It has become something of a dangerous habit over the last 6 years, examining the table after each result and allowing the mind to run wild with possibilities. This season, given our predicament, has been the worst for it.
Villa’s victory over Norwich narrows the gap to safety to 8 points. A big ask with 13 games remaining, but stranger things have happened in football.
The first half was a real struggle to watch. Whilst the conditions did little to help, rain lashing and wind swirling, Villa lacked invention and were fortunate after inviting pressure from the visitors.
Indeed, Norwich went in at the break shell-shocked after spurning glorious opportunities, most notably a point blank header which hit the ground in front of the goal before miraculously going over.
Villa’s midfield wasn’t at the races either and found itself passed by on at least 3 occasions, permitting unchallenged efforts on goal. One in particular Bunn did well to fist away as it arrowed towards him.
After a wasted free kick earlier in the half, Gil redeemed himself with a deep looping cross on the stroke of half time. Lescott, growing into a steadier figure of late, nodded home. The Norwich goalkeeper didn’t cover himself in glory, but that’s not our concern. A welcome half time lead that caught most off-guard judging by an delayed celebration.
The second half marked a notable increase in urgency in the early exchanges. Villa were finding luck on the flanks and Agbonlahor grew into the game. Whilst Gabby could struggle to do anything other than improve on his early season form, he was a real handful for the Canaries defence.
On the day Agbonlahor, truly only picked in the absence of any other recognised attacker (bar perhaps Sinclair) was strong, a willing runner and ultimately got rewarded with a goal.
Fed through by the tireless Veretout, Agbonlahor took advantage of some questionable positioning from the Norwich goalkeeper to slot home expertly. A muted celebration followed from the striker, probably owing to the vocal (& in my view justified) criticism he’s received in recent months.
This was certainly a unheralded position to be in this season and Norwich were rocking badly. Rocking to the extent that if Villa could have been more clinical, the ten minutes that followed should have put the tie beyond all doubt.
Gil was a lively figure, threading passes and ghosting across the pitch.
Veretout delivered a killer pass to Bacuna who from 10 yards could only blaze over wildly when easier to score. On more than one occasion a Villa man dithered on the obvious pass in both halves of the game, allowing a great opportunity to slip away. We must become more clinical.
As Villa tired, Norwich introduced fresh legs. Garde, to great surprise stuck with an incredibly leggy Villa eleven to the bitter end.
As the clock ran down Norwich spurned great chances to make the fixture much more tense.
However, Villa rode out a period of corners and intense pressure in the dying minutes to secure a potentially invaluable 3 points.
Well, ultimately, unless many more wins can be ground out, very little. However, the points gap by some good fortune isn’t insurmountable. It’s a tall order, that’s a given, but it could be far far worse.
All the team and Garde can do is try to win as many games as possible. “Try” being the key word. When we put our minds to it today and started ticking, you can see that there are footballers amongst a shellshocked squad. Gil, Veretout & Okore have the makings of a decent spine.
Lescott is growing in stature again for us. Gabby showed all of the good things about him that make us ponder quite why he has been so truly poor & inconsistent.
What is certain is that we now have to start beating teams that no-one expects. Liverpool are up next, and whilst I don’t personally think they are a particularly great side, few will predict a Villa victory. It stands as a superb opportunity to make an 8 point gap to safety, just 5.
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