Whisper it quietly…

Dave Woodhall talks about Villa’s 2-0 win at Preston.

It’s at times like this that I often recall a quote from Graham Taylor in 1990. His title-chasing side had gone to Charlton and won 2-0 with the minimum of fuss. Sir Graham’s post-match comments were as succinct as he often was, “We came here, got three points and now we’re going home”.

Wednesday night’s game at Preston was a lot like that. Villa won by the same score they did in that match in South London and with the same lack of drama. We came, we got two early goals, and we saw the rest of the match out. There’s not much more to be added.

Preston are suffering from a series of injuries to defenders although the way we’ve suffered in such a way enough times means we shouldn’t have too much sympathy when we’re the ones taking advantage. And so it proved. James Chester scored from an early corner, Robert Snodgrass got a second and that was it apart from Preston appealing for a penalty a couple of times, forgetting that John Terry was playing for us so they had no chance.

Bobby Charlton may have been their manager once and David Beckham was there on loan, but Preston aren’t Manchester United so there was no chance of us throwing away a two-goal lead in the second half. Villa controlled the game more easily than I’ve seen for years; in fact it’s a long time since I’ve been so relaxed watching the team defend a lead as I have been this season. I suppose if I wanted to find some fault there were a couple of late chances missed, particularly one by Albert Adomah, but it’s not really worth dwelling on them.

Instead, we can look at a team who are growing in confidence. Chester and John Terry have been receiving regular plaudits; the oft-maligned Alan Hutton deserves his share of praise as well. There have been few Villa players since 2010 who deserved to pick up their wages without a twinge of guilt but our newly-converted attacking left-back is at the head of the queue.

Further up the pitch Glenn Whelan is having the best week of his Villa career, we’re starting to put together what looks like a decent midfield formation and Keinan Davis continues to show incredible maturity for a player of his youth and relative inexperience. I know it’s tempting fate, but things are finally starting to look good. Dare I say it, there even appears to be a bit of confidence spreading through the club. Talking of which, there was post-match comment on Sky to the effect that the clubs above us in the table must be starting to worry when they see a club like ours finally beginning to make progress. It’s about time they did.

Preston started the match looking at a place in the play-off places and on Saturday we face another with similar aspirations; Sheffield Wednesday are one of a dozen clubs
whose league position could be a lot different at five to five than it will be at three o’clock. Making sure with another minimum of fuss that the only way for them is down will keep the momentum going and everyone else can carry on thinking that at long last, Aston Villa are on their way back.