"Stopped the rot" seems to be the term most have decided best describes what was accomplished by Aston Villa's 2-2 draw against Swansea City last weekend, and though it's easy to dismiss such cliches as oversimplification in this case it feels appropriate. Despite being just three games, the losing streak felt like a slide that wasn't going to end, until it actually did. That was the first step. Actually managing to win is the next one. And though Ipswich Town plays in the Championship and hasn't exactly been setting the world fire, moving on to the next round is pretty far from a sure thing.
Ipswich Town currently reside in the lower reaches of the Championship table, five points above the relegation places in 19th. After winning just one of their first 18, Paul Jewell was replaced by Mick McCarthy with the Blues sitting bottom of the table. The turnaround wasn't immediate, but Ipswich has slowly and steadily clawed their way back. DJ Campbell has been the side's biggest threat in attack, while legendary Champions League performer Nigel Reo-Coker has helped to anchor the midfield. Excellent young defender Aaron Cresswell stands out in the back line, one of the bright spots of a defense that's been a very significant weakness for the Blues this season.
The 48 goals surrendered by Ipswich is third most in the Championship, while their 27 goals scored is second fewest in the division. That Villa has managed to post a worse goal difference in five fewer games isn't especially encouraging, but the fact remains that the Blues aren't an especially good side even relative to the Championship. This is a game Aston Villa should be able to win, and comfortably. And yet, that feeling of confidence just isn't quite there.
There's reason to be skeptical that "trap games", as an actual phenomenon, exist. But this certainly feels like one. Is that a remnant of the still fresh horrors of the last week of 2012? Almost certainly yes. But if I'm feeling it, it's at least theoretically possible that the players are as well. This game is a big opportunity to get things moving back into a more positive direction, and there will be further opportunities to build some momentum in the coming weeks. But the first one is big, and if Villa doesn't seize this opportunity it could be back to square one.