Salvation for Sherwood:  Beating Blues must be our turning point. #avfc #bcfc

A home win against the Blues?  That will do nicely.  

There’s no point pretending; for all of the bravado and ultimately a win Tuesday night, a little relief was certainly felt.

After the drab display against Albion just a few days before, Sherwood had to not only lift the team, but also re-visit our tactics quite drastically.

Overall, I thought the first half suffered for our need to re-organise and settle a side which had looked far from composed.  This saw Clarke returning to the team in an anchor role, sitting just ahead of the centre halves.  Whilst this gave us protection, the unfamiliar position often overlapped into a back 3 and provoked some uncomfortable play from the Irishman.

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Blues also took advantage of a bit of nervousness and a reshuffle of Villa personnel to make the first half a virtual non-event.  Save for a decent effort across Villa’s goal and a half chance for Sinclair, it wasn’t a pretty affair.

Whilst I thought Villa were unfairly booed off, it prompted a welcome bit of tinkering at half time.

Lescott, still struggling to find his feet since his transfer, was withdrawn as Clarke was preferred alongside Richards.  This immediately brought some balance back to the team – and both players looked more assured for the change.  Indeed, both provided enough evidence that this should be the preferred pairing away at Anfield this weekend.

The introduction of Grealish and Ayew also breathed much needed life into the attack.

Grealish ghosted constantly between the Blues players causing absolute havoc.  He was unplayable & it was a joy to watch after a number of quiet spells from the youngster in recent weeks.  

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Ayew provided the best evidence yet that there is a decent player within him.  After being so lacklustre in his previous displays, he showed energy, skill and threat aplenty.  Whilst the measure of the opposition is obviously different to that of Premier League level, I saw enough to suggest he will be a very useful player.  However – Sherwood must use him as he did – rather than isolating him in an out and out role.  Ayew’s show of promise and form cannot be welcome enough.

Gestede was another who improved massively for the better service and took his goal well.  Whilst I don’t think he is nearly technically as gifted as we might hope, Rudy positions himself well and will be an absolute menace for anyone wishing to defend a cross.  Planting a header, with precision, past the Blues ‘keeper to win the derby does a lot to inspire confidence.

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Overall, I felt this was the first time that Sherwood thought the problems through.  Villa’s initial set up reflected the previous games flaws & changes were made at half time to effect the game.  This is a marked improvement that shouldn’t go un-noticed; it won us the match.

The joy of a derby game goes without saying, but I was surprised with how limited Blues appeared.  Gray showed raw, brief flashes of skill but nothing which couldn’t be suppressed.  Clayton Donaldson is perhaps the ideal Championship workhorse, but up against technically better defenders, his end result was nullified.  For all the industry that was shown first half, Blues brought nothing to excite or inspire an attempt at victory.

So, Aston Villa march on, await a favourable (home) draw and can rest easy, knowing that there still remains no doubt, as to whose City this is.