It wasn't perfection. It wasn't Reading's thrashing of Wimbledon or Everton's easy win over Morecambe. But Aston Villa beat Burton Albion 2-1 today, and they did it in a way that helped those of us watching remember a feeling once experienced, in what seems like the distant past: the feeling of hope.
No, it's not hope that this team will win the league. It's hope that we Villa fans won't want to drink ourselves into oblivion after (or during) each and every match. If this game was any indication of the season we'll see under Paul Lambert, football will be fun again.
As I said, it wasn't perfect. Robbie Wier's goal was tremendous, nearly a fluke, a volley from 35 yards out. But the thing was that he was given plenty of space in which to take that shot -- Andy Marshall may not have been able to prevent it going in, but someone could have stopped it from occurring.
Then there's the whole Alan-Hutton-is-still-a-Villa-player thing. I tried to keep an open mind, I really did, but I'm not quite sure what he's there for, really. He can get forward, but so can Eric Lichaj, and the American had a much better half than the Scot -- even if it's only because he learns from his mistakes and fixes them during the match.
Oh and the crossing. Ugh. It was possession drills last week and Bodymoor. Lambert, can we please, please, please have some crossing drills? Something?
But all that was overshadowed by the fun. The fun, oh the fun! The Villa attacked. They pressed forward. They moved the ball around. The finish left something to be desired, but still, they were going toward the other team's goal. It was revolutionary.
Karim El Ahmadi did, in the first half, exactly what he'd promised to do earlier in the week: make himself available for the ball and direct play from the midfield. He's solid, a great pickup by Lambert, and he could very well be a replacement for Stiliyan Petrov -- but without the shots into the stands.
Another new signing, Brett Holman, was the scorer of the second goal (the first was Own Goal, under great pressure from Andi Weimann). The Aussie had a lovely finish, a low curling shot that gave him his first goal for the Villa. Let's sign more players from the Eredivisie, shall we?
And me being me, I can't sign off without mentioning Barry Bannan. Whether he's proving himself or he's simply been re-energised by the presence of Paul, I can't say. But he was everywhere in the second half, seemingly involved in every attack. He had a shot from 25 yards out go just over the bar, and his free kick from 20 yards away needed to be beaten out by the Burton keeper.
Your lineups, in case you were wondering:
First half: Andy Marshall; Alan Hutton, Ciaran Clark, Matthew Lowton, Enda Stevens; Samir Carruthers, Daniel Johnson, Karim El Ahmadi, Charles N'Zogbia; Andreas Weimann, Darren Bent
Second half: Andy Marshall; Eric Lichaj, James Collins, Nathan Baker, Stephen Warnock; Barry Bannan, Chris Herd, Gary Gardner, Brett Holman; Gabby Agbonlahor, Nathan Delfouneso