Blimey. If this game was a cat, it would look like this:
[caption id="attachment_943" align="alignnone" width="150"] An ugly cat.[/caption]
That's right, dear reader. It wasn't pretty. But sometimes that's just the way it is.
Having stuck eight past this bunch earlier in the season, and off the back of our two month run without tasting defeat, confidence was high in the pre-match Villa dressing room. The delicious Uni pitch once again defied the weather and looked gorgeous in the hazy sunshine. With plenty of options available to him, Bill opted on rotating the squad a little, giving starts to Ash at RB and new boy Liam M in the number 10 role. With Kev freed up to bellow insults/encouragement at us from the sidelines, Aidan and Alex both starting, and Michael coming back into the team, the average age of the starting XI fell by more than 15 years, counterbalanced as ever by skipper Nic, fresh from celebrating his 57th birthday.
[caption id="attachment_944" align="alignnone" width="150"] Nic Eadie (57,left) and Kev Rowe (73).[/caption]
A bit of a cagey start pretty much set the tempo for this one - we had lots of possession but got sucked into playing too narrow, despite the howls of protests from wide men Jon and Nnamdi. This allowed them to pack the midfield and stifle our creativity. We had plenty of chances though, with Liam in particular hitting a series of long-range efforts, one glancing the bar. But a break down their left wing saw them come just as close as they hit the post with Adam beaten. I wasn't until Jon nodded a looping header over their brightly-jerseyed keeper that the mighty Villa started to play a bit. A second goal just before half time, their defender flicking Ash's cross into his own net, gave us a decent half-time scoreline, despite a below-average performance.
Bill's half time team talk was restrained, reminding us about using the width, encouraging us to play our passing game, and bollocking us for not getting stuck in enough. Despite his calm exterior, his inner psychopath was clearly being channelled, with a couple of screaming 'fuuuu*%$uuck!!!'s echoing across the park in the second 45.
[caption id="attachment_945" align="alignnone" width="150"] Bill Clifford.[/caption]
It was a fair cop though. We started sluggish again an before too long we'd let them back in the game when poor defending and lazy marking allowed their striker to bury one from 8 yards out. It still felt like we were going to go on and win the game, but a string of missed opportunities did nothing to settle the nerves. Jon was particularly unlucky, striking the upright twice, one a 20 yard beauty that look a top-corner certainty until a stray gust of wind tipped its trajectory post-ward. It wasn't until the very end of the game that substitute Sam made it safe, a simple finish from 10 yards out.
So lessons learnt. Man of the match perhaps should have gone to Adam's mate who came to watch, but instead went to Victor for another solid game in the heart of the defence. Another victory, and going in to next week's cup quarter final showdown that's exactly what we needed. Hastings next for the Villa juggernaut.
Scorers: Jon, Sam, own goal.