Friday’s remarkable 3-3 draw with Sheffield United has left Villa fans feeling mixed emotions in what was only the start of a huge and possibly defining week.
Undoubtedly coming from 3-0 down so late on felt like a win, however the previous 80 minutes were some of the worst seen at Villa Park this season.
Poor communication, poor positioning, poor passing and more against an impressive, industrious Sheffield United team managed by Chris Wilder led to what seemed like a deserved hiding. However the huge positive of somehow returning with a point highlights some plusses.
Firstly, the point itself means yet another draw, Villa having already drawn more than another club in the football league this season. It also could go on to prove to be a hugely important one.
Secondly, it showed there is fight and perhaps a never say die attitude in the side despite the frustration of repeated lapses defensively.
Andre Green coming on to grab a winner after so many injury woes and a recall from his recent loan spell at Portsmouth was a real sweet sight for the Villa faithful.
Glenn Whelan also came on at 3-0 down and put in a performance that deserves both credit and regard from those that seem to ridicule him week in week out. The contrast in performance to Mile Jedinak in the first half couldn’t have been clearer and he combatted well.
Whelan seems to have been an easy target and a scapegoat at times when other players continue to look average at best and inconsistent.
Above all else once the chaos of the last gasp equalised had sunk in, the drive home led to the reality kicking in of potential further ground lost on the playoffs. This then came to fruition yesterday as Derby County and Bristol City both won to stretch the playoff advantage to six points both with a game in hand too.
Granted it’s a funny league and there will always be those optimists but ultimately the time is running out as it would take one huge swing in form whilst relying on others to do the same in a negative fashion. Villa are now picking up 1.42 points per game, the figure has continued to drop week by week since the loss of Jack Grealish to injury at West Brom. 1.42 points over 46 games last season would’ve seen a 12th placed finish and the league doesn’t lie in terms of what you deserve.
The biggest concern is the rhetoric of ‘building for next year’. A long term plan has been needed for a long time but again the reality is that Grealish and possibly McGinn will more than likely be picked off and loanees will return along with expected retirements or releases.
Should this be the case, the idea of Dean Smith building his team becomes another case of the dreaded phrase ‘transition period’. Effectively starting with a brand new team and having to get them to gel and work.
The defining week continues with a trip to Brentford and a local derby at home to West Brom and I think it’s safe to say a poor points haul will force the gap to be perhaps too big.