Tuesday’s win against Sheffield United was far from pretty, but it was the type of match that Villa may be able to look back on at the end of the season as one of the most important results of the season.
Sheffield United were almost ahead after just a few minutes, as a dangerous ball was swung in feet from Villa’s goal and John Terry was beaten in the air by Sheffield’s Jack O’Connell, whose thunderous header cannoned off the Villa bar. Villa remained unable to assert any authority on the match for the remainder of the first 15 minutes, as Sam Johnstone was forced into two competent saves in quick succession. Villa’s first chance of the game come from a James Chester header, but his effort failed to challenge Sheffield United’s goal.
Sheffield United continued to put Villa under heavy pressure despite being unable to find the final piece to unlocking Villa’s backline. Sheffield came closest from a spectacular attempted overhead kick from James Wilson, but his effort slid a sliver beyond Villa’s goal. Otherwise, the first half drew to a close without incident. A decidedly subpar display from Villa, but Johnstone’s persistent reliability in goal ensured Villa had the chance to regroup in the dressing room and take another stab at Sheffield United in the second half.
Villa opened the second half with a renewed vigor. Albert Adomah and Alan Hutton combined repeatedly on the righthand side to create chances, while Jack Grealish unleashed a curling effort that looked destined for the back of the net but drifted wide. The second half dragged on in the style of a typical scrappy Championship match; both teams struggled to create anything extraordinary, with hurried passes flying astray from both ends of the pitch.
Josh Onomah replaced Conor Hourihane, who had lodged an entirely anonymous display and looked far different than his normal self. Villa seemed to be crying out for the physicality and aerial presence of Keinan Davis, as Scott Hogan faced an endless uphill climb trying to beat Sheffield’s backline with very little support. Davis was eventually introduced, but not before Sam Johnstone was forced into another superb save to keep Villa level. Steve Bruce appeared content to settle for a draw in the closing stages of the match as Albert Adomah gave way to Mile Jedinak in an extremely defensive substitution when from absolutely nothing, Robert Snodgrass painted a masterpiece with his left foot to put Villa up with the first clear chance of the game for the claret and blue. Snodgrass cut in from the right wing near the corner of the 18 yard box, and ripped an unstoppable effort to the far post.
It wasn’t pretty but, like always, three points are three points. Especially away to a fellow promotion contender on a night where Villa’s attacking options simply seemed to be different than their normal selves, these three points are precious. Sam Johnstone provided the most valiant effort of the evening for Villa, while the central defensive and defensive midfield trio of James Chester, John Terry, and Bikir Bjarnason were also extremely steady in their function. The greatest credit, of course, must fall to Robert Snodgrass, without whom Tuesday night would have certainly ended in a dreary 0-0 draw.
Villa’s fine form and march up the table continues! Up the Villa!