I don’t know why I was optimistic; it’s inherent, I suppose. It’s been more than a year since we won away from home but for thirty minutes yesterday it seemed that run was going to end.
Jordan Ayew put the transfer talk to one side and buried his chance. Thirteen minutes in and both sides had read the script, fully understanding their lines. Then we fluffed them, quite expectedly I suppose.
The capitulation underlines the extent to which confidence is still fragile within the squad. The manager may have changed, the ideas may be new but it’s largely the same group who have not yet shaken the losing habit: Luton Town made it fourteen defeats in the last fifteen competitive matches. That isn’t a run which is going to end easily, no matter the fine words.
As ever, it was a largely self-inflicted defeat. The equaliser came I’d argue, against the run of play yet there was no surprise about its’ arrival. The equaliser came as Richards made a rare mistake on the night when he was at right back; slow to play the offside trap the rest of the defence was playing, he kept Gray onside to level the tie.
The rest of the goals stemmed from Robert Di Matteo’s substitution; Alan Hutton on, Micah Richards to the centre in place of the ineffective Nathan Baker with the Scot on the right. Except Richards had largely been playing well on the right and the change unsettled and unnerved the XI, hinting that the combination hadn’t practiced together at all in the run-up to this fixture.
For the second and third, positionally we were struggling. Richards, who I can’t remember the last time I saw as a centre back was all over the shop and Luton punished that weakness and the disintegrating confidence in the Villa squad.
Thankfully, this weekend’s game is at home to Rotherham United. The chance to end this run which is coursing its’ poison through the squad’s veins. Not that it can be taken for granted; not with the combination of the unfortunate goalkeeping mistake on Sunday and Keystone Cop defending at Kenilworth Road. The former is an aberration, we hope, the latter all too familiar.
Where do we go from here? There’s a danger too much can be read into one defeat. Let’s not forget that there were a lot of positives to take from Sunday’s defeat; none, beyond a sharp learning curve, from last night.
The start to the season has been different to how we imagined. Any sense of entitlement for promotion has been well and truly knocked out of us or should have been. This wasn’t even a league match but serves as a healthy warning for what lies ahead when we visit those deemed ‘lesser sides’ this season. All manner of fighters lurk in the Football League; we need to wake up and smell the coffee.
But I can deal with the failure, I’m used to that. It’s the hope which kills me.