The frustration that comes with being a Villa fan has continued even into the Championship. Our mid-week draw against Brentford was another example of our players’ inability to play two positive halves of football while yesterday’s scoreless draw bored us all to tears.
At half-time on Wednesday night, we found ourselves 1-0 up courtesy of Jonathan Kodija’s first goal for the club. It was a superb strike and, even though it wasn’t a completely dominant performance, I would argue that we were on top and had the majority of chances. I don’t know what happened in that second half but, when their late goal did come, I can’t have been the only one who was merely waiting to be put out of his misery.
When the boos came at the end of the game, they came for our second half performance, which was weak, negative and totally the wrong way to approach the game. This has become a staple of our season. 1-0 up against Huddersfield, Bristol City and Brentford, each game was the same story of sitting back, inviting pressure and conceding.
I don’t quite know who to blame for this approach. I have seen fingers being pointed at the manager and the players. What I could sense from our players on Wednesday night was a real fear – fear of giving the ball away and of being caught on the counter. Presumably, despite a whole host of new arrivals, this fear has lingered from last season. It meant that Di Matteo’s men were very cagey in the way that they played: they snatched at the ball, didn’t make runs forward and let the Bees play their football and become comfortable in possession.
As a team, the players need to learn from these mistakes. Di Matteo must recognise the need to add to a lead instead of frantically defending it, parking a bus that has been proven ineffective on more than one occasion this season. It isn’t the way to get promoted. One goal should give us the confidence to stay on the front foot rather than set up shop. We have some of the most threatening players going forward in the Championship so we should be winning games comfortably.
Let’s stop desperately hanging on to narrow leads. The Villans never looked like taking the lead against Ipswich Town but I hope that we push on and continue to create chances against Newcastle United. If we don’t get into this habit, the fans are in for more frustrating afternoons involving promising starts and disappointment at the final whistle.