Positively Third Street

Villa grab a last-minute winner at Sheffield United. Dave Woodhall celebrates.

The difference between a pessimist and an optimist is, of course, all about whether their glass is half full or half empty. For football supporters pessimism is often a natural state of mind. Logic would see an opposition who’ve won one home game in six as a team on a bad run and easy pickings. We look at them knowing that run’s bound to come to an end eventually, and today’s the day.

I did wonder which way Sheffield United supporters would look, with their home form coming up against our four straight league wins. I knew which way ours would. And to be fair, there was reason to doubt during the first half at Bramall Lane. Maybe it was because Villa had been out of action for ten days, or because we still don’t think we can do well on the TV, but the team were a distant second best to a Sheffield United side who were looking to put that poor run behind them.

It was an unchanged Villa side on paper but they seemed well short of recent performances, with even John Terry looking flappable at times. Luckily Sam Johnstone is adding consistency to his undoubted talent.

Villa improved after the break but still didn’t look as though there was a goal in the team, Scott Hogan out of sorts and Albert Adomah having a quiet night. Steve Bruce had made substitutions in an attempt to change the pattern of the match but when Adomah was replaced by Mile Jedinak with five minutes to go, it appeared that the manager had faced the inevitable and was settling for the point which would have been a good one given the team’s overall performance and the rest of the results on the night.

Sorry, if there’s such a thing as hindsight pessimism that was it, because what Bruce was doing was, of course, inspired. Robert Snodgrass cut in, hit a glorious shot from the edge of the box and that single point became three. And thoroughly deserved they were, too.

I was talking to someone this afternoon about the cost of away games and how anyone who can go to them all in the Championship, given the amount of midweek fixtures, must have both a good job and an understanding family. But as anyone who’s a regular traveller, no matter who they support, will know, there’s no greater feeling than a late winner on a cold Tuesday night miles from home.

For years now the only thing to be proud of where Villa are concerned has been our support. It’s still magnificent, but gradually we’re starting to have a team to be proud of as well. They might not always play in the most dazzling style, but they never give up until the final whistle.

If the Villa do go up, then wherever that promotion is won, we can look back on a night like this as the time when it all became possible. A month ago that pessimistic outlook was understandable. Now we’re a point off second and we’ve won five straight league games for the first time in twenty years. Next up at Vila Park are Burton and then – cliche alert – it’ll be time for seventh heaven.