I’m sure like many of you on Sunday I was relieved to hear the final whistle at Villa Park. Shane Long’s goal looked like it had given Albion another day to remember in Witton. But Darren Bent’s scrappy equaliser meant it was a anxious last ten minutes to a game we probably should’ve won.
Long wasted Albion’s best chance of the first half when he somehow headed wide from close range when it seemed easier to score. Despite being the away side, it was pleasing to see how Albion started the game and took control early on. The midfield three of Morrison, Mulumbu and Yacob were busy and allowed Albion to dominate the tempo. At times they passed the ball excellently in tight triangles to start counter attacks. Brunt and Gera worked hard and did their best to get involved, but both drifted in and out of the game.
Albion’s opener – courtesy of an excellent threaded pass by Yacob for the onrushing Morrison – came just after the break, and probably too soon for my likening. The goal allowed Villa time to regain composure and get back into the game – after they’d weathered another Albion storm when Gabriel Tamas almost scored via a cross-shot.
Tamas was called upon after Billy Jones fell awkwardly after making a routine pass and did well. Albion’s squad – although boasting strength in depth – is currently creaking with Chris Brunt also going down with a hamstring injury during the game.
One player who did impress against the Villa was Goran Popov – who made his debut at left back. Popov reminds me of a character from one of the Rocky films. His face is warn and red like a boxer and his square forehead shows signs of heading rocks as a child. I certainly wouldn’t want to face the intimidating left back! It’ll be interesting when Ridgewell is fit to see who Clarke favours.
After the game questions were asked whether it was a point gained or two lost. I’m sure if you’d ask a Villa fan the same question they’d be happy with a point after struggling to create any number of clear cut chances. When the hosts did manage to find a way past Olsson, McAuley, Popov and Tamas/Jones, Ben Foster was back to his imperious best.
Steve Clarke revealed how disappointed the players were at losing the lead late on. This disappointment shows how far we’ve come in recent seasons. A few years back and we’d have been delighted to get something at Villa Park. But there doesn’t seem to be a fear of travelling away from The Hawthorns any longer - especially to places like Villa Park. Roy Hodgson may have made us the best team in Midlands, but it looks like Steve Clarke is cementing that position. It’s a great time to be an Albion fan.
Come on you Baggies.