Back-to-back wins now, and suddenly Villa have a viable if tenuous path to the playoffs. Whether or not we get there, there’s still nothing more satisfying in a regular-season context than doing the double on the clowns at home, especially when the winner comes from a player they apparently dearly wish was theirs: homegrown, classy and simply good.

Since I haven’t done this in a while, I’ll try to cover a lot of ground.

The Good
The double over small heath, with the added bonus in that it yields a desperately needed three points. Jack Grealish being the one to put a stake in their hearts. The revamped defensive line yielding nothing. John McGinn coming on and changing the game. The whole side showing class and composure in the face of outright thuggery. Okay, maybe Hause and Mings got a little fed up and flirted with danger in the box. Maybe a couple others, too. Still. Villa played that brawl with a lot of class. And still came away winners.

The Bad
To be honest, I didn’t see much bad. It was never going to be a pretty game as the early tackle on Grealish showed. small heath were always going to come out to stop us playing, which starts with stopping Jack playing. They know they can’t play end-to-end football with us. It largely worked until Jack took charge and McGinn came on. The clowns had no answer, but it was a bit nervy at the end as any bitter derby game will be at 1-0.

The Ugly
Well, this one ranks as the ugliest in recent memory. A “supporter” running onto the pitch to punch Jack. Pathetic. The fact he was cheered off? Even worse. The clowns should hang their heads in collective shame. But they won’t. Which is why they suck.

Final Verdict
Big three points, completely enjoyable victory.

But we also see that Smith isn’t mad or in over his head. He replaced what he could on a limited budget and shored up the back line. He’s giving Steer a deserved run despite paying for Kalinic. It’s telling that he said Kalinic was used to having more protection. The Croatian did not look happy at what was happening in front of him, and Steer is working behind a better set-up.

Further, Smith’s got his best player back, by many accounts the best player in the league, and we can see that it all works much better with him in. Of course Mings, and Hause, have made a big difference. They’re big, strong, combative, and ill-tempered. Which is pretty much exactly what you want at the back. Two games, two clean sheets with them and a better attack in front.

So. Two for two since Jack’s return, after two from 13, I believe it is, while he was out. Will it continue?

I’ve seen what a difference he makes to the side. Doesn’t mean Villa will always win. Both the Derby and clownshow wins were team efforts, and that has to continue. And I’m not excited about the fact Forest and Boro are following in such quick succession. They’re pivotal matches, and I’d really rather have had Grealish truly match fit heading into the week. No idea how he’ll hold up. But it looks like he’s been training hard, and has every intention of being a leader. If you can shake off a physical assault at the sty and still come up with the winner…? That’s pretty damn good in my book.

Anyway. We find ourselves back in contention. I have no idea whether 3, 4, or 6 points is what I should be hoping for. Well, 6 is the hope, but then there’s realism.

What I do know is that we’re back in the hunt, and if we take these two games, we’ll be right in the thick of it come the end. We looked nigh on invincible there for a stretch, and now that side is basically back. Put Tuanzebe in next to Mings and let Hause go back out left? Pretty good defense, whoever’s at right FB. Now that we’ve got something to be reckoned with on the back line, I don’t think we’ll see 5-5 again tonight.

Anyway, review and a sort of preview all rolled into one. A win against Forest will really fire the side up. And if you were ever going to go on a run, Villa are perfectly poised to nip in and run the table. But first things first.

Over to you.

Comments 74

  1. Thanks JC- I think we will get something tonight, Mon has won 4 of 9 since taking over, Grabban has been out for the last 3 and unlikely to start with an achilles problem. They have beat Leeds, Brentford, Derby and Hull at home under Mon so it won’t be an easy ask. They have been playing Daryl Murphy, a 6’3″ 36 year old up top who’s slow and doesn’t score much.

    Get a win tonight and I think we will win at home on Saturday.

  2. Two changes: McGinn and Green start, Whelan and Adomah move to the bench.

    Steer, Elmohamady, Mings, Hause, Taylor, McGinn, Hourihane, Grealish, El Ghazi, Green, Abraham.

    Subs: Kalinic, Jedinak, Bjarnason, Whelan, Carroll, Adomah, Kodjia.

  3. They did look tired, Mark. Jack was getting caught where he’d usually glide past. And yes, defense really was good. We’re actually cutting balls out now, never mind coming up and winning headers much further up the pitch.

  4. Great leader JC and an even better win with super John McGinn supported by the the super solid duo of Mings and Hause, while Jed Steer is solid and Elmo and Taylor are holding up well.

    Good performances from young Green, and El Ghazi will get there, while Hourihane continues to much better involved with Jack at his side. Tammy was off the boil, but Kodjia is waiting desperately in the wings to have a crack, while once again Whelan was solid when called upon.
    All in all another great team performance all round, and now really looking forward to being there on Saturday..!!

    So pleased that the pressure is easing on Dean Smith, and it has not gone unnoticed with me, how much more involved John Terry is on the bench with him.

  5. PP,

    McGinn really was immense there. Just possessed, and so happy for him to get back on the score sheet. Mings and Hause have made a huge difference…no one’s even asking when Chester will be back. And you’re right, Hourihane does very well playing off Jack, and it was a total team effort. Back to how we were playing before Jack and Axel went out.

    There after the second, it looked like we could’ve gone into the half up 4- or 5-1. Not that we missed a lot of sitters, but Forest were dazed by McGinn’s double, and every attack looked dangerous as a situation.

  6. Mings has to be best signing in years,anyone who can make Elmo and Taylor look ok has to be special
    Good solid performance all round, mcginn needed his rest and if we get Boro out way nearly 2 weeks break

  7. A good win. Everyone is playing with confidence.
    A decimated Villa side never let the playoff positions out of sight. Now at almost full fitness they should get there. No more stumbles.

  8. Watching Mings and Hause steady the back line just makes me wonder what could of been done with the monies waisted over the last three seasons?

    Looking at our rising wage bill and massive loans and JT’s wage for one season I can’t help but think Where we could have been had Smith or a Smith type manager ( a real eye for putting a team together quickly) been in charge from the off. Easy to say as he is doing ok with what he’s been left but you can’t but help think it would of been so much different.

    What stands out in the players he prefers is their attitude, Granted Tammy and McGinn have this too but they were both obvious choices, both had reputations already, Mings and especially Hause not so much. I’m intrigued to see the next bunch of players through the door.

  9. Huge result last night. If we can beat Boro at the weekend, we will be in the thick of it. I’m drooling at the prospect of Axel coming back after the break. He will open up the possibility of 3 at the back at last. Hause, Mings, Axel. All with pace and strength.

    I guess the other teams currently occupying the play off positions are not too delighted to see us raising a gallop again. Nice to see small heath blow a gasket. Wonder what the FA will administer as punishment for a knob head on the pitch?

  10. Plug- 3 at the back with no WB’s? can’t see it yet. PNE going like a train too think we will have to win pretty much every match starting with Boro who have lost their last two and drew with Wigan.

  11. like said Mings and house has been the main difference. scoring goals have been ok but conceded too many. axel back too! house to lb.

    We did look tired and tammy not at it lately. boy he misses some great chances. Not sure he is ready for the prem.

    Nice to have something to hope for and good for deano but the last 2 games against leeds and Norwich might kill us

  12. Dean Ashton on why Grealish matters to the team, I thought that maybe Smith had got the FB’s to sit in a bit before Jack returned but the midfield looked nervous about committing themselves forward. so its that and the added security of two solid CB’s imo.

    “Defensively, Aston Villa look like they are starting to improve,” Ashton told Quest. “Mings and Hause as a back two look very, very strong.

    “Also, with Jack Grealish playing, I know he has had a lot of the headlines, both playing and what happened against Birmingham.

    “But actually, with him playing in that midfield role, the full-backs don’t have to get so high and it’s starting to release midfielders. McGinn especially, Man of the Match against Forest and he was absolutely superb in that comeback.

  13. Take Hutton out of ream we stop conceding, not only that when a picture of our defence comes on screen no empty spaces,gaps,opposition players standing not marked,like a decent defence should be,
    Last few matches we have created plenty good chances meanwhile giving none up to opposition, long may it last

  14. I feared that the FA wouldn’t act decisively . . . . how stupid was I?!

    Of course when a club allows someone onto the pitch to assault a player and a steward also assaults the same player, the vital thing is to punish both clubs for players remonstrating with the referee over a bad tackle.

    The suits at the FA couldn’t possibly be as stupid and out of touch as they appear to be so the only logical explanation is that they are bravely and selflessly making themselves look ridiculous in order to give the fans of both teams a common enemy and thereby defuse the animosity between them. . . . . . simply brilliant!

  15. r0bb0
    Absolutely mate.
    I think they may be confused or annoyed that this isn’t the Premiership that they are dealing with – Peasants, punish them all, how dare they make us get involved!
    Exterminate, exterminate!

    Either that or the coffers are getting depleted from the expenses, or the backhander system doesn’t work outside the Premiership.

    Boringly predictable as you say.

  16. A couple of weeks ago it seemed we’d need to win 9 or 10 of our last 12 games in order to get into the play offs.
    Bearing in mind that we’d only won 2 inthe previous 10 that looked close to impossible.
    Now we find ourselves probably needing to win around 6 or 7 of our last 9 and now it only looks ‘unlikely’

    Win on Saturday and it might just start to look quite possible. . . not ‘likely’, yet, but hope definitely rekindled.

  17. r0bb0
    Unless 3 or 4 teams drastically improve it may be 4 or 5 out of our last 7 that will do it, remembering that we have Leeds & Norwich to come at the death.

  18. r0bb0
    I notice that Blues & the Arses have also been charged with allowing the pitch invasions & not stopping violent conduct.
    I hope it wasn’t a trend

  19. Nice writing, John.
    It was great to see our star player shining in the city derby.
    I wil watch a replay of the Nottingham Florist match later. It is nice to see some good humoured banter on here.
    Speaking of mutton, I like mine in that apricot and gravy stew with mashed spuds or plain rice.

  20. Speaking of confused anyone see the report of one of our own fans slashing another’s face with a Stanley knife as they got off the coach from Forest?

    As far as promotion is concerned we appear to be conjuring up the perfect storm at the right time so “likely”, “perhaps”, “you never know” and “stranger things have happened” seem perfectly legit at the moment.

  21. RObB0, Kieftenbeld’s chopping of Jack just below the knees was a red card in the first minute or last. I’ve seen guys sent off for much less. Some for Morris Dancing on the pitch. That thug’s swing of the axe was appalling. Pure small heath I’m afraid.I suppose back in the day such tackles were more common.

  22. So small heath are now facing 3 charges. (1) failing to control their hatchet men (2) failing to control their morons and (3) failing to adhere to FFP. Business as usual for them I guess.

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