Aston Villa 2 – 1 Burton Albion
Not so much making the Brewer’s droop, more of a wilt. We made hard work of the 2 – 1 win, rarely playing as well as we know Villa can but certainly not as badly as they can. It was a ‘Christmas afternoon having eaten too much turkey’ type of performance; that last glug of wine was one too many and settling down with good intentions, simply left you gradually dropping off.
In his post-match press conference, Steve Bruce was quick to lay the blame for the performance at the door of his predecessor. Villa, he contended, were still feeling the impact of “big changes at the club. Big changes in the summer, in the summer before, all the time.”
Maybe so but we need to settle down soon, get into some rhythm of performance level if we are to push into the play-off places. Sheffield Wednesday’s surprising win left us no closer to sixth but there is no quick fix to the situation. We have to keep winning and hope that it doesn’t take Bruce too long to “breathe a bit of life into them.”
Confidence may not be high in the squad but there are encouraging signs of mental strength. Bacuna’s powerful header gave us the lead but Burton drew level with an outstanding bicycle kick from Ward, at which point it would have been no surprise if we retreated into our shells and settled for a draw.
That we didn’t was a pleasant surprise but nowhere near as big as Ross McCormack grabbing the winner. His time in B6 has been underwhelming, by and large. After a promising start, a malaise plagued his game; the team’s form encapsulated in one player. Is this the corner being turned? With Jonathan Kodjia’s Africa Cup of Nations duties, you have to hope so because goals are in short supply from other sources.
Villa started brightly, Bacuna’s sighter fitted the mood with a capacity crowd behind the lads. His opener was an outstanding effort. Linking with Adomah, Bacuna continued into the box and met the ensuing cross with an accurate header.
The perfect platform except we didn’t kick on and put Burton to the sword. Instead the visitors fought their way back into the game, eventually taking charge after Ward’s equaliser on the half-hour. It might have turned into a lead but Dyer struck the post in the second half.
Jack Grealish’s introduction gave us some attacking verve, with Jonathan Kodjia benefiting until the linesman’s flag signalled he was offside. Villa were slowly getting on top and the introduction of Jordan Ayew proved to be the catalyst for victory.
It was the substitute who latched onto Grealish’s pass and his cross found McCormack at the far post. After he outwitted Kodjia, selling his striker partner a dummy as the Ivorian blocked his path to goal, the Scot buried his chance and secured three points for the Villa.
Into the top ten but still six points behind Wednesday. It’s turned Thursday night into a massive match for our promotion ambitions. Beating Leeds at B6 could be the injection of confidence Bruce needs.