Villa draw again, but Dave Woodhall is happy to watch it for a change.
You don’t go to the match to enjoy yourself. I know enjoyment is supposed to be the point of going, but really? Irrespective of everything else that happens during the day, how often do you enjoy those ninety minutes in the middle? If you’re a Villa supporter, most of the time you’re either miserable/angry at the catalogue of errors unfolding before your eyes or, on the rare occasions that the team are doing well, you’re worried that it’s all about to go horribly wrong.
One thing I certainly don’t enjoy is a 5.30 kick-off. neither one thing nor another, it’s not a proper night match and it messes up your evening. This is the one that’s designed purely for those who think football is a TV game show – at that time on a Saturday anyone who’s been to a match is either on their way home or still talking about what they’ve just seen.
After the predictable media wind-up about the most contrived rivalry in football (the Newcastle supporters I spoke to before seemed to care as much about us as we do about them), Villa kicked off and chased shadows for most of the first half. Enjoyable it was not, although at least after Newcastle’s inevitable goal the team did at least have spells where they raised their game to the dizzy heights of mediocrity.
They improved a bit after the break but there was still nothing much to get excited about until with twenty minutes to go, the clouds seemed to lift and Villa began to play. Miles Jedinak, poor until then, got more into the game while second half arrival Aaron Tshibola gave a driving midfield general performabnce worthy of Dennis Mortimer. Jordan Ayew showed that when he’s on form there’s no better player in the division and Rudy Gestede added an aerial threat.
There was a disallowed goal, the woodwork was battered yet again and in a season when late goals have become a Villa Park speciality there was finally one at the right end. If they’d passed a bit more instead of trying to beat half a dozen defenders every time they got the ball we might even have had a winner.
For the first time in what seems an age Villa weren’t the team hanging on at the end. Indeed, they were attacking until the final whistle and the crowd appreciated what we’d witnessed. You’re never going to get promoted on the basis of rescuing a point with a late equaliser no matter how good the opposition and Villa are still at the wrong end of the table but what we saw when the team were doing well on Saturday afternoon does give some signs of hope for the future. If nothing else, I’d enjoyed myself and after such a long time of almost relentless misery such small pleasures are to be savoured.
Villa have got a great chance to move up the table this week. Winnable away ganes at Barnsley and Preston will go a long way towards showing whether promotion is still a realistic prospect, or whether matchday is still going to be more about the day than the match.
One thing, though, is definite. For these games, neither of them exactly a short trip, Villa have sold getting on for ten thousand tickets. In terms of tickets, travel, sundry expenses and time off work the cost of this awe-inspiring show of loyalty will be the best part of a million pounds, to watch a team that haven’t won away for fourteen months. As I’ve said more than once during that period, we deserve better – and they, very rarely, have deserved us.