On Friday evening, the Villans travelled to the Amex Stadium for a game under the lights against a Brighton and Hove Albion side that sat in second place in the Championship and in the midst of an impressive run.
Going into the game, the Seagulls had the best home record in the division and were on a ten-match unbeaten run, which included four wins in a row, so they were expected to be formidable opponents. I was, therefore, very much of the opinion pre-game that a point would be an excellent one.
After the game, however, I had some feelings of disappointment that we had not taken all three points as we took the game to the home side and had the chances to claim the victory, which, on the balance of play, we deserved.
The first half was a case of earning the right to play. The team had a solid shape with top scorer Jonathan Kodjia working tirelessly to support Jordan Amavi down the left-hand side and Albert Adomah doing a similar job down the right in front of Alan Hutton. Mile Jedinak, despite his lengthy trip from Thailand only hours before, also kept the Seagulls at bay in a similar fashion to how I do when protecting my chips from them on the beach…
Nathan Baker, who again excelled alongside James Chester, headed Villa into the lead with his long-awaited first goal for the club and neither team threatened to add to the tally until an excellent move from the hosts just before half-time led to a well-placed finished from their top goal-scorer Glenn Murray.
The second half was a different story, however: the Villans came out from the dressing room in a much more purposeful and potent mood, despite the setback of conceding on the stroke of half-time. The team worked on the platform from the first half and improved vastly going forward, especially when Jordan Ayew and the excellent Jack Grealish were introduced.
Grealish picked up pockets of space in front of the hosts’ defence and was a thorn in their side. He has given Steve Bruce a welcome selection headache for next week’s encounter against Cardiff City at Villa Park .
The team was also much more comfortable in retaining possession and the Brighton fans had to watch something which they rarely have to endure – seeing their team on the back foot.
The result and the performance in front of the cameras will, in my opinion, have made the rest of the league take notice. This was not a smash-and-grab point on the East Sussex coast by any means and, whilst the team deserved more, taking into account the opposition, we should not treat this as two points dropped either.
Steve Bruce’s unbeaten start to life at Aston Villa goes on and those doubting the credentials of our manager are becoming quieter by the match. The first half may have been a case of substance over style but the second half was the opposite; it’s easy to see why Bruce himself saw this as the best performance under his stewardship to date.
If Bruce is able to keep this run of two points a game going for the rest of season this would mean a tally of eighty points, which has been enough to secure a play-off place in recent seasons. That’s something we would all take, given where he picked up from.