Dave Woodhall reports on another Villa draw.
If one of Darren Bent’s chances had gone in on Saturday afternoon Villa would now be fourth in the table. As it was, the easier of the two crept agonisingly wide, we drew again and we were left in seventh place, although Liverpool’s defeat at Spurs pushed us up a place 24 hours later.
Of course the table’s not worth looking at this early in the season, except to have a smile at Arsenal, but it’s frustrating to think that had Bent put away the sort of chance he was netting blindfold when he first arrived at Villa Park, a few doubts would have been extinguished and the sporadic full-time booing wouldn’t have happened. Every great striker goes through an off-period and Bent will be banging goals in again sooner rather than later. Maybe a rest to let his niggling groin injury get cured might be a good idea.
Newcastle are a bit like Villa, except that we’ve won trophies since rationing ended and our supporters don’t pretend to be better than anyone else. During the nineties they spent a lot of money they couldn’t afford in an attempt to crack the big time and got agonisingly close. As a result they found themselves in a shedload of debt, which meant having to get rid of the big names and culminated in relegation. They came back up straight away but look nowhere near a return to the days when Wor Kev was in charge and they were the self-appointed everyone’s second-favourite team. It wasn’t just Leeds who overspent and suffered the consequences.
The plus points of the game were that Gabby Agbonlahor is still scoring and our defence is as solid as ever. It’s too early to properly judge Shay Given but if he keeps this form up we could be talking about our most reliable keeper since Jimmy Rimmer. Stilyan Petrov is also playing as well as ever, and let’s hope his injury isn’t too serious.
The negatives were that once more Charles N’Zogbia was, well, let’s say anonymous. Fabien Delph is also worrying – before long we’ll have to stop making excuses about him still coming back from injury and start to wonder whether he’ll ever make the grade.
We’ve got the unbeaten run, now let’s begin to win a few. And a final point on the attendance – 34,248 isn’t great but it was a big improvement on the crowd for the Wolves game. The lack of Newcastle supporters in the ground was interesting as well. It’s clearly not just Villa supporters that are staying away – ours was the biggest crowd on Saturday with Everton pulling in almost a thousand less while Wolves’ gates was once more surprisingly low considering the start they’ve made. I do hope clubs are taking notice.
Bolton in the League Cup on Tuesday would be a good time to begin winning. They’ve apparently sold less than 100 tickets so their supporters, at least, aren’t treating the competition seriously. In contrast, we have to – it is, realistically, our only chance of success this season. A good result will set us up for the trip to QPR on Sunday, and a decent draw in the next round might start a few thoughts to turn towards Alex successfully retaining his trophy.