The Villa lion showed the visiting canaries that there is still some life and fight left in him yesterday. A defeat would have left us doomed to relegation but this was a 6-pointer that we won due to hard work and determination on the pitch.
There was not too much to choose between the two teams in the first half. Norwich are currently on the crest of a slump having now lost their last five games and the first goal was always going to be crucial given the brittle confidence of both teams. It was thankfully Villa that got it and crucially it arrived on the stroke of half time. We added another early in the second half and then showed a steely resolve to hold onto that two goal cushion.
We took our chances, achieved a rare clean sheet and claimed our biggest league win of the season yesterday. We now live to fight another day, if we must go down it seems we might at least go down fighting and all hope is not yet quite lost!
We have now won two of our last three home league games and drew the other one. We have taken 8 points from our last 5 league games which is a points ratio which if repeated in our remaining 13 games might yet see us avoid the drop. Those 8 points from 5 games have also doubled the number of points we had to our name after our first 20 games.
Survival continues to appear to be a mission impossible but like Ethan Hunt is able to do on the big screen we might yet beat the odds as well. Each win like this one makes a great escape look a little more possible and a tad less far fetched.
We are now just 4 points behind Sunderland and 7 points behind yesterday’s opponents. We are also now 8 points away from 17th place and safety which is currently occupied by Newcastle.
The three clubs that are currently in front of us will now start to look over their shoulders at us. We have been written off by the press, pundits, opponents, our board and our “custodian” alike. They all might have to think again if we can add another home win next weekend.
My player ratings from a game in which the result was more important than the performance and that took us up to 16 points which is a figure many of us had doubts that we could achieve in the whole of this season are:
Mark Bunn – 5 – Parried away a strong Mbokani shot on 19 minutes and half came for a cross on 89 minutes only to be left in no man’s land as Martin’s header flew past him.
Michah Richards – 7 – Dependable at the back and also made some strong runs forward.
Joleon Lescott – 7 – MOTM – Gave us the lead on the stroke of half time which deflated our opponents and gave us some much needed confidence to take into the second half. Joleon got a downward header on Veretout’s 45th minute free kick at the far post which took a slight deflection before going through Rudd’s legs and into the net. He organised us well at the back and was determined to win each and every ball. Joleon also cleared an 89th minute Mbokani shot off the line.
Jores Okore – 7 – Jores was so very reliable again in the heart of our defence and was in the right place at the right time to head a Martin header from a cross that Bunn came for but did not get to clear of the line.
Aly Cissokho – 6 – Solid and committed at the back. This was his best performance since his return to Villa Park for me.
Leandro Bacuna – 6 – Hit a first time shot from a nice Cissokho cross to the far post wide on 56 minutes. Leo might have put this game beyond any doubt 14 minutes later when Veretout found him on the edge of the box and he beat a defender before blasting the ball over the bar.
Jordan Veretout - 7 – Did some good work at the back in breaking down their attacks when we were under some pressure in the last quarter of the game having dropped back too deep as a team. Played some nice passes.
Ashley Westwood – 6 – Played his part in holding things together.
Idrissa Gana – 7 – A very, very much improved display on his last Villa Park outing. He did give the ball away on 29 minutes in his own half and will have been very relieved to see Bassong’s header at the end of their move go over the bar. He worked very hard throughout and did very well to block Mbokani’s attempt to force home a rebound at the far post after Lescott had kept his shot out on 89 minutes.
Carles Gil – 6 – His first thought is to move the ball forwards and to create chances up front. Another good display and he got through a fair bit of work yesterday and hit the free kick that gave us our opener.
Gabriel Agbonlahor – 7 – Turned a Bacuna cross wide on 11 minutes and then having been found by Gana ran on to the edge of the box before hitting his shot straight at the keeper on 51 minutes. He then gave us a vital two-goal cushion seconds later. Veretout hit a lovely ball between 2 defenders which he ran onto before hitting the ball past Rudd who had advanced to the edge of the box and into the corner of the net. His goal celebration was muted at best which suggests the criticism he has received has stung but it also seems to have had a positive impact on his performance doesn’t it?
Gabby filled the lone striker role which he has often struggled with in the past surprisingly well yesterday. He showed signs of the player he had been for us in the distant past and that he still has the capacity to do a job for us when he is up for it. He could yet have an unexpected but welcome impact on our survival hopes in our remaining games. His task is now to maintain this work rate, to show a willingness to run and to look for the ball in our next game, then in the one after that and consistently for the rest of this season as and when called upon.
Ciaran Clark – Replaced Richards on 91 minutes so was not on long enough to earn a rating.
Stay Up Villa!