ASTON VILLA (H) – THE ACN REVIEW

14/12/16

Aston Villa only won once away in 2016? A game on Sky? This was all very dodgy ground for NCFC wasn't it? Andy Lawn and Jon Punt take a look at a good home performance.

Random Star Performer

Ok, this is random. Probably the most random we've ever come up with, but it's a point worth making. ITS ONLY SEB BLOODY BASSONG.

As much as Villa were poor, their matchday squad offered a variety of offensive threats, with Gestede, Kodjia, Adomah, Ayew and McCormack all getting game time. With that array of 'talent' they barely threatened, but Shotgun Seb was majestic in the air and composed when under pressure. Ok, in between all that he shanked a pass into the South Stand which was worse than a 2016 Tiger Woods 4 iron, but he was good, very good. Let's give him that.

Whisper it quietly, but that's two clean shits in 3 games. We've lacked leaders of late, say what you like about the man, but he's a talker and fronts up to the challenge.

If despite this, you still need a defensive culprit to wail about because your favourite social media Swiss fellow is milking the applause of the Snake Pit, Ryan Bennett is a worthy deputy.

Moment of the match

At half-time there was a case for saying this was the worst Carrow Road atmosphere in recent memory (well since Worthy's last game at FCR when silence was replaced without outright hostile poison), but the 13 minutes of continuous "We are the Norwich yellow army" which bubbled along in the Barclay (and only the Barclay, come on Snake Pit you're allowed to play too) culminated in a goal.

A goal which showed signs of the quality we shelled out a reported lb5million for the scorer of. There aren't many strikers in this league who would have showed the awareness to use the defender blocking a potential shot by bending it round them into a gaping far corner, and leaving Gollini rooted to his spot in the process.

It capped off an excellent performance, our new Lord Nelson led the line well, albeit differently from the channel running Jerome, Oliveria does his work between the lines of the 18 yard box and showed he can link the play admirably. Sometimes players, especially frontmen, need a run in the side before their true worth starts to show.

Biggest positive to take

This was a performance worthy of 2014-15 Norwich City. A workmanlike and solid base to build from was the hallmark of that charge to Wembley. By switching out a natural number 10 for the industry of Howson, it allowed the formation to retain solidity. Among all of that the side still had ball players to create and there would have been no complaints had the score line been slightly wider. Dorrans and Mulumbu offered real balance, steel and crisp passing. The game was won in the midfield for sure.

It was also a game in which we improved as the match progressed. Compared to many a previous outing where a fast start was slowly undone as the game wore on, City grew into this one and despite a late hopeful punt into the box and smart near post save from Big John, we were solid, composed and game managementy throughout.

This isn't us jumping off the deep end and proclaiming everything will now be ok, but 2 wins in 3 suggests the green shoots of recovery may be starting to emerge.

Referee watch

Terrible, truly awful. Never have we seen so many innocuous challenges resulting in petty and nonsensical free kicks. His ability to stifle the flow of the game by not seizing opportunities for an advantage also evidenced he's probably one of those officials that has never really played the game at any kind of competitive level. And his name is Tim Robinson, you never hear of anyone good at football called Tim Robinson now do you?

Still, he wasn't fooled by McCormack's clever lean into Pinto, followed up by a rather theatric tumble. So maybe we'll give him a pass.

Midweek whinge

Laffs barnet is the obvious one. You're not Bradders mate. Or Ibrahimovic.

A subtler whinge comes in the fertile moaning ground of free-kicks on the halfway line. Last night we had 5-10 of these seemingly bland incidents and each one riled us further. Each one was taken by Ryan Bennett, quite possibly the worst passer, but best header of a football in the team. Each one was smashed diagonally forward aiming for an advanced head, camped on the 18 yard line of the opposition. Now this is the gripe. If the plan for these free-kicks is to go long then fine, BUT why not get Dorrans to take the free-kick and allow RyBen to go forward, with GD then covering? It makes sense for Bennett to take it, if he is going to then knock it short to one of the holding midfielders, or wide to an advanced full-back as that requires neither passing ability nor aerial presence further up the pitch. However, if we are going long with it, can we suggest our best passer passes it and our best header goes up to head it?

Atmosphere rating

Reminiscent of the team's trip to Oakwell, the crowd failed to turn up for the first half, but with a dour first 45 minutes, the lowlight of which was booing Bassong's name before kick off. If all you contribute to being at Carrow Road is taking up space and you can't even be bothered to clap your hands, then it seems ludicrous to berate the players for a lack of effort.

What happened after the interval was amazingly surprising. For almost an entire 45 minutes the Barclay sang. It began as a simmering burble, led by the usual core, but this time people joined in and something special happened; the boredom retreated, the players raised their game AND WE SCORED A GHOUL.

A goal to the good and encouraged by the commitment personified by Youssef Mulumbu the crowd continued to make noise for the remainder of the match. It's possibly no coincidence that City looked much less nervy going into the final stages of the match, with a crowd that was fully behind the players.Another night under the lights beckons at the weekend, let's make it even louder in what's bound to be a sterner test from the Terriers.

Sidenote - when does it become acceptable to sing 'Alex Neil's Yellow Army' again? Asking for a friend.

Summary

It wasn't pretty, but it was seriously welcome. Clean sheets, chanting, a win on TV in a game that had #alongcomenorwich written all over it, this wasn't the Norwich we've known of late.

Maybe the so called 'blip' is really over, possibly Villa were just shite. The truth is probably somewhere in between, but winning breeds confidence, and this is a squad that seemed bereft of that quality only two weeks ago.

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Villa at home. Just what we need. 1992-93 aside we've never been very good against Villa home or away, plus it's on TV and in the middle of a run of televised games all won by the home team. It all feels very AlongComeNorwich.It's preview time with David 'Spud' Thornhill; time to call Daryl Sutch and John Polston?

Friday night football seemed like such a good idea before the game. It turns out that football ruins a Friday.Andrew Lawn and Jon Punt look back on a potentially decisive Carrow Road night.