Dave Woodhall talks about Villa’s dramatic 4-2 win in the Second City Derby.
“At half past twelve I wanted to kill the world. Ten minutes later I would have given money to Oxfam.”
It wasn’t the most politically correct of statements, but this Bloke Behind Me quote at half-time probably summed up the feeling of most people at Villa Park for the midday showdown which is never likely to attract anyone with overly-sensitive feelings.
Villa were a goal down and deservedly so after the poorest thirty minutes we’ve yet seen under Dean Smith. Blues were organised, did what they had to do and always seemed to have men to spare in closing down every time one of our players looked like they might do something with the ball. Villa, in contrast, seemed laboured and hopeful of an individual flash of genius to provide an inspiration.
Then, it came. A glorious cross from Albert Adomah found Jonathan Kodjia, and our out of sorts striker made no mistake. Two minutes later, another Adomah cross and Jack Grealish had headed Villa into the lead. Villa should have really stepped up after that, and when Tammy Abraham’s penalty made it three-one there was a feeling that we might be in for the sort of scoreline to remember.
But, no matter how many good habits Smith has instilled into the team already, this is still the Villa we’re watching and it wouldn’t have seemed right if everything had gone to plan. Another bit of slack marking saw Blues pull a goal back and with more than half an hour to go it seemed as though anything could happen next.
I don’t, though, think that anyone expected what proved to be the decisive moment of the game. Alan Hutton picks up the ball deep into his own half, moves forward and with forty thousand of us urging him to lay it off, pass, do something with it, he beats three Blues defenders (a number that will have doubled by tomorrow and got into double figures by this time next week) before curling a sublime left-footed shot into the back of the net.
It was worthy of winning this or any other game, a suitable tribute to birthday boy Brian Little, 65 today. Henri Lansbury also paid homage to the great man by emulating his England career with an eight minute cameo appearance before going off injured.
Unsurprisingly, that was the end of the excitement. Nothing could have topped that moment, and it was difficult not to feel for Jack Grealish. He may have increased his lead at the top of the Most-Fouled Player list, but he must never have thought that he’d score against the Blues with a back-post heaader and the goal be overshadowed by Alan Hutton. What a day.
It wasn’t a particularly good performance – any defence that lets in two goals from attackers unmarked inside the six yard box deserves all the criticism they get, and too many players weren’t on top form. In the greater scheme of things we have more important games coming up, starting with Wednesday’s match at home to Forest. But today’s not a day for letting things like that interrupt the celebrations.
Two more things, though, that might have otherwise passed unnoticed and are worth mentioning. A couple of times towards the end of the match Orjan Nyland came out and caught high balls without a second’s hesitation. He wouldn’t have done that a month ago. And at the final whistle Dean Smith stayed behind to shake the hand of every Blues player and member of their coaching staff. He may turn out to be a great Villa manager. He’s already proved he’s got the class the job commands.