Dave Woodhall watches Villa lose at Brentford.
For the first time since getting relegated, there wasn’t a wistful look towards the opposition bench as Villa took on Brentford at Griffin Park on Wednesday evening.
The game was billed as the return of Dean Smith to the place where he first started to make his reputation, but with the previous night’s results mostly going Villa’s way, of far greater importance was the opportunity to finally start closing the gap on the top six.
Smith got a warm reception from the Brentford supporters in the crowd and he deserved it not only for the work he did as their manager but also for the nondescript performance his current team put up. Brentford have been Villa’s bogey team ever since we were went down to the Championship, and there’s no shame in having one of them – I can remember when Notts County and then Wimbledon seemed to escape relegation every season thanks to the points Villa donated to them.
The difference of course is that back then we had a team good enough to beat any other in the league. Now, no matter how bad the opposition, Villa can match and exceed their ineptitude with ease.
Not that Brentford were bad. They were assured, passed the ball quickly and with confidence and each member of the team knew exactly what he was doing. They were, in short, a perfect example of the sort of team put together by their previous manager, on an annual basis and on a budget that just about stretched to a shoestring.
As for the Villa, I could write a lengthy, in-depth resume of how the team played, but if you’ve seen them at any time during most of this season, you know what I’d say. We have a panic-stricken and error-prone defence and an over-run midfield. We have inconsistent and often invisible wide players, and while Tammy Abraham is as good as it gets when it comes to sticking the ball in the back of the net in this division, he’s never going to score if he doesn’t get any chances.
Somehow, Villa held out until almost the end. Conor Hourihane wasted a good opportunity to win the match late on, then as the game entered stoppage time and it seemed as though we might escape with a point that would have scarcely been deserved, there was yet another dramatic ending to a Villa performance.
I did say earlier on that the play-off contenders didn’t do too well the night before. It didn’t really matter.