There’s always something special about midweek matches, particularly in the summer. The heat of the day subsides gently in the night, with the floodlights lighting up the sky as the game progresses.
Saturday’s win over Rotherham lifted a weight from the Villa players’ shoulders. Another win tonight will go a long way to improving the belief inside the squad and in the stands. You know there’s a ‘but’ coming.
Whilst the visit of Huddersfield Town is a match we all view as one we should win, the Terriers issued a warning on Saturday that they shouldn’t be taken lightly. I’m sure Newcastle approached the game with the same attitude as us; it was three points they needed after the opening game defeat at Fulham and it was a fixture they expected to take them in.
Life is rarely that simple; football never is.
Huddersfield capitalised on Newcastle defensive errors and twice led, the second time decisively. It’s the warning shot we needed across our bows. Saturday was comfortable for Villa, tonight may not be so easy.
Roberto Di Matteo faces a difficult choice. Does he change a winning side or not? The usual answer would be not but this is modern football and managers are prone to tinker, even with the club’s first win since February safely under our belt. I wouldn’t suggest he does, not for the moment anyway. The squad is settling down and with new arrivals in the XI, understandings need to be built. In any case, with a match on Saturday evening, it’s not as if tiredness is a factor.
Not that it should be this early in the season anyway.
The key thing is maintaining the balance of the side. The full backs worked well on Saturday in support of the midfield and some dangerous crosses were delivered. A repeat of that would be most welcome but with an awareness that Huddersfield punished Newcastle’s defensive laxness; buccaneering runs are all well and good but only if the rest of the side responds defensively as well as in attack.
Away from the match, changes may be coming soon to Villa Park. Mile Jedinak is still waiting on his work permit from the Home Office for the transfer to be completed. Dr Xia’s optimism is infectious though and it’s hard to believe the deal will fall through.
Reportedly £4m, his fee is inexpensive, especially for a player who has regularly appeared at this and Premier League level. It’s a shame that talk of him being presented tomorrow seems premature but you never know with these things.
Remarkably, it could be the start of a very good week’s business with Joleon Lescott attracting the interest of Rangers. No mention of a fee and at 34, you wouldn’t expect it to be as high as that paid for Jedinak but do we really care? He burned his bridges last season and Lescott needn’t worry about getting to Glasgow, there are plenty of volunteers to drive him, such is his popularity among the supporters.
Three points tonight Gentlemen, if you please.