Dave Woodhall on Villa’s Sunday afternoon stroll.
Two wins in a row, five games unbeaten and up to eleventh in the league. Truly, these are exciting times at Villa Park and hurry up, because with such a record sub-30,000 attendances will soon be a thing of the past and the ‘Sold Out’ notices certain to start appearing again.
Sunday’s game was, by Villa standards, particularly gripping with the team coming from a goal down to win, for the first time this season. They also scored at the Holte End, again for what seemed the first time in living memory. And a fine goal it was too, Christian Benteke laying on a chance that Alan Hutton put away with ridiculous nonchalance. Rarely has a player been so comprehensively written off as Hutton yet come back to play such a vital role in the team; long may it last.
The game itself was the sort of scrappy affair typical of a mid-table side at home to one that have just come up and seem doomed to return as quickly. Of course, these things are never straightforward when Villa are the home side, but they got over the setback of a goal that was part-deflection, part goalkeeping error and Ciaran Clark equalised soon after.
Villa should have scored a few after that but a combination of Kaspar Schemeichel on top form and Christian Benteke not yet back to his best kept the score level until Hutton’s intervention. After that Villa managed to kill the game off with little drama, the obligatory two injuries were to Ashley Westwood and Tom Cleverley, and the table is starting to look a bit more respectable.
Beating the team bottom of the league doesn’t suddenly make Villa world beaters, but the recent unbeaten run will have boosted the team’s confidence and might have kept the manager in a job. The team’s defence is solid against all but the best attacks, with Clark and Jores Okore looking good for what was a third-(at least) choice pairing not long ago while Carlos Sanchez improves with every game. If Ron Vlaar does leave in January, we might not miss him that much after all.
After the match Lambert spoke of trying something new during the game and whatever it was should be repeated. This performance was a long way from the finished article but it showed, yet again, that the team are capable of better than they’ve shown so often. When they’re bad they’re awful but when they’re on form they’re not as bad as they’ve been painted. Who knows – perhaps the final corner has at long last been turned.
Now it’s on to the Hawthorns on Saturday, for another instalment in the longest-running show in the Villa’s history. Three more points there will be a further step towards the mid-table security that would represent another small bit of progress but should never be regarded as anything to boast about.