Visiting Villa park for the second time this season I was cheered by everyone’s good mood and expectation.
The 4-1 defeat of Wolverhampton Wanderers 3 days earlier had raised expectation of regaining promotion to the Premiership through automatic promotion rather than by the nail biting lottery of the play offs.
Villa Park looked as immaculate as ever and a crowd of over 30000 had turned up to see them play Lower Table Queens Park Rangers in this rearranged game.
From the start Villa looked lethargic and seemed to have no shape or purpose. QPR won just about every header in attack and defence and it was no surprise that they took the lead through Ryan Manning after 12 minutes when he ought fought John Terry to head home a net uncontested cross.
Villa did little to respond and when they did high crosses into the box were dealt with easily. It was no surprise that QPR’s left back Jake Bidwell, who had provided the cross for the first goal, scored with a well placed shot to the right hand corner of Sam Johnstone’s goal. His shot was made easy by the poor headed clearance by the Villa defence.
Surely Villa would come back in the second half playing into the Holte End. The introduction of Kienen Davis and Scott Hogan did have an initial impact but with everything going through Jack Grealish who was receiving the ball further and further within their defensive half it was not surprising that substitute Luke Freeman who had only been on the field for a few minutes made it 3-0 with just 98minutes from time.
Birkir Bjarnason’s late introduction on 81 minutes for the very ineffective Connor Hourihane did spark some more direction and James Chester’s 88th minute goal and 4 minutes of added time gave unjustified hope but Villa’s 61% domination of play did not reflect QPR’s domination of the score, chances and commitment.
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce told BBC WM:
“We’ve choked tonight. We’ve made a mess of it. Now we need to put it right at Bolton on Saturday evening.
“From experience, I always feared it might be ‘After the Lord Mayor’s Show’ following the weekend. I toyed and toyed with changing it, making five or six changes, and in hindsight, I should have done.
“We never got started. Mentally, we weren’t at it. We didn’t get anywhere near the heights of Saturday. But that’s what this league is all about, any team can beat you.”
Quotes from Steve Bruce from BBC WM printed on the BBC sport Website.
With other results going against Villa it looks highly unlikely that they will go up automatically. To be any football fan has its ups and downs but the last 6 years with Villa have been a roller coaster that has had more downs than ups.
Some fans left early but most left the ground still hopeful that the team can regroup and win their last 9 remaining games.