So it turned out to be not such a bad Friday night after all.
Battling Villa share the points…
Villa’s Friday night encounter with Leeds United turned out to be a real battle, as two of the Championship’s heavyweights slugged it out for a draw. The early rounds definitely went to the Beeston bashers as Thomas Christiansen’s team of big gravity-prone lads dominated Villa and rolled back the years with quite a bit of swagger, physical presence and the odd flash of technical flare. Villa just couldn’t get out of their own half, at times, as their attempts at high tempo counter-attacks tended to breakdown. This was not helped by what seemed like some partial refereeing decisions, where play was waved on when a Villa shirt hit the deck but halted when the shirt was white. When Villa did get near the Leeds goal their efforts were all a bit mimsy. Leeds looked more convincing but didn’t create a great deal, although I thought their headed goal was quality. Villa’s big fellah couldn’t find a way around their big Swede, who scored from a corner with a header straight out of the coaching manual. Villa got a bit frustrated with the officials and Snodgrass picked up a yellow card.
At one-nil it certainly looked like a fine way to ruin a Friday night but just as things were tending towards the funereal, Villa put new batteries in and started the second-half newly energised. Davis quickly made a chance for Adomah but the goalkeeper narrowed the angle and blocked his shot. Leeds came close to scoring what would have been the winner, when a bouncing-bomb of a cross eluded a lunging trio of white shirts. Yet another odd decision enraged Alan Hutton, who replied with what was no more than an old fashioned shoulder-charge, for which he earned a yellow card. From the free-kick Leeds got the ball into Villa’s net but the ‘scorer’ along with a few of his teammates were distinctly offside.
Just past the hour Bruce replaced the struggling Hourihane and the frustrated Onomah with two models from Fine Locks Weekly, who turned out to be Jack Grealish and Henri Lansbury. Nice to see you, to see you nice. This turned the tide for Villa and brought out the clog in the Leeds repertoire, as Villa started to move the ball more fluently. From a Hutton throw-in the ball was worked between Grealish, Lansbury and then across field to Taylor, who did a one-two with Adomah and was then felled by a tibia-testing challenge from the big Swede, but the ball broke to Grealish, the referee played advantage, Grealish fed Lansbury, who charged forward and sent in an arrow-straight bobbler off the far-post into the Leeds net. Villa had earned themselves a point.
So it turned out to be not such a bad Friday night after all. Two decent teams had had a proper robust contest and the spoils were shared. Leeds were pretty good I thought, and seem to have the right blend of muscle and quality to deal with the various demands of the Championship. Villa struggled to match them in the first-half but upped their game in the second period, when it became Leeds’ turn to look a bit desperate. Villa brought on some fresh-legged quality, after an hour, and it was good to see the silky smooth skills of Jack Grealish again. Lansbury showed a lot of determination and initiative to score his goal. Both their hairdos were beyond reproach. It was Villa’s injection of quality which earned the point but it was Villa’s more industrial qualities which kept them in the game, when Leeds were strutting their stuff.
As we enjoy the respite and count up the yellow cards and injuries, and wait for the Christmas logjam to test Villa’s mettle, there is the matter of a home game with Millwall to deal with. Expectations will be high but as ever the team arriving at Villa Park has suddenly shown a bit of form by putting Sheffield United to the sword, after a run of two draws and three losses had dropped them down the table. I always associate Millwall with miserably frustrating FA Cup ties, where there is little to cheer and plenty of reasons to wonder where the glamour is. I don’t expect anything other than a struggle this time round either. Gladly the players have had a nice long rest and with both Grealish and Lansbury now champing at the bit, there should be no reason for complacency. Millwall have one of the better defences in the division but also one of the weaker attacks. Villa should have enough but I expect Millwall to make it as difficult as possible, as is their tradition.
Keep the faith!