Villa win at Bolton and Dave Woodhall has seen it all before.
We’re seeing a lot of familiar things lately. Villa winning, for example. That’s getting to be regular.
Something happened at Bolton on Friday afternoon that we’ve seen a lot over the years. The home team put up a bit of a show in the first half, matching their more talented opponents with effort and hard graft without really looking like scoring. Then after the break the visitors gradually pressed on, scored a couple to send their supporters who were sitting all round the ground celebrating, and that was it. Job done, now don’t do anything daft until the final whistle.
We’ve seen it often enough at Villa Park when the Big Clubs have come to town, so it was great when we were the big club and someone else the gallant losers.
There was some doubt earlier in the week about the game going ahead due to Bolton’s parlous financial state but an announcement that they were to be sold by their ‘controversial’ owner was enough to ensure nobody had a wasted journey. The prospective new owner has been declared bankrupt twice and was banned from any involvement in football clubs for three years in 2013 so he’ll clearly have no problem being declared a Fit and Proper Person.
As for the game, it was the sort of performance you want to see at this stage of the season. Don’t get complacent, don’t take unnecessary risks, just sit back and wait for the other team to make mistakes. They didn’t in a first half that seemed to be played with all the intensity of a pre-season friendly, in temperatures to match, but there was always the feeling that Villa had a gear or two to step up if required.
The second half had barely got underway when Tammy Abraham crossed for Jack Grealish to head in Villa’s opener. Jack heading the ball is rare enough, but this season anything can happen.
Ten minutes later and the favour was returned, as the cliche goes. Grealish passes, Abraham scores. Two-nil and we all might as well go home early.
Whether Villa’s priority from then on was more goals or just saving themselves for another game on Monday is open to debate but when Abraham went off with a shoulder injury shortly after scoring the matter seemed to be decided. Further substitutions then followed, with Axel Tuanzebe’s withdrawal a further worry.
The final whistle saw Villa equal a record that has stood for over a century and Bolton’s relegation confirmed. Neither deserved to be celebrated – we came close enough to being in Bolton’s position to know we should never gloat at anyone’s misfortune, and that record was set in 1910, when Villa were top of a league we’re still not yet good enough to be in again. Call me a miserable old curmudgeon, but I’d rather save the celebrating for achievements set at the standard where we should be playing.
And so on to Monday’s game at home to Millwall. Easter is often the defining part of the season and another win should see the play-offs almost achieved.