Villa beat Watford 2-1, with Dave Woodhall counting the seconds.
A few weeks into the season there was a fair bit of debate about how good Villa’s crowds were. It was reckoned that Watford, midweek in January, would be the real test of our support, particularly if results were going against us. Another gate of over forty thousand, with the only real gaps visible being in the away section, was the answer to that one.
Villa’s line-up was pretty much unchanged, with a lack of attacking options either on the pitch or the bench, and it showed for most of the first half. Marvelous Nakamba was having his best game for weeks and both wing-backs were getting forward well although for all the possession the team enjoyed there was little in the way of clear chances, with Watford’s defence never particularly stretched. Jack Grealish was being double-, triple- and on occasions quadruple-marked and his colleagues were unable to make the most of the space this close attention should have been allowing them.
Then a bit of slack defending gave an opportunity to the one man who should never be given any opportunity to do anything, and Villa went into the break a goal down.
It may have been undeserved, although there was a worrying lack of belief at the break that Villa would be capable of anything different during the rest of the game. Fortunately, that wasn’t to prove the case.
Dean Smith made another early substitution, bringing on Douglas Luiz for Danny Drinkwater, who had put in an improved showing and had always been looking to get the ball forward. Luiz, though, is capable of playing in a much more advanced role and began to worry the opposition. Jack Grealish gets the ball, lays off to Matt Targett, whose shot is blocked and Luiz come charging in to smash into the back of the net. It was a deserved equaliser and Luiz wouldn’t have minded the subsequent booking for celebrating in front of your own supporters – because taunting the opposition’s after a goal is perfectly acceptable, apparently.
I did wonder during the game what Graham Taylor would have made of Watford’s ‘gamesmanship’. Going down at the slightest touch, miraculous recoveries from what seemed to be career- if not life-threatening injuries, theatrical performnce at every thrown-in and goal kick. I’m sure he would have been ashamed.
Watford had been timewasting since before their goal, so naturally they got worse after the equaliser, and the justice was particuarly poetic. Somehow there were only four minutes added on, and the visitors managed to waste most of them as well. If they hadn’t, the game would have been finished after the four minutes, but it wasn’t and a few extra seconds were added to enable Villa to launch one final attack…
I don’t care what anyone says, it was Ezri Konsa’s goal, to add to a tidy performance even if, like the rest of his central colleagues, he was guilty of over-elaboration on the ball. We’ve all been through what Watford’s supporters must have felt as the goal went in, and of course for them the gut-wrenching was doubled. Not only did they lose with the last kick of the match, but they also have to help pay Troy Deeney’s wages.
Incredibly, despite being in what seems like a run of bad form that’s gone on forever, Villa have got ten points from the last six games and we’re ninety minutes from Wembley. Happy days might not be here again just yet, but we’re in much better shape than we could be.