The eggs are digested, with school and work beckoning; Easter is over. And so are any lingering hopes of Villa sneaking into the promotion play-offs. It all came to pieces in our hands against clubs who will be in the mix on the last weekend of the season, which tells us how far we’ve got to go to be in the top six in twelve months time.
Seeing Newcastle stumble over the line highlights how tough that will be. Seeing us outplayed, out-thought and out-fought by Reading and Fulham underlines the fragility of confidence in the squad. That last part won’t have been lost on Steve Bruce ahead of this weekend’s derby, but also in the work he’s got to do in the summer.
It was no surprise that Reading came to Villa Park and left world-beaters. That’s the ‘Aston Villa Way’.
We were poor, there’s no two ways about it. This was a team which conceded SIX in the first half at Norwich. SIX! They improved in the second half, no doubt but we lacked the killer instinct to go for the jugular. Instead, Reading responded to the mother of all hammerings and we perforrmed the ‘Gentlemen’s Excuse Me’, allowing them to kick sand in our faces on beach as well any other manner of humiliations.
There was a good response to going behind to an early goal but honestly, as soon as Reading got the second a minute into the second half, that was it. We were the sad groom handcuffed to the lamp post by his mates on a rowdy stag night. Reading deserved the three points and afterwards Bruce made no secret of his dismay at the performance.
We needed a response at Fulham on Monday but left with another defeat.
The turning point at Craven Cottage came when Jonathan Kodjia saw red. The mists descended over his eyes and the referee obliged with a card of a matching colour. There were no arguments about his sending off, and a little bit of relief that it was just a one-match ban.
A sense of injustice stems from Fredericks escaping censure. The Fulham defender, instrumental in their opening goal, initiated the incident in my view, and equally deserved dismissal. Weak officiating has blighted this season with this just the latest incident.
Fulham though are a good side, whose passing and movement must be a joy to watch most of the time. Could we do the same? We could do with the same batch of talented youngsters, that’s for sure. The timing of their run into the play-off places is a stark contrast to our post-Christmas collapse.
To switch from losing to winning at the drop of a hat was inexplicable but the point at Burton, which was probably the decisive moment as far as the play-offs were concerned, has hit the squad hard. Or seems to have, anyway.
Hardly the ideal preparations for the weekend but let’s face it, if we can’t beat that lot, we may as well forfeit the rest of our matches this season.