Picture the scene: Aston Villa and Sheffield United are dragging each other second-by-damned-second towards a stalemate in Yorkshire. The Blades, blunted by Sam Johnstone in Steel City, while Villa’s lions attacked timidly with chipped fangs and dull claws. The match, in truth, was going nowhere fast for either side.
As the seconds die out, like the wind sapping strength from a flame, Villa’s Josh Onomah receives the ball on the left flank and cuts inside to the middle of the pitch, looking up. Facing a press from Sheffield United, Onomah delivers the ball directly to Birkir Bjarnason, pressing high up the pitch for Villa. With an instant pivot, the Icelandic anchorman turns to unlock the right side of the pitch, where a charging Robert Snodgrass is waiting.
Receiving the ball on the right touchline, the Scotsman tempts it slowly towards the box, edging cautiously, knowing that a dispossession would essentially kill the game for Villa. Every touch is abound with jittering nerves, as much as each boot gestures the ball forward with a knowing confidence. It’s a ballet of certainty against uncertainty as Snodgrass’ feet lead him closer towards the goal, closer towards glory.
He pauses for a split-second as his wingman, the resolute Ahmed Elmohamady applies the afterburners to scorch past, but Snodgrass fails to releases the ball, with the Egyptian in ‘buy this plot, build a house, raise the kids’ amount of free land. As Elmohamady screeches by, the defenders track the fullback’s movement allowing Snodgrass the slightest gap.
With a heavy touch, he knocks the ball to the edge of the box. You can almost hear his thoughts. “Aye, I’ll take the shot. Nothing better else to do. It might no go in, it might no go out. Still...”
He breathes. He acknowledges the goal with a split-second glance and he shoots.
The ball curls past the a flailing goalkeeper, Snodgrass already knows it’s in the back of the net. The moment that the match ball breaks the boundary between goalmouth and goal, he’s already sprinting towards the jubilant Villa crowd.
Aston Villa go home with the three points, Robert Snodgrass goes home a Villa legend.