It’s hard to say that the last few days could have been any more fun continually watching highlight videos and fan cams of last weekends huge victory over the top of the league Wolverhampton Wanderers. Personally, when bored since Saturday it was more likely than not my browser and mobile were finding their way to the extended highlights to see James Chester standing tall or Birkir Bjarnason angrily shredding defenders. A signature win of it’s like for Villa was something relatively unprecedented in recent memory.
It’s one reason this Tuesday night matchup with QPR was so unremarkable in its runup. We’ve won the throne, right? Now what?
The fact is that Villa are beginning a stretch of five very winnable matches before a stretch of very tough ones, and they did have a real chance to close on the automatic promotion spots, but just because the door was thrust ajar, that doesn’t make walking through it any easier. That’s what today was, the first chance to push after finding an inch of daylight. All Villa earned for themselves with their victory over Wolves was the opportunity to walk a harder road.
Well today didn’t make the road any easier. Villa found themselves behind myriad corners or crosses in good positions and never found a connection. The attack consistently got our boys in front of net, but only once, on a great save by QPR keeper Alex Smithies off of a Jack Grealish header, did Villa ever really threaten a goal while the game was in contention.
QPR on the other hand had a few chances on net and buried them. An inverse of last week against Sunderland where Villa capitalized on every Sunderland mixup, QPR took an early surprise goal against a good run of play from Villa, and just leaned on the advantage and the mounting frustration of our boys in Claret and Blue.
There was frustration leveled against the selection and our pal Matt Booher put it well:
I get not changing a side that thrashed Wolves 4-1 but it was such an emotional game its not hard to think Bruce should have looked to make a couple changes. Thor should have started. And maybe Hogan up top. Now I’m just second-guessing though.— Matt Booher (@mattbooher13) March 13, 2018
Before the match you could have either credited Bruce for dancing with the ones that brought him, or criticized him for such. It seemed he played the side least able to be criticised and I’m rather of the opinion that the boys that played last week and won the best match in recent Villa history earned the chance to keep their run going, yet it still hurts losing to a middle of the road club at home.
It seems silly after such a dispiriting loss, but you can see the places where goals were going to come, except they just didn’t. Villa has been fantastic off of set pieces and from the corners and we got a ton of those opportunities. There were also clever runs where a heavy pass just missed the mark. Two headers from Mile Jedinak and Chester both came close and that was before Chester scored his third goal in a week in the closing, lost minutes. Some days you just take your shots the way you want and all of them miss.
If there’s one thing that we should hang our hat on today, or one message that we’ve gotten from the team this season, it’s that this is not the same old Villa. The boys looked frustrated on the pitch and, yeah, at one point in losing possession and then falling asleep as a pass was coming back for him I thought Jack Grealish looked like he’d disengaged, but the atmosphere at the club has been so positive and that positivity has come from some of the guys who looked the most on edge today. Robert Snodgrass had a less-than-stellar day and he picked up some fouls in frustration, but you know he’s going to be hard at work to be back on the pitch and turning in a result—in between his playing grabass with Henri Lansbury.
Today was bad. But I think the club have shown this year that they have the mental fortitude to keep these types of results bottled on the pitch and can turn it around next time out.
As said before, however, tonight just begins a stretch of winnable matches that Villa need to turn into double digit points in order to continue to threaten the top two spots. We’ll have four matches coming up before our 10 April date with Cardiff (wherein we can look for similar revenge for the hurt they put on the club earlier this season) and Villa seemingly need to come close to winning out the next four to not go too far in their mirror. We’ll have everything you need to get ready for that this week and we’ll love to hear from you on Twitter or here in your comments.