It had been eight games without a win in the league for Aston Villa, a run which had seen them drop into the relegation zone. During that time they were knocked out of both English cup competitions by lower league opponents in Bradford and Millwall, conceded 25 goals in the league alone, and looked like a team bereft of confidence and quality.
With Villa having lost their last 3 home games to teams in and around the relegation battle, a home victory looked unlikely against a West Ham side who had beaten them 1-0 in their opening fixture of the season.
The game wasn’t the best, in fact the first half may have been one of the worst seen by neutrals for a long time as both teams looked scared to take a risk. It was Charles N’Zogbia, Villa’s best player throughout, who made the difference as he was fouled for the penalty to open the scoring, before scoring himself from a free kick to put his team 2-0 up.
Ashley Westwood was unlucky to score a late own goal for Villa which led to a very nervy finish for the Midlands team, especially as they have made a habit of conceding late goals recently, but they held on to grab a vital 3 points and only a second home win of the season.
Since N’Zogbia’s arrival under the McLeish era, he has failed to live up to the high expectations Villa had for the French winger. Under former manager McLeish, he himself declared that it was the lowest he had ever been as a footballer, as a defensive mentality did not suite his creative attacking flair.
Last season was certainly one to forget for N’Zogbia, but a terrific performance away to Manchester City in the Capital One Cup early on in the season suggested it may be a different story for himself this time round, as he grabbed a goal and set one up in a 4-2 victory for Villa back in September.
Unfortunately N’Zogbia damaged knee ligaments during mid-October, and had only recently made a return to the first team in the victory against Ipswich Town in the FA cup. Paul Lambert has been a manager under pressure for plenty of this season, and was happy to see N’Zogbia’s return to form:
It was a win that lifted Villa to 17th and out of the relegation zone, and gave the Villa faithful something to cheer after a miserable time of late. With Arsenal and Manchester City as their next two fixtures, it may not be the last time that Villa find themselves in the bottom three.
Holding on to the victory against West Ham could prove to be vital though for the mentality of the youngsters at Villa after conceding several late, important goals in recent weeks. They will need to continue to show similar steel and resolve if they are to stay in the highest tier of English football for another year.
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