Sitting in the Holte End for the first time ever, watching Aston Villa this weekend was almost comfortable, for the first time in a long while.
As Steve Bruce's men won 2-0 over playoff chasing Norwich City, the 32,000 strong Villa Park faithful were in fine voice, silencing the Canaries both on and off the pitch.
What struck me about the game, probably more than anything that actually happened at the game, was the narrative on social media thereafter. See, looking at the stats, Norwich had the better of things, but in truth, it was the opposite.
I wish we could get xG maps for EFL Championship matches. Feel like these stats don't tell the whole story of Aston Villa 2-0 Norwich City. pic.twitter.com/oJRzlF6mN1— Jack Grimse (@JackGrimse) April 1, 2017
Despite Norwich having more of the ball, more set pieces, and more shots, it genuinely felt like a straightforward game for the Villa. Sam Johnstone and the Villa back line weathered an early storm from Norwich, helped by ex-Bluenose striker Cameron Jerome (who looked lively to be fair), who missed an early chance; but after that, Villa settled into the game well, and it didn't feel at all like they were on the back foot.
31% possession doesn't matter so much when you have the pace of Aston Villa's right hand side. Albert Adomah bamboozled his marker, and Alan Hutton too made darting runs, both of which made a shaky Norwich defence look uncomfortable. Of course, as good as those two were, neither match up to Jimmy Danger, Jonathan Kodjia when it comes to pure impact. Played in by Scott Hogan, the Ivorian, fresh off the back of a successful international break, cut inside and finished superbly, giving Villa the lead.
I can't actually do the goal justice with words, so check it out:
As the rain fell down on a otherwise sunny Villa Park, the game settled into a comfortable rhythm. Norwich had the ball, but couldn't do anything with it, whilst Villa seemed fine with Norwich having the ball, and not doing anything with it. But as the rain subsided, and a double rainbow emerged, Villa got a double dose of luck.
First, Norwich defender Ivo Pinto hacked down Jordan Amavi, and received his second yellow card (I totally missed his first), then, miscommunication between Norwich keeper Michael McGovern and his defenders allowed Jonathan Kodjia to latch on to a Sam Johnstone clearance and poke the ball home. This goal killed off any hope of a comeback from the visitors, and gave Kodjia his 17th goal of the season. Sam Johnstone, incidentally, has more assists this season than Adama Traore, which to me is hilarious.
For Norwich, it was a disappointing trip West, and despite bringing a decent following, they were kept pretty quiet by the boys in Claret and Blue. Admittedly, they didn't make much noise at any point, but they lacked any flair. In a way, it's disappointing that Villa can beat these teams with ease, but still be below them in the table. A second year of development isn't a bad thing, but it's clearly a case of what might have been.
Not that the playoffs are completely out of reach, but on current form, Villa should be up there with Newcastle and Brighton, and the fact that they are not, is a real shame.
“How many games left, four?” asks the color commentator WHEN THERE ARE SEVEN GAMES LEFT.— 7500 To Holte (@7500toHolte) April 1, 2017
But the best part about being at Villa Park this weekend, was not having to listen to the game on BBC WM (or the AVTV simulcast). Now, I love Tony Morley, his commentary is unintentionally hilarious. BUT, when that audio coverage is the only thing you have to let you know what's actually happening at the game, it's a bit of a problem. Granted, radio broadcasting can't be easy, but when people who cannot get to Villa Park aren't really getting a true reflection on what's going on, the whole thing is a bit pointless is it not?
Maybe that's the best reason for Villa to get promoted then. Forget that TV money and the sense of pride, I just don't want to have to listen to another Villa game on the radio. Especially off the back of an enjoyable afternoon in the Holte End.