Albert and the Lions

Dave Woodhall reports from Villa’s 2-0 win at home to Ipswich.

As someone once said, “If there was no such thing as coincidence the word wouldn’t appear in the dictionary”. Whether that would work in different circumstances as a defence in court or not I don’t know, but there was a definite strand of coincidence, or fate if you like, at play on Saturday afternoon.

Saturday was the anniversary of my dad’s death. When he died I was too young to go to the match on my own so a friend of the family took me with his son. I saw his son outside Villa Park for the first time in years before kick-off and then due to a complicated bit of ticket swapping with someone else I’d not seen for a while ended up in a different seat to the one I’d bought. Early in the first half I realised that I was sitting, as far as I could make out, in more or less exactly the same spot we used to stand all those years ago, when Villa were chasing promotion thanks to a winger who couldn’t stop scoring.

The man who used to take me to the match was, of course, named Albert and it was another Albert who proved the difference between Villa and a distinctly limited Ipswich side who offered little in the way of danger once Adomah’s first goal had gone in. I said that Josh Onomah’s deflection against Sunderland on Tuesday was the sort that you score when you’re top of the league, and Adomah’s opener had a bit of the kind of fortune that comes a player’s way when he’s scoring on average a goal a game. It wasn’t a particularly lucky goal, but a couple of times on his way through the area he could have lost control of the ball yet it continued to bounce perfectly for him.

There wasn’t much of note happening from then until Robert Snodgrass’s perfect through ball let in Adomah for his second and the coolest goal celebration ever witnessed. And there wasn’t much worth talking about after that, either. It’s been said that Villa need to put together a few routine wins to get into the habit and this was as routine a win as you could imagine. We didn’t look like taking Ipswich apart, but neither did we ever look like conceding. The way in which the team saw out the game would have been unthinkable this time last season and it showed that if John Terry never does anything else for us, he’s instilled a sense of professionalism where a succession of managers have failed.

We had an object lesson in how to run the clock down – dawdling over substitutions, holding up in the corners, finding space to keep the ball, defying Ipswich to tackle. it might not be pretty, or something to particularly boast about, but it’s as essential to a team’s success as being able to hit Goal of the Month contenders in every game. Late on, every Villa player looked comfortable on the ball, and it’s a long time since I could say that.

Adomah took the headlines and most Man of the Match but there were at least half a dozen contenders for the runners-up spot. In fact, what’s so good about recent weeks is that so many players have been going about their work without fuss or even being particularly noteworthy. On Saturday James Chester, Sam Johnstone, Robert Snodgrass and after he came on Chris Samba in particular were scarcely noticeable but they were always where they had to be.

Twelve points out of fifteen made for a decent November, although the coming month looks a bit harder. It starts on Friday night with a trip to Leeds, who back in those days I talked about earlier were taking professionalism to a whole new level. I can’t predict the result but I know that for effort and team spirit at what is still such an intimidating venue, we won’t be wanting.