After Aston Villa conceded early on in the ‘six-pointer’ against Reading, a defensive mistake from another young professional learning his trade in Nathan Baker’s own goal, the writing seemed on the wall for Villa and their fans.
Having lost their last game against champions Manchester City 1-0 to a defensive blunder by Ciaran Clark, the own goal looked set to be another mistake that would lead to defeat. Paul Lambert and his side had other ideas, and replied with two quick goals before half time to set up a vital 2-1 victory to lift them above the relegation zone.
Although the win itself was vital enough for Aston Villa, the way they earned the victory may prove to be the crucial factor as they enter the final nine games of the season.
Before the match against Reading, Villa had only gained two points all season from a losing position, as a young side dropped their heads and lost confidence with the conceding of a goal early on.
Not only have Villa failed to recover from early set-backs during games, they have the worst record in the league for conceding in the final 10 minutes of Premier League games. Coupled with the fact that Reading had the best record for points earned in the final ten minutes, Villa have also defeated that demon by holding onto their lead on Saturday.
Since the end of January, Villa have played very well, and have been unlucky not to gain more points from the tough fixtures they have had. Manager Paul Lambert agrees that they have impressed since their poor exits from both cup competitions back in January, as he explained shortly after the match.
He said: “There will be a few teams looking over their shoulder tonight. We have a bit of momentum. The goals that we scored were excellent – we don’t look like a team fighting for its life. I see a lot of confidence in the players – they have been playing really well without the rewards.”
Despite the positives, Villa are still locked in a relegation battle, and almost certainly will be until the final game of the season. With Wigan impressing in the FA Cup, achieving a 3-0 victory away to Everton in the early kick off on Saturday, and QPR winning their last two matches in a row, every team down the bottom has a chance of survival.
A total of 38 points has been suggested as a total for survival this season, and Villa are still 11 points from that figure. The next fixture against QPR is a massive game for both clubs, as a victory for either team could prove to be crucial as the end of the season draws to a close.
A Villa win would see them seven points ahead of QPR with eight games remaining. But a QPR victory will see them only a point behind their rivals, and with an easier run in that Aston Villa, would almost certainly guarantee them a higher finish in the league.
Villa are certainly in a fight, but the victory on Saturday certainly shows they are up for that fight.
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