After a miserable week, the sun shone at Villa Park as the first win since February was recorded.
For the first time in what feels like a lifetime, Villa dominated the first half and didn’t blow it spectacularly in the second. Goals from Gestede (2) and Jack Grealish proved too much for a Rotherham United side who were, in fairness, not the best team we will face this season.
Whilst everyone’s pre-season favourites Newcastle United struggle to adapt to life in the Championship, we’ve settled reasonably well. Gollini’s error aside, last weekend was a decent performance for the most part and yesterday we moved the ball around quickly in the first 45 minutes, with two first half goals asserting our superiority on proceedings.
The full backs were crucial to the victory. Roberto Di Matteo needs them to get forward at every opportunity to support the strikers and when you have a player like Gestede who is happy attacking the goal from close range. Cissokho’s cross provided the opener after twenty minutes and by half time, Gestede might have netted four times.
He marginally missed Bacuna’s cross minutes later; a third opportunity went begging before great interplay between McCormack and Ayew led to the latter providing a cultured touch to set up Gestede. A straightforward chance was converted; how often are we left scratching our heads wondering how an opportunity goes begging? Not yesterday.
The win was completed by Jack Grealish with six minutes to go. He’d missed earlier in the second half when clean through on goal but second time around, Grealish gambolled to a pleasing finish. A happy Holte End embraced their favoured son to its collective bosom and gave the young scamp a paternal ruffle of the hair in celebration. Happy days are here again.
Three points were vital. To emerge from a losing run at the end of last season had a hangover at the start of this one. The key will be building on victory to create some momentum by beating Huddersfield Town before the tricky away games at Derby County and Bristol City.
There were plenty of signs that the players are understanding what Roberto Di Matteo wants from them. Having compliant opponents yesterday helps; Rotherham are no yardstick by which to judge ourselves, simply the shirts placed in front of us. We won’t enjoy the same space and time against better teams but by then, hopefully confidence may be less brittle.
Tshibola was one who had a better afternoon than the midweek trip to Luton Town, building better understandings with team-mates and generally running the midfield with Westwood. Their confidence on the ball released Grealish from defensive shackles as he delivered a performance which underlines that the potential is still there.
It helped that the defence was more secure, with James Chester enjoying a comfortable debut. Tommy Elphick could prove to be this summer’s star signing – tempting fate I know but it has to be said that his capture from Bournemouth has delivered the leadership and defensive organisation we were begging for last season.
All in all, a good win. Now to Huddersfield’s visit on Tuesday and three more points.