Can we play you every week?

Villa’s good run continued with a 3-1 win at Nottingham Forest with Dave Woodhall watching.

It’s usually sung to a team you make a habit of beating out of site on a regular basis. Villa might not exactly be a bogey side for Nottingham Forest, but if every game was like the two we’ve played against them this season football would be a lot more entertaining.

Forest were a goal up after three minutes, much as they were at Villa Park, but unlike that unforgettable night’s entertainment, that was as good as it got for Martin O’Neill’s men. You wait months for a top quality midfielder to come along and make a difference, then you get two almost at once, as John McGinn first equalised and then put Villa into the lead after a quarter of an hour with a couple of well-taken goals.

It’s getting to the stage again now where you can write pretty much the same match report as last time. The difference now is that rather than using words like ‘pedestrian’, ‘unimaginative’ and ‘error-strewn’ you’d be talking about a resolute and confident defence, a midfield full of energy and creativity and chances being created, even if they weren’t always taken, with Tammy Abraham in particular unlucky a couple of times.

Forest came into the game more towards the end of the first half in what was their best period of the game although even then, Villa looked lively enough to score again. In the end it took until an hour had gone before Kortney Hause scored from a free-kick sent over by Conor Hourihane, who sometimes gets criticised for offering little more than assists and goals, but then again he does seem to be doing one or the other in most matches.

And that was pretty much that, apart from McGinn inches wide from getting his third. Anwar El Ghazi being replaced by Albert Adomah after picking up a knock and Abraham was replaced by Jonathan Kodjia. Again, to be able to bring on such players shows the strength in depth that Villa are now able to utilise, particularly when bearing in mind that our new-found defensive meanness, with just a single goal conceded in the last three games, is coming with three central defenders out injured.

There was also a bit of schadenfreude aimed in the direction of Martin O’Neill, for whom I would guess some Villa supporters harbour mixed feelings if not outright affection, and Roy Keane, about whom opinion, both at Villa Park and just about everywhere else on earth, is pretty much universal.

It was the sort of night where no-one played poorly and apart from McGinn none really stood out as better than the others, although Andre Green certainly came into the side and did well, as has Jed Steer, who is doing what he has to do competently enough. Admittedly he’s been helped by the addition of Hause and Tyrone Mings, although where a keeper and his defence are concerned, confidence is a two-way thing.

Luck tends to go your way when you’re doing well and results have been good to Villa during the midweek fixtures. Somehow we’ve clawed back almost all of the deficit between us and the top six and with Middlesbrough at home on Saturday the rest of the season promises to be interesting. That’s another word whose meaning has changed in the last fortnight, as well.

One thought on “Can we play you every week?

  1. Finding myself abroad – as is often the case – and in view of recent events and a renewed sense of optimism, i decided to ‘bite the bullet’ and purchase the game for my son and i to ‘enjoy’.
    It was – in view of the result – £6 well spent although the shoddy TV service that so many complain about offered to subscribers and one-offers such as myself was evident.
    Thankfully, the team out on the pitch was far more professional than the Villa marketing and TV department; defence, midfield and attack appear to now work in harmony, and they were superior in every respect to a Forest side that had begun the day above us in the table.
    We created more chances, had more of the ball – our possession made us appear the home team for large swathes of the game – and successfully snuffed out most rare opposition attacks, and looked an all-round fairly well-balanced team.
    We’ll probably face greater tests than the Blues and Forest in what now looks like a distinct push for a play-off place, and we’ll undoubtedly deserve whatever we get come the season’s end (though as i’ve said here before, as much as i want the season prolonged by the fun of the play-offs, i don’t crave a top-flight return!)
    Making Grealish captain looks to me a masterstroke and has probably foisted some much-needed maturity on our playmaker, as well as enabling the other players to benefit from a bit more freedom owing to the vigilance he receives on the pitch, and it’s probably time for his team-mates to step up and show they want promotion as much as the fans.
    As to my son, much as he enjoyed the first half, he want next door to watch his beloved Barcelona (where we were) in the Champions’ League – and that shows what down-on-their-luck clubs are up against in the modern game….

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