Football – bloody hell

Dave Woodhall stops for breath after Villa’s 5-5 draw at home to Nottingham Forest.

It was back to the traditional Wednesday evening for Villa’s fixture with Nottingham Forest. Nobody knows why we changed to Tuesdays some time during the reign of Alex McLeish but no manager since then has felt bothered enough to change back and there’s not been any great clamour from supporters.

But a consequence of last weekend’s fun and game was that we couldn’t play twice in three days so Wednesday night it was for the visit of a team that should act both as a test of Villa’s promotion hopes and also, as I’ve said many times over the past three years, as a warning of what can happen if you spend too much time in this division.

But then again, if this is what the Championship is like I’m not too sure I want to leave it. when the teams were announced the immediate reaction was that this was never going to finish nil-nil, even though Forest’s defence is currently the meanest in the league. Villa’s midfield seemed particularly lightweight, with injuries kicking in and Dean Smith obviously thinking that Glen Whelan wasn’t up to two matches in quick succession.

Such worries were soon proved justified when Villa were two down before many of the crowd were in their seats. We pulled back to equalise thank to a couple of goals from Tammy Abraham without too much trouble and seemed capable of going on to win just as easily. Then Forest went into the lead again (James Chester might as well take the blame for this one) before a penalty gave Abraham his hat-trick and put Villa back in the match.

There was time for Abraham to miss what seemed a straightforward header in first half stoppage time before the referee blew to enable everyone to take a rest.

Into part two, and despite Villa equalising twice and looking well in control, Forest scored a fourth with a long-range shot that seemed to have taken a deflection but on looking at it again appeared to have caught Orjan Nyland wrong-footed.

Then came what would have been the turning point of any ordinary match, when a two-footed lunge on John McGinn brought a straight red card and led to a good old-fashioned bit of pushing and shoving which also saw a yellow card for Alan Hutton. Abraham equalised again from the resultant free kick and nobody in the ground was in the slightest bit surprised when Anwar El Ghazi hit the best goal of the night four minutes later.

Villa were finally in the lead but that was never likely to last, even against ten men. Instead of going for the killer goal they sat back for the first time in the game, although that might have been more from exhaustion than anything else, and let Forest back into it. Some more poor marking, a hint of a deflection, but Nyland was definitely at fault to allow the ball in at the near post. And that was it, except for a couple of disallowed goals.

Yes, it can be seen as two points dropped. Any team with hopes of success should never let a late lead slip to a side who’ve just had a player sent off. But then again, we saw ten goals, a red card, a punch-up, a stoppage-time winner disallowed from a player who’d scored four already and at the final whistle both teams collapsing to the floor like Apollo Creed and Rocky Balboa. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not complaining.