Not far to go now…

Dave Woodhall on Villa at the weekend.

It says a lot about the way in which the mood around Villa Park has altered in the last few weeks that more than few of us expected the team to get something out of Saturday’s game against Manchester City at the Etihad. That’s the Manchester City who are currently Premier League champions, with a team put together at not much less than the price of a medium-sized nuclear deterrent. And the Etihad where Villa invariably lost even when Joey Barton was playing for the opposition. Plus it was the Villa for who playing in defence recently has been resulting in a casualty rate somewhere between North Sea trawlermen and the Vietnam war.

A more realistic assessment of Villa’s chances was that you could get 12/1 on a win, and a lot more than that after 66 minutes. Villa were two down thanks to some cataclysmically bad defending and although the team hadn’t played too badly a hiding was looking ominous.

Then Tom Cleverley pulled back one goal, Carlos Sanchez equalised and all Villa had to do was hold on for five minutes to get the most unlikeliest of points. Most teams would have parked the bus, the team coach and any available trains but this is Tim Sherwood’s Aston Villa so we charged upfield in an attempt to get a winner. On another day we might have got one, when Christian Benteke was bundled over by City keeper Joe Hart but was (wrongly) given offside.

With the unshakabe law of nature that governs clubs who are struggling at the foot of the table coming up against the richer ones, City then broke back and got a winner after yet more comedic defence work. For those interested in such figures, this was apparently the first time for 6 1/2 years that City have had less possession than the opposition at home, much good it did us.

If Villa’s defence was more settled, or even less error-prone, this would have been a game to look back on and think how good it was, how impressive we looked in front of a TV audience. Not only would Villa have taken at least a point, we’d have picked up enough in previous games to be safe already. But it isn’t, and so we continue to worry.

Logic should dictate that a team who in recent weeks have outplayed and defeated both Spurs then Liverpool, and done enough to get something against Manchester City, should easily be able to pick up a couple more wins given our remaining four games. But ‘logic’ and ‘football’ are often mutually exclusive terms.

I’ll remain concerned until enough points have been gained to see the season out in com fort, and until then reflect that if only Paul Lambert had been sacked a week earlier, all we’d have to be worried about now would be the price of London hotels for the last weekend in May.