Onwards and upwards?

Dave Woodhall talks about Villa’s late winner on Saturday.

You might not need any reminding that Christmas is on its way but realising that Saturday’s match was the last visit to Villa Park before the presents are unwrapped was a definite “Where did 2016 go?” moment.

There’s always an emphasis on nostalgia at this time of the year and it was evidence with rain, that scurillous fanzine thing back on the streets being offloaded to unwary passers-by and Villa struggling against Wigan. Just like the old days in fact, even if winning was more like the very old days.

Wigan in December is not a propect to gladden the heart and a sub-thirty thousand crowd was only to be expected. The actual number inside the ground was much lower, as always, and they were soon warmed up with Villa starting off brightly, missing a couple of good chances and Jonathan Kodjia in particular failing to make the most of a clear opportunity after fifteen minutes.

And that was it for the next hour or so, as Villa ran out of ideas while Wigan showed no attempt to do anything except defend. You can’t blame a team in the relegation zone for travelling with the intention of holding out for a draw but as I often say, when the player with the ball has three defenders round him that should leave at least two of his teammates free. Yet again, Villa were incapable of any sort of worthwhile running off the ball to exploit Wigan’s rudimentary tactics.

Long before the end it was obvious that a goal would either come from a defensive mistake or else a flash of individual brilliance. It was of course the latter, with Jack Grealish providing further evidence that he’s maturing into the type of player you hope anyone with the sort of potential he showed as a youngster will become.

Villa have got plenty of “flash of individual brilliance” players. Grealish, Kodjia, Albert Adomah, Ross McCormack, Jordan Ayew; they should be lighting up this division rather than languishing in mid-table. That Villa are stuck in twelfth place, albeit just four points away from sixth, is in part down to a lack of balance in the side and that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. I don’t have to say what players are neeed in January – anyone who has seen the Villa this season knows that already.

But, for all the grumbling about the way it was achieved, Saturday’s game saw a win, the fourth one in succession at Villa Park and it’s been a long while since that happened. it will also add to the confidence that’s gradually creeping back into the club. The top six is in sight, and it’s something that will be debated over the coming months but would Villa be best served by missing out on promotion this time round?

It’s a moot point – there’s a school of thought that says scraping up through the play-offs and in all probablity struggling again in the Premier League might not be as good for the club’s long-term prospects as staying down for 2017-18, not giving the rest of the Championship a ten game start like we did this season, and storming the divison in the way that Newcastle are now managing.

We’ll probably return to that particular debate before long but in the meantime Villa have an awkward trip, both in terms of miles and of the task when they get there, to Norwich on Tuesday night. We’ve got a decent record at Carrow Road recently and three points would be a more than welcome early Christmas present.