And so the realism sinks in. The forlorn promotion play-off hopes which the recent winning run gave rise to, evaporated on a crisp Spring afternoon. Maybe we were just tyred in the Pirelli Stadium. Steve Bruce named an unchanged side from the one which beat QPR, bench included.
Knowing that a win was needed if they were to creep into the top six, you can’t fault the start Villa made. Jonathan Kodjia opened the scoring just two minutes into the game. It was the livewire finishing which made his name in the English game, latching onto a poorly struck backpass.
It was the perfect start to proceedings but Kodjia’s afternoon would come to a premature end when injury forced his withdrawal. We struggled from that point on, barely creating another chance worthy of the name in the rest of the first half. In the hour he was on the pitch, Hogan didn’t have a genuine chance worthy of the name.
Indeed, it was Burton who came closest to the next goal when Kightly rattled the post just before the interval. Hope that it was the warning the Villa players needed to wake them from their slumber were short-lived. Marvin Sordell headed over shortly after the restart; it was clear the home side weren’t going to meekly allow us to continue our promotion charge.
Inevitably, the equaliser arrived and in true footballing form, the goal came from a former Villa man. It’s the way the scripts are always written in these situations and Lloyd Dyer didn’t disappoint his loving audience by slamming home a point-saving goal.
With thirty minutes remaining, there was plenty of time for either side to claim three points. Burton initially looked the more likely to do so however, Jordan Armavi was denied by Turner’s (un)timely interventions. Even the introduction of Grealish and Hourihane didn’t improve our creativity.
This was a difficult way to watch that winning run end. Where there was power and cohesion, we lacked invention and guile. And when they couldn’t be found, we didn’t have the strength to bully our way through to find the decisive second goal.
It’s hard to claim we deserved to win. There were a number of players who know they can contribute more to performances and they will need to if next season is to be the one which takes us to promotion. Burton possessed greater desire and energy to take points that they need to survive in the Championship.
But two months ago, we would have lost the game so despite the disappointment, there are positives to be found from a draw. Yes, it was an uncomfortable reminder of the days when we were ‘draw happy’ but we’ve been lurching from one extreme to another in 2017 so the middle ground, found with doggedness, is a welcome interruption.
That resolve will be tested over the Easter weekend. Reading, fresh from their embarrassing thrashing at Carrow Road before Fulham. Both with genuine promotion hopes and the level of teams we will need to beat next season if there is to be a happy end to the campaign.