Huge Sigh Of Relief
Stadium Of Light
Attendance: 39 707
Well, a huge sigh of relief all round then!? Ok, by the sounds of it, the Villa faithful didn't have much to cheer in the first half, but once the chances came, they were taken with aplomb. Phillips got Villa off the mark with a typical poachers goal following a neat interchange between Baros and Hughes who lined up an inch perfect cross for Phillips to head in. Didn't you just know he would score against Sunderland? His muted celebration showed the Sunderland fans the respect they deserved and proved him to be a gentleman in the process. Barry popped up for the second goal; an nice easy tap in following a great bit of work from Millner who had the Sunderland defence running all over the place. Smiles all round showed exactly what this result meant to the players and the smiles widened as sub Luke Moore came on and caused Sunderland more problems and set up Baros with a cheeky back heal. Baros showed why we had paid so much for him with a barnstormer of a shot. 3-0 and no way back for Sunderland.
They did however manage to get a consolation goal from the penalty spot after the ref judged Ridgewell very harshly. I've seen him do far worse and get away with it, but hey ho, the points were what mattered and the moral boosting away win should set Villa up nicely.
O'Leary had told fans to judge him when he could field his strongest team and he felt on Saturday that he could. Now the trick is to get on some kind of run. To beat the worst team in the Premiership was vitally important, but that is just the start. O'Leary had told the press 'A big thing is the players who've been brought in to improve us haven't been on the pitch enough. If we can get them back, we'll be a better team for it. Bouma, Hughes and Baros will improve us - I'm not saying they will take us to win the league - but people should judge us when we have those players playing. We've blown the cobwebs out of Bouma and Hughes and got their confidence back, while Baros just needs games.'
So, I guess we'll start judging now then?! Assistant manager Roy Aitkin insists Villa are on the up and that it is only a matter of time before we start climbing the table. 'It was nice to get a good solid performance and three points. When you play a team that are below you in the league, you want to try to pull away. We have felt all along we have been in a false position anyway, but it was nice to get the players that the manager has brought to the club playing together.'
It was more than 'nice', it was imperative, I think the teams moral would have collapsed if we had done anything but win at the Stadium Of Light. Next up, Charlton at home. Another game we have to get something out of, as we then have tough trips to an in form Bolton and Newcastle.