Something For The Weekend (605)
Cometh the hour, cometh the Villa..
Villa's trip to Hillsborough last Saturday turned out to be a bit of a thrilling slopestyle snowboard ride but despite some hazardous crosswinds of discontent from the travelling faithful, Villa crossed the finishing line as winners, much to the delight and amazement of villans across the globe and possibly beyond. The game was definitely one for the neutrals, as two teams struggled to negotiate the slippery slopes of the latter stages of the Championship competition while depleted by injuries, as the fixtures start to run out and the pressures increase. With an hour gone Villa were losing two-one and were not looking likely to change things as the fans zoned in on the blameworthy. It was dead on 60 minutes when Steve Bruce brought on Keinan 'the power' Davis and everything changed. Seven minutes later the Villa had created enough pressure and space for the Snodmeister to put in a precision cross and Glen Whelan headed home Villa's equaliser. Twenty minutes later Hourihane put Villa ahead with a gorgeous little left-foot volley and then three minutes into stoppage-time the Thane of Lanarkshire converted the penalty which made it four-two to Villa. The post-match reports emphasised that Villa had been poor for an hour and had rode their look but the result was all that mattered.
Wednesday looked very lively as the game opened with Lucas Joao combining some dynamic running with some tidy use of the ball, and it was the young Portuguese who held up play and combined with Jack Hunt on Villa's left, who put in a quality cross which Adam Reach headed past Villa's far-post. Wednesday's goal came when Villa gave the ball away from a throw-in and Joao held it up nicely on Villa's right. He fed winger Boyd who crossed to Nuhiu, who chested down for Sean Clare hit his left-footed half-volley beyond Sam Johnstone and into the Villa net. It took Villa seven minutes to reply. Villa were awarded a free-kick for a foul on Snodgrass on the edge of Wednesday's final third and Hourihane sent in a long kick to the centre of Owls' penalty-area, onto the head of Captain Terry, which rebounded off goalkeeper Wildsmith, who somehow saved the follow up shot from Hogan, but could not keep out the pouncing Grabban's close-rage shot.
Wednesday looked much the livelier as the game resumed and were full of youthful running as Villa struggled to retain possession. It was Boyd once again who put in the cross which Joao met with a diving header which went past Villa's post. As Villa retreated some smart Wednesday lateral play across their backline delivered the ball to Jack Hunt who, using Pelupessy's overlap as a decoy, tricked Onomah with a body-swerve and shot over Villa's bar. The Owls of Owlerton were on top and from a corner the unchallenged Nuhiu flashed a header past Villa's far-post. Another excellent attacking move down Villa's right from Wednesday with Reach, who combined with Boyd to create Sean Clare the chance to score a second but he sliced it wide. Villa rode their luck when from a short-corner Reach set up Boyd for a shot from the edge of the Villa area and it rebounded off the post and ricocheted back off Johnson to Fox whose cross into the danger-zone was somehow put wide by Nuhiu. From a long throw into Villa's box, Wednesday made yet another chance but Clare's shot was not hard enough to beat Johnstone. Their second goal came just before the break as the 6ft 3in Joao rose above the gravity-bound Hutton and headed home from another corner. Half-time came and Villa looked well off the pace and doomed.
To much surprise it was Villa who looked the livelier at the start of the second-half. Early on, Hutton had to be replaced with Neil Taylor, after the valiant Scot took a heavy tumble from a crude late tackle by Hunt down Villa's left. Snodgrass's free-kick to the far-post was headed clear by Nuhiu but only to Elmo whose cross resulted in some Villa head-tennis and Wildsmith retrieved with a pass to himself, Gaelic football style. Then, with Villa looking like they suddenly had more men on the pitch, Hourihane broke up a Wednesday attack with an incisive tackle and Whelan broke into midfield, fed Snodgrass, who exchanged a pass with the overlapping Elmo and with Boyd trying to cover Elmo, the Snodmeister was free to send in his precision cross which evaded every head except the flying Whelan at the far-post. Villa were back in the game in defiance of all expectations.
Wednesday won a couple of corners. The first resulted with newly arrived Davis beating Joao to the ball and clearing over Villa's bar. The second was headed against Villa's post by an unknown head, and Johnson saved with his legs, before it was somehow scrambled away and Whelan cleared it up field. The game was opening up and Wednesday made some extravagant appeals to the referee when Terry took the ball off the toe of Nuhiu who was through and it went all the way back to Johnstone. It was impossible to see it as a foul and was either a good contact by Terry or the worst touch ever by Nuhiu. Even before the home crowd boos had died down Nuhiu got
another huge opportunity and plenty of time to take it but his shot didn't really test Johnstone. Villa then won a corner which was taken by Grabban out on the left. Pudil managed to get his head to the ball at the near post before John Terry but diverted it straight to Hourihane and the bounce set it up perfectly for his neat little volley into Wednesday's net. Conor set off on a sprint of joy, did a Charlie George, and his pals piled on. With only minutes to go Villa ran the clock down to the disapproval of the home crowd and the frustration of the Wednesday players. Villa got a free-kick out on the right and with Wednesday expecting the ball to go towards the corner-flag got themselves bunched up, and were surprised when the Snodmeister dribbled around them and got himself into the penalty area, where Pudil halted him with his flying gluteus maximus. The Snodmeister took the penalty-kick himself and although Wildsmith moved rather early he couldn't keep it out and Villa were four-two winners of a game they looked like losing.
Sheffield Wednesday were pretty decent and have plenty of pace and quality in their team, with Joao and Boyd catching the eye. Their fluidity in midfield is much to to be admired and with better finishing and a bit of luck could have had the game won by half-time. Not content to try to grind out some kind of result, they paid the price of their determination to play good football at the expense of more defensive qualities. Villa proved more resilient and had the quality to win a game they never quite got under control. It definitely was an essential win as it enabled the faithful to cling to the hope of finishing in the top-two and avoid the lottery which is the play-offs.
Villa definitely need to play better as they face an incredibly tough week of fixtures which culminates in the massive test of a home fixture against Wolves. In between they have a home game with QPR this Saturday, which they should be expected to win, followed by a trip to Sunderland on Tuesday night, the weather notwithstanding. While Villa's rivals for second-place, Cardiff, take on the three Bs of Brentford, Barnsley and Birmingham. If ever there was a challenge to everyone's ability to concentrate on one game at a time, this is it. QPR are one place above Sheffield Wednesday in the table and if Wednesday were capable of giving Villa a big test, then surely The Hoops are too. The pressure is building and there seems so much at stake. I'm definitely struggling to keep living in the moment.
Keep the faith!