Something For The Weekend (583)
All's well that pends well...
It seemed a very long time since a Saturday night had felt so good after witnessing Villa beating Barnsley 3-0 and looking pretty good while doing so. Obviously it was three goals and Villa finishing so strongly which left that impression, just as no goals and finishing on the back-foot had ensured the impression that Villa had been lousy against Brentford. Both impressions distorted the reality. Barnsley had been pretty good leading up to Villa's first goal and they produced some incisive wing-play down the their right. Villa were under considerable pressure after Barnsley had been the beneficiaries of some questionable refereeing decisions, and even after Barnsley's goalkeeping howler gave Villa the lead Villa didn't look comfortable as they lost a bit of cohesion.
Barnsley defender Jackson felt rather aggrieved that a Villa pass over the top ended with the referee's assistant flagging a penalty. His claim that he got a touch might have been legitimate if he hadn't been so determined to halt Davis's progress by tripping him with his other leg. The Barnsley fans begged to differ. Whatever the fine margin, Albert Adomah's assured penalty lifted the pressure off Villa and they turned on the style and looked something like the fans expect them to be. With Villa looking slick and Barnsley chasing the game, Elmohamady crossed perfectly to an unmarked Davis, and he added joy to satisfaction as he powerfully headed home his first senior goal for Villa. While Villa did a bit of showing off, Barnsley kept at it, with their fans bombarding the Villa goal with flying paper cups, and Chelsea loanee Ugbo missing a chance for a consolation goal.
After such an uplifting result it was predictable that there would be plenty of nominations for the man-of-the-match. Adomah deserved it for his goals and Keinen Davis for his mature performance and his first Villa goal, but my own choice was John Terry because he made so many crucial interventions when Barnsley looked to be in on goal. No doubt, with his appearances for Chelsea being so limited last season, he probably wasn't quite as sharp as he might have been, at the start of the season, and he seems to have got better and better. His long passes are pretty impressive and he seems to enjoy making them as much as we like seeing them. It would seem that even an experienced and high-class player needs to be playing to be at his best and what applies to John Terry must count even more so when it comes to Tommy Elphick.
Bournemouth's old battler certainly took most of the blame for Villa's exit from the Carabao Cup but there were many who were rather glad that his intervention ended the drab encounter within the ninety minutes. All that can be said about the game was that the sponsors of the competition couldn't have been very generous with their free-samples, because if they had, the ingredients of caffeine and sorbitol, would surely have got the players running about a bit more, one way or another. It really wasn't Tommy's night as he had a goal disallowed and his first booking was down to the caprice of the referee, who had earlier kept his card in his pocket when Hutton's breakthrough was halted by a blatant body-check down Villa's left. But then booked our Tom when he was slightly late, which also halted a similar opportunity. As was predicted by the thousands who thought the teletext might be more interesting and stayed at home, Villa's formation was a total dog's dinner, and the eleven thousand who were there just got to enjoy an easier journey home and a chance to see how some promising youngsters dealt with the burden of responsibility. All reports suggested that Callum O'Hare and Jake Doyle-Hayes made a greater contribution than some of their better paid colleagues.
Talking of youngster, it hardly seems like twenty years since I was sitting in the Upper Trinity listening to some guy raving about a young kid called Gareth Barry. I took it with a pinch of salt at the time because so many youngsters have been talked up over the years and somehow never quite fulfilled their promise, but Gareth turned out to be the real thing. Not really tall enough to be a centre-back and lacking pace, he certainly was blessed with ability, brains and a fine temperament. An all-round Captain Sensible you can't help but feel a bit of pride that he is about to break Giggs's old Premier League appearance record of 632 on Monday, when he turns out for the Baggies. Add in his cup appearances (44) and his England caps (53) and his legs have carried him through 829 games at the top level. I was sad when he left but I can't find a bad word to say about him.
On the subject of past glories and disappointments, there is probably no greater reminder of illustrious pasts and meagre presents than this Saturday's visitors to Villa Park, Nottingham Forest. A club even older than Villa, which famously managed to usurp their financial superiors and who were early victims of the Premier League's plutocracy by design. Their recent history chronicles a horrific tale of woe about the difficulties of trying to get out of the EFL and into the Premier League. It is not a recommended read for the faint-hearted. Forest have made a very decent start but don't do draws apparently and sit a couple of places higher than Villa with two more points. Steve Bruce might want to discuss the vagaries of football management with Forest manager Warburton who not so long ago got Glasgow Rangers promoted and won them a cup but then got sacked for only finishing second in the SPL. Forest can definitely be expected to be better than Barnsley who are still suffering from their big summer sell-off but there will be few excuses for Villa, if after resting so many players midweek, they don't produce the goods. Forest's attack is marginally better than Villa's but Villa's defence is much better than Forest's, so Villa should sneak this one, even though the gambler's fallacy suggests it might be a draw. Lose and there will be hysteria but win and Villa will be heroes for at least another day.
Keep the faith!