Report: Villa win at Reading after late Ayew penalty. Away curse lifted! A huge 3 points.

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What a rollercoaster of a game.

Villa, as ever, never do things the straightforward way, but at the final whistle nobody cared.  We had finally, after 437 days without an away win, tasted victory.

As was pondered in the match preview, Bruce had endured the performance against Wolves, had injuries and the late suspension of Grealish to contend with (more on him later this week from The Villa Underground).

The line up looked much changed & certainly took some digestion.

Baker, Hutton and Cissokho accompanied regular James Chester at the back.  The latter was made a deserved captain for the evening.  Cissokho will come in for fair criticism, but Nathan Baker’s performance brings a welcome challenger to Elphick’s default selection when fit.

The midfield featured Jedinak, Gardner and Bacuna.  The latter pair, much maligned for various reasons weren’t necessarily pretty in their play, but they were effective.  Effective will certainly suffice.

Up front, Bruce opted for Gestede and Kodjia, forming a tall, strong and threatening attacking line-up.

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The first half wasn’t a cultured affair, but Villa were combative and notably more organised.  Crucially, where we could, we attempted to get on the front foot.

After a defence splitting pass from Gardner, Adomah had the run on the home defence.  Checking inside, it looked as if a great chance had been lost as the defence regroups, but the ball was cut back to Kodjia who slotted home a heavily deflected finish.  

1-0

It doesn’t matter how they go in for the Ivory Coast international, it was a vital 3rd goal of the season.

Reading were disjointed but always suggested they might sneak back into the game.  Gollini was soon called into action, crafting a smart double save at the near post after the ball had been cut in from the right.  Villa were always at risk down the flanks* (*Not News).

Villa though, made it to the break in good shape.

The second half saw The Royals emerge with greater purpose; presumably after a half time mauling.

We rode our luck on more than one occasion, notably when a cross was blazed across the 6 yard line before being hooked away by a fortunate Hutton.  It would have needed only the slightest touches goalwards.

Reading continued to press and Villa were guilty of being undone by a combination of a high line and a looped through ball.  Cissokho, desperately tracking back, clumsily fouled the Reading man in the area.  A stonewall penalty; the second in two games he’s conceded.

Despite protests from the Frenchman and keeper Gollini, the ref pointed to the spot.

The penalty was well saved by Gollini, but his parry could only reach Yann 

Kermorgant whose header looped back over him to equalise.  

It was a cruel outcome following a decent stop from the luckless Italian.

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In a break from the norm, our heads didn’t drop and Reading were denied the right to build upon their goal.

We continued to be difficult to break down and Bruce opted to mix up matters, introducing McCormack for the fatigued Gestede and Ayew for Kodjia.

This provided renewed impetus, particularly with McCormack’s interplay and Ayew’s pace introduced as the hosts became more jaded.  Don’t be alarmed, such witchcraft is apparently something called “tactics”.

We continued to threaten and ask questions of Reading.

Bacuna, playing in an advanced role he would be more accustomed to, fired tamely at the keeper from 8 yards when he should have done better.  Still, we were taking the game to the hosts.

Ayew, released on the edge of the box, ghosted into the area and was gifted a penalty by the outstretched leg of the defender as he attempted to check inside.

The Ghanaian, indifferent in terms of form throughout his Villa career, stepped up and coolly dispatched the penalty to rapturous scenes from the 4000 travelling supporters.

The win is joyous for the simple fact that it is a win.

It’s a sad reality that in recent seasons, wins have been quite so few and far between.  Away wins, as is well documented, are virtually collectors items.

Bruce should see this as a fantastic early reward for being brave with his team selection.  Yes, some changes were enforced, but the midfield choices brought balance.  Individuals had their role to do.  Equally, the attacking changes late into the game provided Reading with a problem that ultimately they were unable to contend with.

The personnel who stepped in for injured regulars also seized their chance which their counterparts fell well short of against Wolves.

We also now have the opportunity to face Fulham at Villa Park on the back of some genuine positivity.  Again, this is a concept which has been so rare that it must be harnessed.  The prospect of two wins in a week?  Inconceivable just a matter of days ago.

To outsiders, it might only be Reading away on a Tuesday night.  However, it could stand as the turning point in not only our season, but our hopes for what may lie further ahead.

Up The Villa.

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