It is certainly a sign of the times when, as a Villa fan, a point against the Albion is a plus. Indeed, at full time many a supporter will have been left wondering how Villa contrived to only take a point. It’s a funny old game after-all.
Having lead 2-0 many will view this as two points dropped. They may be right in the long run, but the performance overall marked a major improvement given the debacles of late. Going into a crucial match against Newcastle, this is a very welcome result indeed.
The game was the maligned cliche of two halves. Villa comfortably won the first whereas Albion could lay claim to the second period through their fight back.
Villa marauded with Agbonlahor up for it and Benteke reminding onlookers of his credentials. The latter was in unplayable form, with the entire Albion team looking their true worth in the presence of the frightening Belgian international.
Christian repaid another portion of his bargain fee, turning, making space, before unleashing an unstoppable shot across former Blues flapper Foster. It was a jaw dropping opener from a figure whom Villa may yet struggle to retain.
Albion continued to rock with N’Zogbia causing trouble behind the front two. Agbonlahor doubled the lead when released, dubious Albion defending and a cool finish beyond the hopeless Foster.
The jubilation should have increased further. N’Zogbia rounded the fullback before cutting back to Westwood. The otherwise steady youngster finished poorly from point blank range into Foster. The rebound found fortune and was hastily cleared.
A chance to be later rued? You ‘betcha.
At the break it felt too good to be true. And thus the second half unfolded.
Albion emerged, evidently having had a hot poker delivered by their charismatic manager Steve Clarke. Clarke, of course, having attended the Tony Mowbray school of charisma and passing with distinction.
Thereafter the inevitable unfolded. Villa tired, inexperience told and Olbiyun pressed towards the Yammy End, hooves and clogs sounding as they did.
Jokes aside Villa’s defending once more let them down. Loose passing and poor distribution poured back into our game. The departure of Delph and N’Zogbia to injury were telling.
Albion scored as the ball broke to the edge of the box. Brunt ran onto the ball laid off by Lukaku and duly powered a finish in off the post. On another day it would have been the outside of the post…
West Brom completed their comeback through want away striker Odemwingie, who looped a finish beyond Guzan after now patented poor defending.
The match, which was a decent derby, was soured by an atrocious challenge by Lukaku. The poor mans Benteke lunged horribly at N’Zogbia who was genuinely fortunate to not sustain serious injury.
Now, many will point to Alan Hutton’s challenge on billy big time Shane Long last season. That was a poor tackle from a poor player. Strong and ill timed, but with an aim to hurt? Lukaka’s tackle was dubious in its very intent. Having seen dismissals of proper footballers like Kompany in recent days, Lukaku was a lucky boy indeed.
At full time it is easy as a Villa supporter to slip into the abyss of negativity. The fact is that this was much better. The draw is frustrating given our lead and domination up until a point. But, there was always the worry that with such low confidence and form, a derby match could have been the final straw.
Rather, it has reminded us we have a forward threat that is capable of hauling us to safety. Can Reading, QPR, Wigan and Southampton etc say the same?
Our defending is the weakness. Experience is a huge part of this and it was instantly a better defence for Dutch international quality like Vlaar returning. A huge plus for the coming months. There is much work still to do as Villa look to rehabilitate a mentally scarred group of young men.
And what of West Brom?
They were distinctly average. To the extent where it is easy to see why early season promise has faded. Familiar faces like Brunt and Morrison will take you only so far. Lukaku is Chelsea’s and the rest are a real mish mash of instantly forgettable faces. Ambitions of Europe were always far fetched, but given their form and squad, mid table is a reasonable likely end point. West Brom have benefitted from two decent managers in recent seasons, the jury shall remain out on Clarkes tenure no doubt.
The table doesn’t look great for Villa but avoiding defeat and humiliation in a derby takes precedence for now. A big match looms against nosediving Newcastle. Beat them and things look rosier, lose and it might be time to invest in an Anderson shelter.
Next up, the battle of Villa Park against Bradford. The quest for silverware resumes Tuesday night at Villa Park. As ever Villa won’t do anything the easy way….