Aston Villa’s euphoria after the triumph over league leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers rapidly evaporated after the unforeseen 3-1 defeat to Q.P.R on Tuesday evening. The loss was made all the worse due to the fact that both Cardiff City and Wolves themselves were both in action on the same night and managed fairly routine wins to open up a gap which on paper looks as wide and the grand canyon at this stage of the season.However, this is not the time to panic.
Whilst now things are largely out of our hands, there is still time for fortunes to change between now and May. The difference between the display against Wolves to that against Q.P.R was astonishing.
Despite the same eleven men taking the field, the performance was unrecognisable as Villa barely got going all game. Manager Steve Bruce in hindsight reflected that some changes in personnel may have helped freshen up the performance. However, I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of supporters were absolutely on board with keeping a settled side, especially after such a great performance beforehand. The only real contentious choice seemed to be keeping Mile Jedinak in place of the increasingly impressive Birkir Bjarnason. Did our manager panic and the pressure affect his decision making?
The loss feels like a wasted opportunity. Q.P.R are a team languishing in the middle of nowhere. Clear enough of relegation worries and too far away to mount a last-ditch push for the playoffs. On paper they represented one of our easiest fixtures left; a team with literally nothing to play for coming to the fortress of Villa Park.
Whilst it is bitterly disappointing the more we think about it, some perspective is needed. We have won 10 of our last thirteen games. We’re still third. And there is still time so why the panic?
As well as our own profligacy, the real issue is that Cardiff City keeps on winning. That’s now 7 wins in a row for the Bluebirds which is an extraordinary run, by anyone’s standards. They are massively punching above their weight on the resources available to them. Begrudgingly, it also has to be said that Neil Warnock is probably one of the best managers they could have in this situation also. Love him or hate him and I’m firmly in the hate him camp, you can’t deny that he will have them fired up before each and every game.
With 9 games to go, it also can’t be expected that they will go on to end the season with a winning run of 16 games to add to the 7 they currently have. They will drop points here and there. Whether or not it will be enough for us to catch them remains to be seen, especially as we seem liable to shoot ourselves in the foot at the most unpredictable of times.
The fact is that Warnock’s men still have to come to Villa Park. That is the game that will define the season. Providing that we’re still in a position to make it count.
That is a big if, of course. There are four games until that particular clash on the 10th April. We have some decent looking fixtures in between but we all thought Q.P.R was also a decent looking fixture.
Cardiff however, has some horrible looking fixtures coming up before then. A home match against Burton looks straightforward on their current form. But they must visit both Derby County and Sheffield United, as well as hosting Wolves. There will surely be dropped points along the way. And to be honest, if there isn’t, then good luck to them – they’d deserve to go up coming through that lot unscathed. What is to say that they won’t bottle it and in turn panic?
Fulham is also in the mix and cannot be discounted but we cannot alter their destiny and simply have to hope we can keep our noses in front along the way. However, despite having an easier looking run in, it is likely that they will also drop points along the way. They are currently a point behind us in the table and you can bet they aren’t feeling like they’re out of the race just yet. We have to match that mentality.
The point is though that although seven points seem huge right now, it is far from insurmountable. We’ve shown we have the class. We are now able to put runs of victories together. We have competed and beaten the teams in and around us. We know we are capable. And perhaps most importantly, we’ve shown we can bounce back from a defeat.
There are plenty of twists and turns to come. The worst thing we can do as supporters right now is panic and give up. We’re still in this. And after all, it wouldn’t be Aston Villa unless we did it the hard way.