A small matter of pride

Dave Woodhall on events at Villa Park.

There’s an old adage in local football that Villa beat Albion beat Blues beat Villa. Over the years the statistics seem to bear it out; Villa have always done well against their oldest rivals but have never really enjoyed a similar supremacy over Blues whatever the difference in fortunes between the two teams.

There was therefore a certain amount of trepidation in the build-up to tonight’s game regardless of ticket allocations and threatened pub closures. Villa’s league form is poor; they’ve either been playing well and not getting the result they deserved or playing badly and deservedly losing. Blues, meanwhile, have got the habit of grinding out results and could have gone into the match with a certain amount of confidence.

Both managers pledged to put our stronger teams than would otherwise have been the case for a third round League Cup tie – I don’t doubt that they would have preferred to make wholesale changes but neither was daft enough to effectively throw the game.

Tim Sherwood’s line-up was less gung-ho than for the previous round against Notts County, but there was still plenty of attacking intent, although it has to be said that Plan A didn’t come off during a disappointing first half. There have been long and loud complaints about the lack of a Plan B for many years, but we certainly got one tonight.

Half-time substitutions and a change in formation transformed the match and Villa were well on top after the break. Jack Grealish shone yet again, and it was fitting that he began the move that culminated with Jordan Amavi putting over the perfect cross for Rudy Gestede to head home.

Blues will no doubt say that their chances after the goal should have earned them at least extra time while Villa will point out that only bad luck and Tomasz Kuszczak kept the scoreline down to a single goal.

The response from both sets of supporters at the final whistle told the story of the evening. Villa fans were delighted at the win, while the Blues contingent were happy to have seen their team put in maximum effort. As Tim Sherwood said afterwards, Villa couldn’t win whatever the scoreline ut tonight should boost the confidence of all concerned, particularly players such as Jordan Ayew, who deserved to see his best game for the club rewarded with a goal.

In the wider picture it wasn’t a very significant result. Indeed, getting something out of the upcoming game at Anfield would probably be better for Villa’s future. But sometimes, the wider picture is nowhere near as important as going to work in the morning with a smile on your face.