Aston Villa 1 – 1 Newcastle United
OK, so I didn’t expect that and I’m guessing I’m not the only one. It’s our party piece to concede a late goal and drop two points. The boot being on the other foot feels a bit better. A lot better.
Not that picking up a point at home feels good nor should it but beggars can’t be choosers and whilst we’re at the wrong end of the table, we’re not being beaten. Of course, at some point you have to win but maybe that will come at Barnsley. I just checked; they haven’t drawn all season so win or bust there I think.
That’s looking ahead, now’s a time for reflection. We got away with it, quite simply. There were times when I thought we deserved a point but at others, particularly after the Barcodes had just scored, where it looked as if we were heading for a battering. A Villa win was the only thing that never looked like happening.
In the first half, we ceded the midfield. 5 – 3 – 2 is fine away from home, 3 – 5 – 2 is fine at home but both are useless is the full-backs don’t push forward to support the midfielders. And it’s also a hinderance if your three centre backs don’t know what to do if they have no-one to mark. Chester and Baker are off-key and Tommy Elphick had an afternoon to forget and his evening was no better, particularly his sterling finish past Gollini.
The Italian must think he is cursed; if he can’t contribute to his own downfall, then one of his team-mates will. Spike Milligan wrote “Hitler: My Part In His Downfall”, there’s every chance that the Villa backline will be calling their memoirs, “Di Matteo: Our Part In His Downfall”.
And the pattern of the first half was set. Newcastle had the ball, we didn’t and then when we did, we may as well not have had it as we posed little threat. As the game wore on, the minutes passed slower; it was going to be a long evening. Or so it felt.
In fairness to Di Matteo, he obviously felt the same as Tshibola replaced Baker and we were matching our resources. Well, we would have done so had Jack Grealish not been suspended. Yes, he should be punished for the indiscretions but save it for Barnsley or Preston; talk about shooting yourself in the foot.
Instead, arguably our best midfielder with the ball at his feet, was missing. And when we started to play in the final quarter of the game, he may have been invaluable. And we did play for a while. Ayew thunderous strike rapped the woodwork; all was not lost. Not retrieved yet but not lost.
And then it happened. Right on cue, a late goal. Except this time, it was Villa nicking a point. Tshibola’s header broke Geordie hearts and it felt like a win. The release of tension, the sheer relief of it all; it always feels like a win when you’ve begun preparing for defeat.
Now we just need to start winning and a surge into the promotion places when the international break is over.
Keep the Faith!