Never on a Sunday – or any day

Dave Woodhall reflects on Villa’s 0-0 draw at Blues.

Thank God that’s over. I know it might sound like heresy in some quarters but I hate playing the Blues. There’s a week of hype and bravado, the day itself sees the sort of police planning and operation more in line with a Presidential state visit and everything around the game seems to bring out the worst in our supporters. Playing the Blues always used to be a big game, but we had bigger. Now it almost defines the entire season.

In particular, and I probably say this twice a year but I can never understand why it is that people who can in many cases live, work and exist together peacefully for 363 days of the year can be so rabid when they’re near each other at a football ground. It’s ironic that as football violence has lessened, this game has taken on an entire new intensity. Personally I blame all those blogs and messageboard things.

And I may as well throw in that cliche about the formbook going out of the window for derby matches. Villa have invariably got a better squad but Blues will say they want it more. This is something else I don’t understand; how professional footballers who have spent their entire lives focused on the game, who have had to show not only talent but also an unquenchable desire and will to win, can approach any game with anything less than 100% commitment.

Anyway, onto the game. There wasn’t much that can be said. Villa started off okay but Blues got into it more as the first half wore on and could have scored when a defensive error saw a deflection fortunately go wide of the post with Sam Johnstone stranded.

Villa looked a bit more dangerous as the second half progressed, and Steve Bruce got the substitutes right for once, Mile Jedinak proving midfield stability and Keinan Davis giving us more options up front. Davis and Jonathan Kodjia both hit the woodwork although the game was winding down to a goalless draw long before the final whistle.

Right at the death we got a free kick in a position that was made for Conor Hourihane to enter the realms of folklore, but unfortunately he was one of the players who’d been substituted and the opportunity went begging. If only Gabby was on the bench. Overall though, there was too much long ball and yet again a safety-first approach was put in place when a bit more enterprise throughout could have won the game.

I suppose that in the final analysis a point away from home is a decent one, and Blues’ record at St Andrews isn’t too bad. It was an acceptable result on a weekend where most of the result went our way. The trouble is, though, that most of Steve Bruce’s performances can be called ‘adequate’ or ‘just about acceptable’. There aren’t too many that put a smile on your face, and the trouble with adequate is that it doesn’t leave much room for error when a performance is less than that.

Three points at home and one away might be a good adage to get promoted in theory but you need the occasional three away points to make up for the times when you won’t get them at home.

A goode place to start would be Preston on Wednesday. They’re good without being world-beaters and a convincing win, especially as it’s on TV, would set us up for another important month.