Villa’s recent good run ended with a 2-0 defeat at Fulham. Dave Woodhall comments.
I’ve never entirely understood the love-in with Craven Cottage. It’s a day out in London, at the one place where the supporters are civilised and the club still remembers that the game’s the thing. The walk along the Thames is very nice and there’s a lot of pubs. It’s also eye-wateringly expensive, a fair hike from the nearest tube station, good luck finding anywhere to park if you drive and most importantly, the Villa’s record there isn’t much better than the Christians at the Coliseum.
But, clearly I’m in a minority and the best part of six thousand of us headed down by the riverside to watch the two form teams of the Championship. We’d won our last seven, they’d won six on the bounce at home, so it was clearly going to be a stiff test if one of those runs was to continue.
Pre-match news wasn’t good, with the doubtful Jack Grealish and Albert Adomah both missing, which makes me wonder if I could remember the last time Villa player who was an injury doubt was fit for the next match. Probably round about the last time the Christians got a result in that Roman derby.
In their absence Steve Bruce changed the team around, bringing in Axel Tuanzebe at right-back and with the emphasis clearly on countering rather than all-out attack. It’s fair to say that the line-up didn’t meet with wholesale approval but it seemed to be working during a first half where Villa gave as good as they got in terms of goalscoring opportunities.
Unfortunately, when you’ve gambled everything on that type of approach you have no realistic way of getting back into the game if your defence makes a fatal mistake, as happened for the first goal not long after half-time, or there’s what can charitably be described as an error of judgement such as led to the second.
There wasn’t much in the way of game-saving inspiration on the bench, although Bruce would argue that the recurrence of the Villa injury list meant he didn’t have much choice but that was little consolation to the travelling hordes as the game petered out into the sort of routine 2-0 home win that was a lot more enjoyable last Sunday.
In isolation, the result isn’t the end of the world. Fulham are clearly a good side, they have the wind in their sails and the absence of our top scorer and the most on-form attacking midfielder in the Championship would weaken the resilience of any team or manager.
Taking all these things into account, adding recent form, and I may be in a minority again with this, but I’m inclined to give Steve Bruce a pass on Saturday’s performance and also forgive the team for an off-day. One thing I do know about this league is that it’s rare to see a team go through the entire season without a few bad results, and another thing is that there’s usually no time to dwell on the last game when the next one is coming up so quickly.
On Tuesday night we’ve got Preston at home. They’re putting a good run together and Saturday’s result means that this game is an even more vital one. A win and the crisis is over, normal service has been resumed, but lose and a blip could easily become a slump.