Here we are again, three games between another season in the Championship or a return to the big stage. In our way? West Bromwich Albion rather than Middlesbrough, and then either Leeds or Derby. On paper, the semifinal seems a bit tougher than facing Boro last year. Either match-up in the final would be…interesting.

As far as West Brom go, well, no love lost and not much to be said. Villa were robbed of a victory in the teams’ first meeting, and lost the game and Grealish in the second. But with the unbeaten run now consigned to history, I think Villa are in about as reasonable a spot as they could hope for. You might think there’s a bit of a disadvantage to have the first leg at Villa Park, but that could also play into Villa’s hands as it’s a chance to gain control.

The idea is for Villa to notch a nice win at home. While season-long defensive stats are relatively meaningless for Villa given the personnel changes, the fact is that since January we’ve gotten harder to beat. If Villa can carry a cushion to The Hawthorns, it might be tough for the Baggies to make up enough ground.

And even if Villa don’t carry a two- or three-goal advantage into the second meeting, they’ll know the Baggies’ win was a close-fought affair and Villa could’ve been out of sight in the draw. In short, if Villa want it enough and go play like they do, I’d not bet against them.

When it comes to the streak, confidence and the team’s psychology, I think the way it all came to an end was sort of ideal. The controversial draw with Leeds turned out to be a bit of a moral victory without Villa giving too much away. Dean Smith saw how Leeds would approach Villa, and had a chance to see whether Villa could largely bypass midfield and get at Leeds quickly. He could approach a potential final completely differently now that he knows the Whites will probably man-mark Jack again. Or go at it the same way and expect better results. And then the controversy surrounding Leeds’ goal gives Villa a chip to carry and a score to settle, while Leeds are no doubt feeling a bit shamed.

Losing to Norwich, Villa got the whole unbeaten business off their backs without giving up much in the way of confidence. We played a full-strength Canaries side without Abraham, Grealish, McGinn and Mings, and pretty much gave as good as we got. More important than the rests and the effort, Smith had a week of the players’ full attention as they were all reminded that nothing is a given.

If we end up getting past the Baggies and face Derby, it’ll be a side we’ve twice beaten handily. That might sound good, and it could well be, but beating the same team three times can be a big ask. Then again, a 7-0 aggregate over two matches…well, I’ll probably be rooting for the Rams along with Villa.

So, I like the overall situation. Doesn’t mean it will turn out well, but a timely loss can be a good thing, and I think in Villa’s case it’ll refocus everyone, remind them that they’re good, but need to give everything. WBA won’t make that feeling hard to maintain.

Anyway, we’ll soon see. The atmosphere should be electric, and I think there’s very much an air of unfinished business in the squad. They know the agony of coming so close, and are now a fitter, more dynamic side who know they can score in bunches. Villa come in the form side, but I think it’s Albion who might be feeling a bit more pressure.

Games don’t get much bigger than these, and this mini season will be the opportunity at redemption everyone at the club has been wanting. With Grealish and McGinn in excellent form, and a bigger, tougher, and faster defense, I think the players will be feeling good. I think Smith will have them prepared and can keep their heads on straight. I don’t think they’re taking anything for granted.

It’s all to play for, and Villa are as lethal a side as any of the four. A win today, and I think we’ll be hard to stop. And if the players want it bad enough, they’ll get it.

So come on you Villa boys. It’s time to fight tooth and nail, take your chances, and just play up to your potential. Simples.

Over to you.

Comments 122

  1. On the ball JC,
    with a great leader! I am just finishing breakfast before setting out for the hallowed turf, which is Villa Park. Weather is looking good, and hope the traffic etc: will be ok!

    Come on You Villa boys..!!!

  2. Ta JC
    Just heading to my mates for our gang to take in the match together.
    Be online again after.
    Really looking forward to this.

  3. Steer, Elmohamady, Tuanzebe, Mings, Taylor, Whelan, McGinn, Grealish, El Ghazi, Adomah, Abraham.

    Subs: Kalinic, Hause, Jedinak, Hourihane, Green, Kodjia, Davis

    As expected

  4. Taylor is also useless. It must be that these shite players only have a reasonable game when I’m not looking. 10 wins on the bounce by this lot shows how poor this league is

  5. Well, I’m just calling it as it is Mark. 400 wins on the trot won’t make Whelan, Taylor and Adomah good footballers. They’re talentless. Grealish easily marked out if the game; AEG is easily shepherded into the corners…need I go on?

  6. How many saves has Johnstone made given all the possession that Villa have had? Villa’s only hope is that Albion probably won’t pack the defence this much on Tuesday…although I would given how clueless we are against them

  7. PW- I expect a different game second half, its not the average players that are not performing as such, Tammy jack and McGinn are not on it and we are playing slow and with little movement. At the end of the day we gifted them their goal, other than that it’s been them defending.

  8. Well, not actually much in it. A real shame gifting them the lead, obviously. We’ve been fine, just need to get at them quicker. I might get Hourihane on for Whelan.

  9. So far Rodriguez and Gayle showing why they have 22 goals each although steer was a couple of inches from getting a full hand on gayle’s goal it brushed the top of his hand.

  10. well hello guys!, do i feel sick.
    good thing i am at home on my own drinking watching this. it appears this week our dickhead players been wasting time thinking and watching the cunty cockneys and scouse euro exploits, and yet again have ignored the boggies scum, and they come and fooked us.

    the boggies have been thinking about us all week and are just standing in our way and doubling up , on our attackers, whelen doing fook all, at least he can take a shoot or 2

    we clearly look either scared or confused on how to play, the boggies don’t even have to think about what we are going to do as it do obvious to them, we should be rainign shots down on the goal, from outsidue teh box we then kuntz are just going to sit there. arrgghh!

  11. Shooting from 25 yards against Johnstone will rarely work. It all smacks of desperation. Derby fucked these 3-1 last week. They’re not that good…and sadly neither are we. Whelan…fuck off and don’t ever come back…similar for Adomah

  12. Did he think Albion would set up like Barcelona?

    Versus Norwich, Albion, Sheffield U, Leeds I believe we have zero wins…and there my friends is the problem…not good enough against the reasonable teams.

    Taylor is a C Hunt

  13. John, no doubt the gift rattled them but it was very early and the best teams get on with the job. Albion only wanted a draw so I don’t think it changed their plan at all

  14. No, but it’s the side that’s played the most together. Adomah just goes more work off the ball than Green. Me, I’d have always preferred Conor to Whelan, but it’d worked out well against a variety of opponents before.

  15. PW- to my mind Smith will not have known that WBA would sit in, they don’t play that way normally and with gayles I can understand some caution.

  16. Exactly, PW. They’ll have to come out and there’ll be space. They’ll also have it in their heads that they were doing everything right, still couldn’t hold out, and were gifted the only goal they did get.

    Steer didn’t have to do much, but if we go up, that save could be the thing that did it.

  17. Not the game anyone expected. Seventy percent possession shows that WBA set out to park the bus in this first leg and to be fair they were doing it really well.
    Wouldn’t have expected Whelan to make that mistake when he’s been so solid recently but despite that we we’re now the first team this season to beat them after they’ve scored first. . . . that shows the quality we have.
    Gayle had it coming and it was no surprise whatsoever that he collected his second yellow.
    Before the game I’d have been happy to be given a 1-0 lead to start the game at their place with their top scorer suspended.
    ‘IF’ we can go on to win it I hope the dirty bastards leave us with a fully fit squad to play in the final.

  18. half time were in front!

    pw – ther you go Shooting from 25 yards against Johnstone does work. clearly that was only way, as boggies scummers were just sitting back, doubling it up sticking there fat arses in the way.

  19. r0bb0,

    Yeah, there were a lot of cheap shots in there. Reading the final stats 20 vs 5, 6 vs 2 on goal. Big differential in corners. 5 yellows to none and the red.

    But no, not what we expected. Maybe should’ve, as PW was saying, in a two-leg situation.

    What I like is that’s what we’ve been seeing from Villa. The players know a goal can come at any minute, just kept at it, Deano made the right subs, and there was a mental toughness, belief. When they’re in the ascendancy, they really push for more.

    Not the best performance by any means, but that’s encouraging. Will expect McGinn to bounce back. He almost seemed lethargic today…crossed my mind that he might’ve been ill, coming off something. Did not have the usual energy or strength on the ball.

  20. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Whelan start again on Tuesday when WBA will have to try and play in our half of the pitch.
    The one player is hope to see a bit more from on tuesday is McGinn. I thought he was a bit quieter than usual (by his high standards) so hopefully he’s kept some in the tank for Tuesday.
    Was pleased to see Kodjia come on as he’s in the mood to make a difference at the moment . . . it was a great bench to be able to call on!

  21. And it looked to me that after the initial set of chances, Villa got a bit nervy in front of the home crowd. Some poor decisions, hesitations, etc., passes going awry that players normally make. Expectations and all. Will be lots for Dean to talk about.

  22. guys for me that was great game,

    it had it all, a inbred, fouling, anti-footy team, lead by a blues scummer as a coach, came to sit back, be dirty, and also for me i could breath it all in as, the missus and kids out the way, had a few beers and as a few whiskey chasers, just a same i could go.

  23. One more goal would have given us some breathing space but an awesome fight from the boys. Losing Gayle for the next round is going to hurt them, didn’t they drop a lot of points when he was out injured?

    Cmon Derby

  24. Sorry for not chatting during game, I got caught up in it. We were so much better. Let’s see what they’re like when they have to come at us and leave gaps! Their time wasting tactics were so childish. If I was a manager I would never allow my team to do that, it was so stupid. Last 10 mins of the 2 legs, I get time wasting then. Dwight Gayle was begging to be sent off, what was his problem?

    Grealish was immense, clearly the best player on the pitch. If we go up I’d offer 40m for Tuanzebe, but can’t see Utd letting him go. Those are our only 2 top 4 EPL players. How great was Neil Taylor again.

  25. Neil Taylor is the most improved player I’ve ever seen. Him and El Ghazi are a constant threat. El Ghazi is finally showing his quality, he has pace and skill. Did u see the West Brom attack when Taylor came across to right back to make a last ditch tackle! Wow, wow, wow. Taylor ran his heart out today

  26. villalore, sky just said, without Gayle the boggies, have issues, i can’t quire remember what they said. maybe some thing like when he hasn’t played that have’nt won or they scored bugger all.

    5 beers 2 whikies and 1 chicken balti in, now i have to regain my sneese b4 the wife and 2 kids come home. lol

  27. It just occurred to me how different things feel now.
    We’re in the play offs . . . well into the second half and 1-0 down but I said to the wife “I just can’t see us not scoring in this game”
    How long has it been since we’ve been able to have such faith in the side that we can really believe that we’re the best side in such a big game and feel that we can actually still go on to win it?
    I know it’s only half time, but even if we don’t win through, you know that we ‘can’!

  28. R0bb0, agreed. We lost the final last year without trying to score. At least if we lose under DS, it will not be because we park a Steve Bruce bus

  29. VillaMD,

    Ha! No worries. Very hard to pull yourself away, I know.

    I was annoyed with the time-wasting so early on as well. But it told me something about their mentality at that point. They’re scared of us. Doesn’t mean we go through, but they knew all too well what could happen. And it did anyway.

    So, yes…Them having to come at us, and without Gayle, will be very interesting.

  30. Villalore,

    I really did think a third was on. They had a moment of fightback, and then were back on their heels with Gayle off. Shame, but still, can’t complain about finding a way through today.

  31. r0bb0,

    It’s a huge difference. Last year I’d have given up on the match if we hadn’t equalized before the half. But like the Rotherham response and the late goals against Wednesday, there’s just enough quality in the team, and that ingrained attacking sense, that you can tell they know they can make something happen.

    Saw that, about McGinn. He really was off the pace today. And like you, I can see Dean going back to Whelan. If McGinn has more energy, it’ll help Glenn out.

    Overall, though, Deano’s done an excellent job changing the mentality of the players and club.

  32. I watched the McGinn interview during the week. What I got from it, he said he wasn’t the finished article and is picking up too many yellow cards. I wonder if he tried to change his game to be more mature? I would go back to the old John McGinn.

  33. I think that the enormity of the game and being at home didn’t help, quite a few young heads on our side even Mings wasn’t his usual self. WBA a very experienced outfit but no Livermore, Barry or Kanu and now no Gayle.

    Until a bit of needle began WBA looked comfortable, think our lot thrive on controversy 🙂 I have to thank WBA and Gayle for getting complacent.

    No surprise that the goals came from a shot out side the box with every WBA player in it and a pen from getting behind them. I don’t understand why we didn’t do that more, WBA are big lads and get in that penalty box from the sides is not their dream scenario.

    Interesting to see Jacks footprint was almost entirely left sided, not ideal when McGinn plays there, looked different when he got out right where he made both goals.

  34. MK, agreed. There was no point putting crosses in for Tammy against 2 huge CBs.

    Mings wears 40, Grealish old Jersey. I’ve a gut feeling that Mings will score in 2nd leg or the final

  35. VillaMD- I’m sure getting this win will shake the doubt out of them, they know whats required on tues now and what WBA are likely to do. Theres no gimme’s but things couldn’t be much more favourable.

  36. I thought for 75 minutes the yam yams did a job on us. Hourihane’s missile changed everything. Once a noisy crowd detonates, it was the end of their game plan. Tammy’s penalty was perfect and the correct result prevailed.

    Gayle is a flawed diamond. Brilliant skills but a plank upstairs. Johnstone still looks dodgy on crosses and this time it was the hand of Steer eh Rod?

    I expect another tight game on Tues. But for now, it’s advantage Villa.

  37. RObBo, Yep I too thought McGinn was quieter than normal today. So used to seeing his all action style but less so today. I’d say the same about El Gassy but in his case, they doubled up on him to keep him quiet. So the yam yams can do the same on Tues if they wish to prevent the damage (despite it failing today) or they can change to a more attacking mode and we will see a more open game.

  38. We’ll no doubt be put through the wringer again on Tuesday….can only keep fingers crossed.

    Abraham was asked if that was his last match at VP…he didn’t say ‘yes’

  39. I see its Ramadan and ElGhazi is being managed, think its odd that a professional footballer is allowed to fast but hey he still played well at times.

  40. I see that Leeds fans are all over social media complaining about Hourihane scoring the winner.
    It seems that they would much prefer to meet West Brom than us in a final.
    I’d have thought that at this stage they should be concentrating more on Derby than Villa.

  41. Talking of razors I bought one of those fancy German single blade razors like my dad used, not shaved with it yet but nearly cut me bloody finger off adjusting it, should I be concerned? 🙂

  42. r0bb0,

    The sense of grievance they have over Hourihane is getting ridiculous. Classic deflection from Bamford’s behavior: “Villa the biggest cheats in the league…Officials always favor them…” God. It’s never-ending.

  43. On the fasting issue, we have not just got El Gassy but also Elmo. The yam yams have Hegazi.

    But if my info on Ramadan is correct, a fast can be broken during daylight hours providing the lost day(s) is/are made up before the next Ramadan. The fast cannot be broken lightly, there must be a good reason, however, it can be broken. I would suggest that the amount of physical exertion required during a play off match would be a danger to life without fluid intake so it would therefore be an acceptable “break”.

  44. JC absolutely right about Leeds ‘deflection’.
    It started the day of the game and is typical of the gamesmanship that goes with that club.
    Baggies fans are complaining that Gayle shouldn’t have been sent off but it seemed to me that he had it coming to him. Before today’s game I didn’t know that cheating is a recognised part of his game so I. found this article interesting:

  45. Dean Smith is a big believer in positivity and everyone pulling together isn’t he.
    A couple ofntelling quotes today:
    About the fans:
    “After their goal, there were a few sloppy passes where a few months ago they might have got on their backs, but they stuck with them”

    About the players:
    “The last message was to go and be a good team-mate,” he added.

    Earlier in the season he pulled thebplyets up for complaining about each other on the pitch.

    I do like the man’s approach to management

  46. r0bb0,

    I’d take the Gayle claims more seriously if he hadn’t deliberately run Jack over behind the play not long after receiving his first yellow. Always going to be a 50/50 with the keeper like that, but the stupid prat shouldn’t have got himself booked for repeatedly taking 5mins per throw-in.

    One angle, not much in it, the other angle, looks like he’s deliberately leaving his legs in.

    I suppose I could go find a replay, but I really can’t be arsed. Not going to change anything.

  47. And agreed on Dean’s approach, r0bb0. I think he’s a player’s coach. You hear about all this man-management stuff, and it’s fair, far as it goes…yell at one guy, put your arm around another, etc.

    But I think what Dean’s about is a culture. The way the team’s playing, reacting to each other, you can see a togetherness, a sense they’ve all been treated fairly, a common set of expectations that’s making them all better professionals. They’re growing, the team’s succeeding…and they trust each other.

    Probably isn’t a better thing you can say than “go be a good teammate.” That’s what it all boils down to.

  48. Plug,

    Yeah, it was just a really unfortunate thing to go behind like that. They got to retreat into a shell without really having to play, figure, “hey 1-0, or 1-1, all good.” We were getting much better looks until then, but hadn’t really found our stride.

    My attention was a little divided, but from what I saw, the Leeds-Derby match was much more open with Leeds at least chasing a second and not trying to shut up shop.

  49. I found their managers anger laughable, he said Gayle was walking toward the throw in and at no time stopped?? well when one player looks like he’s going to take it then decides Gayle who’s stood in the middle of our box should then come out and take it you have to say they are taking the piss even if he ran.

    And another classic was they only scored from a shot outside the box (deemed lucky) and a penalty. Well if the opposition are all in their area then thats what you’ll get, we were unlikely to hit them on the break were we. Conor shot was like an arrow right where he wanted it and where they had left a passage for it.

  50. I do think that we are going to see fireworks at Leeds, if the game is tight I can see a lot of bookings ruling the likes of Klich and cooper out of the final if leeds get through, its got powder keg written all over it, especially after the penalty reversal.

  51. Arrived at the Aston Tavern, which was heaving with Villa fans really buzzing and in good voice at 11.00am in the morning..!!

    A few pints of Doombar and a curry later, I joined the throng on the Holte End..!!! Standing only today for such an important match. No time to sit down, as you would miss something.
    Cannot believe the attendance figure of 40,726. There were no empty seats, so where were the other 1,000?

    I saw no problem with Dean’s team selection, and he had it just right, save for one solitary mistake, which was partially jack’s and not just Whelan’s. It was great to see not only the players reassuring him, but the true fans at the game, giving him the support and singing his name. What a difference to the past!

    Albion mass tactics in defence, out on the wings, always two players to mark AEG and Adomah, stifled a lot of play, and the close attention to Grealish and McGinn. Then the constant time wasting, could not believe it was still the first half, but it was cleverly down to slow down Villa’s rhythm and speed. Our biggest failing was using poor floated crosses that were never going to reach anyone.

    I also believe that Dean had given the players strict instructions to stick to the game plan, do not commit any fouls, do not collect any cards. You need to frustrate them. Do not let them frustrate us. He was right, because, as the game went on, they could not maintain the level of energy needed to continue to defend the way they were, so when Hourihane and Green came on, and the Villa pace increased, they could not cope, and Villa just pressed harder and harder, resulting in a great goal from Conor, which means as much to us, as Kompany’s did on Monday to Man City!

    Grealish won his penalty, and Tammy, calm as a cucumber, put it away. That was basically game over for West Bromwich Albion, and Villa could have had two more on another day. I was glad to see Gayle get a second yellow for his attempts to deceive the ref, and try and get Villa players booked with his theatricals. Villa remembered to play to the whistle as well!!

    I am glad that most have noted that in the end, Taylor once again, had a magnificent game, with some really important tackles, as did Tuanzebe, whose speed is outstanding. All in all, a great game with a great result, with the fans cheering from the first whistle to the last. In Dean Smith we trust….!!!!

    Looking forward to Tuesday, but do believe that WBA have some good strikers to call on, but will be glad that Barry, Livermore, Gayle and Robson-Kanu will not be playing. Just Rodriguez to combat, although I am sure Morrison will be looking to be involved

  52. Didn’t make it very clear perhaps, as I know Gayle’s second yellow for his foul on Steer, but he had previous to that been writhing on the floor a couple of times and trying to fool the ref that he had been fouled by a Villa player. The ref had ignored him, so maybe it was a culmination through the game of trying to take the p**s.

  53. Gayle was a pain but I think Mings will be happy he’s gone now, his stupidity was incredible though getting sent off in the 88th minute.

    Like the Leeds game I can see WBA being short of a team even if they beat us. The more desperate they get the worse it will be .

    I like Smiths philosophy of staying even emotionally whether we score or concede. It helps conserve energy and concentration becomes natural. WBA had to stay focussed and ultimately didn’t, sitting back requires a lot of concentration which if your not used to it is draining, the old brain box takes a lot of fuel.

Leave a Reply