Dave Woodhall watches history made as Villa beat Millwall.
After the win at Bolton I said that breaking records in the Championship isn’t much to celebrate, as we shouldn’t be here in the first place. I still think that, but it would be short-sighted not to recognise the enormity of what Dean Smith & co have achieved over the past two months.
During those dark days we reckoned that if by some miracle Villa did finish in the top six, it would be on the back of such a phenomenal run that we’d go into the play-offs bang in form. What no-one could have foreseen was that the team would do so well we’d make sure with two games to go and the only problem would be keeping the momentum going during the ‘dead’ last couple of fixtures.
As the run of victories grew, so the history books had to be searched to find the previous record and despite what the manager and players might have said, there’s no doubt that they wanted to get that ten. Immortality is always worth having.
And so it was that the chance to write their names in the history books came up on a sunny Bank Holiday Monday against Millwall, in front of what would have been another crowd of over forty thousand if the visitors had brought a few more.
There were few signs of nerves amongst the supporters beforehand and none from the team as the game kicked off. In fact, it was yet another of those performances that we’ve seen a lot of lately. Villa weren’t on top form but still had the superior class to stamp their authority on the opposition. Jonathan Kodjia’s goal came from his third good chance and from Villa’s fifth or sixth.
We could have had a few more in the second half but yet again came up against a keeper in inspired form. Ahmed El Ghazi and Andre Green in particular had straightforward opportunities to score although at no time did it ever look as though their misses would cost Villa the win. Millwall rarely threatened Villa’s defence and throughout stoppage time the ball was in the visitors half, as it had been for most of the previous ninety minutes.
With results elsewhere going our way the play-offs are now guaranteed, and Dean Smith has another set of dilemmas to contend with. Does he rest Grealish and McGinn for the remaining league games? Should Tammy Abraham and Axel Tuanzebe be risked? or should he ignore all the possible permutations and keep on doing what’s served him so well for the past two months, namely picking the strongest possible team to keep this run going?
Taking a couple out of the firing line and giving game time to a few of the squad players might be sensible but ten games ago Villa were fourteen points behind the Albion and twelve away from fifth-placed Middlesbrough, who had a game in hand. We’re now the team in fifth, two points behind Albion. If it ain’t broke, maybe you shouldn’t try to fix it.
One thought on “Aston historymen”
what to do about the upcoming 2 fixtures now we know we’ve bagged a play-off spot?
last year, Bruce opted to rest players, and yet we looked to have lost momentum by the time of the final – though that could have been by dint of Fulham’s phenomenal impetus achieved during virtually the entirety of the second half of the season.
the battle for the second spot, and Leeds’ current form – as well as what many have pointed out is the inevitable consequence of Bielsa’s methods in the latter stages of competitions – leads me to think that for the Yorkshire giants the game against Villa in particular is make-or-break.
Bielsa is well-known for studying the opposition and setting up his teams to play accordingly – he’ll know full well who the heartbeats of this Villa team are, and his charges are likely to be unsparing too if their last home game now feels like a last-chance-saloon.
if Leeds were sitting pretty in second place, i’d be tempted to go for it against them, with the strongest team at my disposal, in order to give some of the more fringe players a run-out against a Norwich who might be feeling by then that they no longer have anything to prove.
it doesn’t look so clear to me now, and i’m hoping that Dean Smith’s inexperience of pressure games at this level doesn’t trip him up, having said that, it was supposed to be Steve Bruce’s trump-card – and look how well that turned out last May….
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