at their best against teams who set out for a draw from the off; our style is based more oun counter-attacking, which is why the last few weeks have seen a return to the age-old theme that when Villa are doing well we often save our best performances for away games.
You can only counter-attack if the opposition attack in the first place; if they don’t show any intention of venturing past the halfway line you’re destined to ninety minutes of frustration and invariably boredom unless you have a player or two capable of unlocking the meanest defence. As we should know by now, Villa haven’t got such anyone who can do that on a consistent basis.
As a result we endured a frustrating afternoon, with Villa making few early chances until Jonathan Kodjia scored his first goal since returning from injury with a penalty after he’d been brought down in the box. It was as clear-cut a foul as you’re likely to see, but it was still a bit of a surprise when the spot kick was given because referee Jeremy Simpson had already taken letting the game flow to ludicrous extremes. I hadn’t taken any notice of Simpson before the weekend; I can only presume that his previous refereeing experience came in contests comprising two falls or a submission, and Bolton’s defenders had taken full advantage.
Bolton seemed no more interested in trying to pull a goal back in the second half than Villa did in extending their lead and an unmemorable contest was petering out when Nel Taylor was sent off in the late stages, for a foul that seemed harsh in any circumstances but which in the context of this game was inexplicable. Substitute Chris Samba came up with a last-minute block that prevented a possible equaliser; as the season progresses being able to bring on a player to help calm down last-minute nerves could prove as important as having a match-winning forward to come off the bench
The game ended much as September did, with Villa making progress, albeit not in the style that supporters would like. A scrappy one-nil win against a team who are surely going down meant fourteen points from six games during the month and saw the team move up to seventh in the table. One goal conceded in that time shows that Villa have no major defensive worries; scoring just ten against some of the poorest sides in the league is indicative of where any potential drawbacks lie.
October begins with an international break. It continues with much stiffer tests, starting with a trip to Wolves, who have started the season well. It may not be a classic, but it could be a highly significant encounter.