“A win, a win, my kingdom for a win”; William Shakespeare’s initial attempt to set Richard The Third in a football environment may not have worked and required a re-write but Steve Bruce would appreciate his sentiment.
And Bruce, in an eerily familiar pattern, won his second game in charge of Villa last night. Not only that but away from home with Jordan Ayew’s late penalty defeating Reading. 437 days screamed the headlines and immediately I can’t recall who it was against; it’s a heady moment, a psychological millstone lifted from the club.
Being Villa, it was a win carved the hard way. Jack Grealish’s three-match ban – immediately accepted by club and player – began last night, depriving Bruce of a key creative outlet last night. The resultant performance was functional which was hardly surprising. Getting the basics right from back to front is vital if we’re to see some progress.
Redemption was a big theme last night with Pierluigi Gollini leading the way. After a troubled start to his Villa career, he’s improving and saving Williams penalty was a start. He was desperately unlucky to see Kermorgant react quickest to the rebound and equalise.
I’ve got ahead of myself – to equalise, you must concede first and Reading obligingly did so. Jonathan Kodjia netted for the second game running under Bruce, this time the finish wasn’t as emphatic as Saturday’s penalty but it was no less effective. Adomah’s cross eluded everyone except the Ivory Coast international and his shot deflected off Blackett into the net.
Reassuringly, Villa responded positively to the setback of Williams’s equaliser. Reading were bang ordinary and unimaginative, the sort of team we should be beating every week but have so far struggled against. Not last night or at least, not as badly as before.
Villa had the better chances, they just fell to the wrong players but Bruce was not to be denied a win or if he was, there would be no accusations that he didn’t ‘go for it’. Ayew and McCormack came on; the former had more time to make a difference and duly did so.
With barely any time left on the clock, he skipped into the area and was duly upended. Moments like this are no good for man nor beast, or football supporters when your luck has been out for most of the season. The hardy souls who could watch were met in equal number by the hardy souls who couldn’t; Bruce was one of the latter.
With the new ruling about penalty takers keeping in motion, we’ve seen some excessively bad penalties this season. None so rank as Simone Zaza but stuttered run-ups are not good for the nerves. Ayew’s were fine and the ball nestled in the back of the net.
There was still time for us to ‘Villa it up’; Reading spurned the opportunity of a late equaliser, something I wish more of our opponents had done this season.
The win was vital for us, offering breathing space to the relegation places. It might only be three points gap but psychologically, it could be worth double that. Another win on Saturday and we begin to look up rather than over our shoulders.
A time for optimism? Not quite but getting there.