Aston Villa and just carrying on

Villa beat Nottingham Forest and Dave Woodhall’s happy.

It’s got to that time of the season when success doesn’t necessarily come from beating lesser opposition five- or six-nil, but rather from beating them with the minimum of fuss then moving on to the next game. After 45 minutes against Nottingham Forest it looked as though Villa could do both; three up and looking likely to get another one every time they got the ball. It turned out a bit differently in the end but nothing this season is straightforward and that’s what’s making Villa the most exciting team in the league.

There were no great surprises in the starting line-up – not that there’s much room for manoeuvre given the number of injuries we continue to suffer. Still, the team are getting on with it and it wasn’t long after kick-off that they went into the lead. With four minutes gone Leon Bailey beat one defender, put the ball through the legs of another and gave Ollie Watkins a tap-in for his nineteenth goal of the season. Bailey also started off the move that led to Villa’s second after half an hour with Jacob Ramsey doing well in the box to make space and find Douglas Luiz, who hit home from ten yards out.

The third goal ten minutes later was a bit simpler, a pinpoint cross from John McGinn being met by Luiz, whose header was even more perfectly placed. With the game seemingly won thoughts were drifting to how many more Villa would score in the second half when a Forest corner just before the break appeared to catch Emiliano Martinez in two minds and prove that he is, after all, mortal.

If that was a minor concern there was real worry three minutes after the restart. The ball was given away too easily and suddenly Forest were right back in the match. It didn’t help that Callum Chambers had replaced Pau Torres because Villa can’t go a match without another injury scare.

Fortunately they woke up again and there was little more threat from the visitors. Then after 61 minutes Watkins helped close the Forest defence down, his shot was blocked and Bailey was left with a tap-in to seal the match. The rest of the game really was an exercise in making sure of the points without too much trouble although yet again late substitute Morgan Rogers could have got his first Villa goal but snatched at a good chance.

A couple of other results went our way and the table is looking ever more promising. Twelve games to go and five points clear of the team in fifth, or if you want to be a bit more pessimistic, fifteen clear of eighth place. Without wishing to tempt fate it’s going to take some doing to miss out on Europe and even ‘only’ qualifying for the Europa League would now be a disappointment. Villa might be doing some controversial things off the pitch lately but when you look at the genius of Leon Bailey, Ollie Watkins’ goalscoring, Pau Torres and Douglas Luiz making it all look so easy and John McGinn doing the same thing every week, you realise that it doesn’t matter. This is a team to be proud of.