Dave Woodhall watches as Villa beat Blues 2-0.
I saw Allan Evans before the match. I don’t suppose he knew me but to have a bona fide legend asking how you are as you shake hands with him before going into the match gives you all sorts of good feelings about the ordeal to come.
Then again, once inside Villa Park it was business as usual. Villa won, and that’s becoming a habit. I’d say it was a routine top versus bottom of the table victory where superior quality overcame spirited resistance but that would be exaggerating, just a bit. I’ve been to enough derbies to know that form goes out of the window, class doesn’t always tell and that it’s never over until it’s over. Having said that though, there was an element of a straightforward job done here that’s rarely present in this fixture.
Not only were Villa the better individuals, they were truly up for the occasion. From kick-off every player chased every ball, there was invention in attack and resolution in defence. Blues were on top for maybe five minutes of the first half; for the rest of the game Villa were in total control.
Albert Adomah’s goal after an hour and a glorious dipping volley from Conor Hourihane with ten minutes to go decided the match and proved a fitting end to a traumatic week for Steve Bruce. The goals, naturally, came after I’d said that Adomah had been poor in the first half and Hourihane should have been taken off well before his moment of glory, proving yet again that I know nothing about football.
Jack Grealish captured the headlines yet again with a masterful display of midfield genius. This time last year he’d have likely been sent off after being targeted throughout the match but not only is Jack finally showing the best of his natural talent on a more consistent basis lately, there’s also a maturity to his game shining through. Every time he got kicked, every time he was fouled, he got up and carried on as though such treatment was all part of the game.
And just as important in the context of the afternoon was the performance of Mile Jedinak, who won everything in the air and every challenge on the ground. He misplaced a pass in stoppage time, which proved that he was human because until then the ball seemed attracted to him by some supernatural force.
Then again, I could go through the whole team because none of them played badly. Each man had a job to do and they all did it from the first kick until the last, so much so that the last few minutes were a bit of an anti-climax. Villa were on top, victory assured and the gut-wrenching tension that normally comes with holding into the lead in this fixture was completely absent. Even the celebrations at the final whistle had an air of formality about them. Three points, job done, seven straight wins. Now onto the next one.
One final point – I lost count of the number of different accents I heard and nationalities I spoke to during and after the match. It might have been billed as the second city derby but here was proof, if it’s ever needed, that give this club of ours even a hint of success and we’d be right up there with the biggest and the best.