Six games in a row.
Aston Villa, down and out in February - with a 2 percent chance of making the play-offs, now hold the lead in the play-off positions - and have now won six games in a row.
The latest in that run was today’s massive 3-1 win against Sheffield Wednesday. A team managed by former Villa boss Steve Bruce. A team who had themselves turned around their season. There was always going to be something hanging over the game.
Despite the final scoreline, Villa weren’t always in control of the match. 3-1 at the end, but it would be Wednesday who scored first and Wednesday who seemed to create the best chances.
Wednesday’s goal? It was far too easy. Villa had dominated the game in the first 7 minutes. The consequence of this supposed arrogance was a simple ball from that back that went unchallenged, all the way to the point of goal as Gary Hooper collected a cross-box pass to bury past Jed Steer. Tyrone Mings lay flat out on the pitch. Andre Green and John McGinn seemed out of sorts. A trebuchet ball launched down the wing caught Villa slipping and sent them down by a goal. Early on, you could say that room for optimism was growing slim. As Tyrone Mings stumbled to his feet,
The unbelievable hustle of Andre Green to save the ball on the line and whip it across to McGinn saw AVFC equalise in tremendously uplifting fashion. While the Scotsman will take the plaudits for scoring the goal with a nifty finish - there should be plenty of room to reward Green. The Villa youngster saw a crossing opportunity when others would have left the ball to roll out and sometimes, it’s showing that extra 20 percent of effort in a explosive fashion that will grab a goal out of nowhere. Everyone bar Green and McGinn expected that ball to fall out of play, which is precisely how Villa managed to score.
Green kept his work-rate up throughout the first half and was the first name in any Villa attack. While AVFC would not capitalise again on Green’s efforts in the first half, it was pleasing to see him grow into his role on the wrong-side of the pitch.
In the second-half, Villa were hit with injury worries once more as Tyrone Mings’ defensive partner Kortney Hause collapsed shortly after the second-half kicked off. The on-loan Wolves man had been nothing less than a steady and strong presence at the back ensuring that Villa did not lack class in the absence of Axel Tuanzebe. It would be Tuanzebe who would take his place though, himself returning from a long injury lay-off.
Almost immediately Villa were put under pressure, but the recently introduced Tuanzebe was not the target. A long pass found Steven Fletcher in the box, but the brusing striker was reduced to the floor by an extended Tyrone Mings tackle. As the ball floated between Fletcher and Mings, the Villa defender stretched a leg (which is going to win you no friends in the box) and the penalty was given. A soft decision? Yes - but Tyrone Mings had allowed the question to be asked with a fairly rash challenge and the penalty was given.
Enter Jed Steer. Jed had come in for criticism after a wobble in the last outing had allowe Blackburn to sneak into contention for a result. There are thin margins for error in Villa’s goalkeeping department and it looked like the young veteran of the team might have been on shaky ground. Not anymore. As Fletcher stepped up and took his penalty shot, Steer dropped and parried it away. Tammy Abraham roared to encourage his team, but the momentum from the save would have to wait.
Sheffield Wednesday poured the pressure on, but it would be Villa who fashioned the best chances as regular time flowed away. Jack Grealish, who had endured a reduced influence on the game, found space twice for Jonathan Kodjia. On the first case the Ivorian decided to swing an audacious volley in (the ball went 60 yards over the crossbar) and on the second occasion he failed to react at all. It would be on their third link up that Villa found success as Kodjia rifled in a vicious shot that fell into the path of Albert Adomah.
Now, remember - Albert Adomah is a man on the fringe of Villa. A man who stole our hearts last season, but has been lined up for a long time as the man who is leaving. A man who may not have been wanted by the bloke on the opposition touchline. This is the man who scored Villa’s second goal of the day after finding all the room in the world to aim and all the time in eternity to shoot. His shot bounced off of Westwood in the Wednesday goal and rolled against the roof of the net. A trademark dance and away day pitch invasion could only mean one thing. Villa were winning.
Seconds later as play resumed, Ahmed Elmohamady opened up space and room to run for Tammy Abraham. The fairly ‘beleaguered’ Villa striker couldn’t get onto the pass, but could win the ball back in the box, and pivot, and shoot. The complete situation was lost and won by Tammy and then turned into a goal. Within 30 seconds of play, Villa had turned a draw, into a win and that win into complete and utter control of the play-off race.
The scoreline is a massive compliment to Villa, who looked to be sluggish all game. However, the team worked hard and that can be enough - sometimes. Andre Green played on and created the chance for McGinn. McGinn had a typical McGinn game. Jack Grealish kept a cool head despite losing his hold on the match. Jonathan Kodjia made up for a multitude of errors. Jed Steer refused to let the penalty be a foregone conclusion. Ahmed Elmohamady didn’t accept a single goal lead. Tammy Abraham forced the ball back into his possession in the face of goal and sealed the deal. All of this resulted in Villa winning, and it took 95 minutes for that to become apparent.
Now? Villa hold the lead in the race for the two remaining play-off places, and there’s a whole game to play before Bristol City come to town. Aston Villa may have benefited from luck more than once this season, but when they cannot find it - they do like to make their own.