Something For The Weekend (579)
Crisis? What Crisis?
Steve Bruce got to stick it to his critics this week after an uplifting win against Norwich brought relief to the faithful and offered some respite for Villa's under-pressure manager. Villa were bottom of the table before the kick-off and so the doubts of the fans were entirely understandable. Going into the game it looked possible that Norwich would end their Villa Park hoodoo. All evidence suggested that Villa were really out of sorts, an opinion which was reinforced by a surprising Claret and Blue line-up, which was without any of the expensive strikers the club's guardians had hoped would solve the goal deficit. Instead the known but unfamiliar name of Keinen Davis was on the team-sheet. Expectations were low and fingers were crossed as the game kicked-off and no one was really expecting the thrilling revelation which was to ensue.
In short, Keinen's pace, power, precision and movement terrified the Norwich defence, drew players towards him and opened up the space which Green and especially Hourihane got to exploit, as the former curled one in for his first senior Villa goal and the latter went on to score a superb hat-trick. Davis did a trick to elude a defender and placed a perfectly weighted pass through Norwich's corridor of uncertainty to set up the opener for Hourihane, a decent header was kept out by goalkeeper Gunn and he then rattled the bar after he'd powered past two defenders and unleashed a rocket of a shot. A three man move started by Hutton pulled the Norwich defence sideways and a nice gap appeared in front of Green, who jinked inside and bent a shot into the top-corner.
Norwich had shown some attacking intent down Villa's right and Murphy had shown a clean pair of heels to Hutton, who had probably reached for the Phyllosan at half-time. It was from a lovely pass from Norwich's Reed which found Murphy unmarked on the edge of Villa's penalty area, which he despatched with aplomb, with Hutton arriving very much after the fact. Another great run from Murphy past, you know who, ended with a neat cross into the near-post which Villa managed to scrambled away. Hourihane's deflected goal from the edge of the box restored Villa's cushion. Norwich's Murphy ran across the edge of Villa's box and was allowed to turn and provide the assist for Norwich's second goal. There was a suspicion of handball as Ahmed Elmohamady controlled the ball on the right flank, who fed Hourihane on the edge of the Norwich box, and the Villa man slotted home with a precise daisy-cutter into the bottom corner to complete his hat-trick.
The fact that Villa were facing a Norwich centre-back pairing which cost less than Joleon Lescott's car budget didn't detract from a wondrously exhilarating performance from Keinen Davis and the whole Villa team, and in fact, setting aside some poor defending from both teams, the game was a great advert for Championship football, with both Murphy and Reed showing quality for Norwich. The scoreline slightly flattered Villa but no one could deny that the quality of the Villa goals was top notch. After a desperately needed and unexpected win on a sunny August day, with a youngster making a name for himself and a hat-trick being scored, no one was ever going to stop us getting carried away.
Scoring another four goals a few days later in the League Cup against Wigan continued the feeling of unreality, and as the spectacular goals flashed in, it was hardly surprising that we didn't bother ourselves too much by way of noticing that Wigan only fielded a single player from the team which had beaten MK Dons at the weekend. Villa may be only sitting 16th in the table and with a negative goal-difference but it has been a wonderfully happy few days.
Whether Villa can make it a wonderfully happy and a memorable week depends on whether they can produce another winning performance at Bristol City this Friday night. What with it being away from home and the Robins being a point and three goals better off than Villa, it looks like a tough challenge. A win will send us into cloud cuckoo land, a draw will leave us hopeful, but a loss will probably be taken as a sign that Bruce's declaration that there is no crisis was premature. The excitement will begin early as we wait to see whether Bruce will pick Davis or Hogan. Both deserve to play but who will he pick? It might be both. Another hat-trick might be too much to ask but a win will ensure those happy feet will continue dancing into next week.
Keep the faith!