Jordan Veretout played a crisp throughball to Gabby that set him off towards the left edge of the penalty area.
It was the kind of ball that the Gabby of 2008 feasted on, accelerating quicker than a defender could handle and screwing the ball past the keeper just a fraction of a second before he expected it, electric, instinctual football.
With 2016 Gabby you expect him to run it straight into a defender or beyond the touchline. Norwich should have cut off his options, moved him away from the goal and forced him to think.
But Declan Rudd did the one thing you should never do to Gabby Agbonlahor – rush him. Because while with time and space he can appear lost, when the world is reduced to nothing but the goalkeeper and net behind him, he lives once again in that blur of speed and instinct where he moves that tiny bit quicker than everyone else.
And so he did. A quick dart behind the first defender to stay onside and out of his sightline, then sprint away. Two glances over the shoulder to check for the covering defender, see the keeper charging out. Head down to track the ball, stretch with the left foot and sweep it past him.
A classic Gabby goal.
I wanted to see Gabby turn and mock everyone that ever doubted him. Sprint the length of Villa Park, hand cupped to his ear, smirking all the way.
It would’ve been both joyous and infuriating for those Villans like me who said he was done, that the club should have cut him loose and moved on long ago. Joyous for obvious reasons. Infuriating for its disregard of context, the goalkeeper’s error, all the goals he’s missed, the strikers we failed to sign while he remained one of our highest paid players.
Instead he turned and walked back towards the halfway line, calmly receiving the congratulations of his teammates.
It was nothing like classic Gabby.
Why it made me sad
Now there are many possible reasons for his non-celebration. A bit of a huff over recent attempts to offload him, a solemn determination to see out the rest of the game or even new-found maturity and perspective.
But it caused me a pang of pain. Gabby and us fans, we’ve all experienced too much over the last few years to pretend it’s still 2008 and every goal is a simple joy. Yesterday’s goal may bring some faint hope of escaping relegation but it can't erase the bitter memories of the last four seasons, and it seems like Gabby knows that.
I want Gabby to go on a goalscoring run and become a Holte End hero again but I can't bring myself to believe it. But I don't want to think that he doesn't believe in that either.
So I was kind of happy when I saw this classic Gabby Instagram post later on. Thanks for ruining my Saturday for the right reasons Gabby.