On the fifth day of Christmas

Dave Woodhall on Villa’s 1-1 draw at home to Leeds.

You might think it’s strange, but one of my favourite times of the season is when Villa are at home on Christmas Saturday. It always feels like a bonus holiday, with a bigger crowd than usual and a festive feel that makes Christmas go on a bit longer.

That is, if your game isn’t shifted to Thursday night, and a freezing cold night at that. Having Leeds at Villa Park doesn’t add to the ambience either; old habits die hard and the contrast with the Boxing Day visitors from Burton couldn’t have been greater. But there was one thing in common with the last game – a disjointed Villa team who just about deserved the result they got, even if a draw probably did Leeds more good than it did us. Five straight home wins versus eight out of ten means that sharing the points was also, in hindsight, inevitable.

Nothing much happened in the first half, with both sides equally mediocre. Leeds scored early in the second, and at that point there didn’t seem much chance of our unbeaten home record surviving to the end of the year. Yet again, though, Villa’s strength in depth on the bench proved vital, with Albert Adomah in particular, replacing the ineffective Jordan Ayew, looking dangerous when he came on in the latter stages.

The late penalty subsequently scored by Jonathan Kodjia was reward for an improved display as the match wore on but the end to end drama of the final minutes was better for neutral TV viewers than for the nerves of Villa supporters. In the final equation both teams had chances they could have scored from and that usually means a draw was a fair result. Fortress Villa Park remains unbreached.

Leeds were the more organised, which is unsurprising as they’ve had a lot longer to get their team together, Villa possessed the greater individual flair. But there’s still too much individualism; for all the talent at his disposal, and the improved results that he’s inspired, Steve Bruce still hasn’t managed to get the team to perform at anything like maximum ability. The bricks are there; in January they need to be put together.