Cardiff Crushed: Whinging Warnock, Villa Winning Ugly & Best/Worst Performers.

Victory over Cardiff certainly improves the mood, edging Villa closer to the dizzying heights of The Championship playoffs.

We are used, after-all, to staring at a trapdoor of late.  Looking upwards is almost a new concept.

Glancing back at what has been an eventful few months, the club appears to have finally settled under the experienced stewardship of Steve Bruce.  A proper football manager?  Finally.

The recovery of our season, which hit an alarming low following the Di Matteo ending defeat at Preston, is a welcome lurch in the right direction.

Cardiff arrived at Villa Park and presented an immediate threat, missing a golden opportunity in the opening exchanges, heading over from point blank range.

That was a real let-off.

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The visitors were tidy if uncompromising in their approach, but for all their nuisance, crafted little.  

Aside from feeding off unforced errors from Villa players or the occasional disarray that their long throw delivered, we can be satisfied with the defensive display.

However, if there was ever an example needed of a team playing in their managers image, then this was it.

We witnessed a full 90 minutes of total non-football, trips and persistent fouling rarely witnessed since the height of the Stoke-Pulis era.  

Some may brush this off as the rough and tumble of “the Championship”, but I can recall no other side who have so wilfully abandoned playing football this season.

Equally frustrating was the referee’s inability to have an awareness to the tactics at play or those individuals over 90 minutes who repeatedly disrupted the game.  Peltier was merely the fall guy, receiving a red card for a clumsy trip on Grealish in the second half.

Indeed, the halts in play and frequent cards brandished by the official were broadly incomprehensible for both sides.  The ref didn’t discriminate in his ineptitude & this underpinned his inconsistency all afternoon.

Villa though, whilst casual at times, looked assured.

This wasn’t a pretty game of football, but the type of match that perhaps I’d come to expect more of in the second tier.  Ugly, agricultural passages of play that reinforced one’s belief that alcohol (or suitable alternative) should be dispensed directly to your seat at Villa Park.

The opener came after fine work from the increasingly impressive Amavi.  The French international youngster burst forward before squaring to Adomah, who coolly slotted home.  1-0.

Then came a telling moment.

Westwood, much maligned on this blog and elsewhere, controlled poorly to enable Cardiff to break free on the edge of our box.  Rickie Lambert [otherwise anonymous] was gifted a shot on goal which he duly finished.

A dismal goal to concede & one which eroded what goodwill Ashley Westwood had managed to rebuild following a steady display at Brighton.

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The old Villa may have capitulated, collapsed in on itself.  The new Villa is a different, unpredictable beast.  We are full of belief, directness and threat.  This was promptly rewarded.

Adomah had two stabs at a cross & Kodjia did the rest, out-muscling the defender to ensure we went in at the break 2-1 up.  A great time to score & a genuine reason for optimism.  

In Adomah we have signed a player who turns up with no other objectives to create or try to score.  To go from literally zero creativity squad to an assist hungry player like this is a huge plus.  

In Kodjia, we appear to have found someone who not only looks an absolute goal machine, but who also carries a broad smile which suggests the reports of “team spirit” are genuine.  The latter isn’t something I ordinarily care a great deal about, but given last season’s woeful group of players, also marks a positive change in agenda.

The second half saw Cardiff ramp up their disruption.  Countless fouls were committed, some given, some permitted.

Villa though, toom their time and began to turn the screw.

Warnocks men certainly couldn’t cope with Grealish’s movement & took all measures to stop him.

Jedinak was magnetised to anything in the final third.

Kodjia on the ball saw the Cardiff shirts in retreat en masse.

The introduction of Agbonlahor for the ineffective Ayew also provided sufficient food for thought amongst the back four.

There was also contention.  Grealish was felled in the box only to see his claim waved away by the ref.  It looked more a penalty than the one which was ultimately awarded.  Gabby’s protestation & pursuing of the inane ref drew a worthwhile yellow card.

As the minutes ticked, the possibility of the “inevitable equaliser” is never far from the front of the mind.

The chances kept coming; Adomah was unable to fashion a finish after exceptional work from Kodjia.

But then Grealish burst free, took a touch and was brought down in clumsy fashion.  Gestede dispatched the penalty to seal the victory.

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Warnock’s post match delusions may have extended to criticising Grealish, whom he asserts to have been falling over all afternoon. This despite the midfielder having been on the receiving end of 11 fouls; a record within the entire division this season.

And he wonders why nobody called him for the Villa job in the summer?  A bullet dodged indeed.

This goes down as a hard earned victory; one which won’t be used as the marquee example of fine football.

Few will care about any of that, it’s another valuable three points & a huge leap in the direction of the playoffs.  Long may it continue.

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