After a dominant first half that saw them head to the locker room with a 2-0 lead, Aston Villa were forced to fend off a late surge from Swindon Town to progress to the quarterfinals of the League Cup. Christian Benteke opened the scoring on the half hour with a diving header and Gabriel Agbonlahor added the second five less than ten minutes later, but a worrying switch-off by the Villa defense changed the mood entirely; 18-year-old Miles Storey was introduced in the 75th minute and made his impact almost immediately, making the score 2-1 in the 78th minute and equalizing in the 81st. But it was Benteke again in the 89th minute, sealing the win and allowing Villa to breathe a huge sigh of relief.
That Villa were so completely undone by Paolo Di Canio's halftime adjustments and late game substitutions is without a doubt a major worry, and Villa's inability to finish off a League One side early despite having numerous chances to do so is further evidence of their severely lacking a killer instinct. Losing Karim El Ahmadi for the weekend's game at Sunderland due to yellow card accumulation is also a blow, as could be the injury that forced Chris Herd off just shy of 20 minutes. But while the late switch-off is something that must be addressed, a win is a win and at this stage there's no point in feeling much other than relieved. And level of competition be damned, Christian Benteke bagged a brace and looked good doing it; if that's not a positive sign, I don't know what is.
So no, it wasn't the out-and-out pasting most Villa fans would have hoped for, but it wasn't a loss to Middlesborough, Leeds or Bradford City, either. I'm not especially hopeful that the momentum from this win is going to push Villa to new heights in the league, but it will get them into the next round of what looks like it could end up being a winnable League Cup, and that's at least something to feel good about. It's been a bit since we've had something like that.