Stevie G stepped out from the Villa Park tunnel and took his applause as he made his way to the dugout. The game kicked off and Stevie G was soon animated and claiming every decision for his Villa Team. Aston Villa fans have themselves a very passionate Manager such is Stevie G’s enthusiasm for the game. Stevie G cannot help but kick every ball from the sidelines, and he did so until the final whistle.
The work Stevie G and his staff were able to do with the players in the short time they’ve had with them, would have been minimal. But it was clear the togetherness among the players was back. Something which had disappeared prior to Smith’s dismissal. Obviously, the players are aware the spotlight is on them, and they need to impress the new boss. But it was the manner in which they would contest every ball collectively that stood out for me.
We’re all aware Stevie G had high standards as a player. He led by example, so I have no doubt as a manager he will demand the same high standards from his own players. The early signs suggest that the players have raised their standards. It remains to be seen if thats because of Stevie G’s stature and the immediate demands he’s put on them or simply the players trying to impress their new boss?
Initially I thought we started brightly, but after 10 minutes it was like Brighton said right we were going to play now. From then on we saw very little of the ball. And when we did, we couldn’t retain possession long enough to make anything happen. For large periods we were chasing shadows. So it was important that we kept our shape and made sure we never emptied the tank. The second half was similar to the first. We started well and Brighton took over.
Subs Changed The Game
Stevie G substitutions were the catalyst for Villa’s victory. But it was the shift the players had put in the previous 65 minutes which gave Villa the platform for their victory. One or two of the subs may have raised a few eyebrows. But boy did they pay off for Stevie G. He replaced Danny Ings with Leon Bailey in the 66 minute. Then 8 minutes later he took Emi Buendia off and replaced him with Ashley Young. And 10 minutes later he replaced Jacob Ramsay with Anwar El Ghazi.
Villa now had natural width and were rewarded almost instantaneously with a swift counter attack. Nakamba, who I will mention a little more a bit later, pounced on a loose ball in the Villa box and he made a simple pass to Ashley Young.
Turn Back Time
I know the clocks recently went back, but Ashley Young certainly turned back time. He jinxed and ran with the ball before playing a superb through ball for Ollie Wakins to run onto. Watkins duly obliged and ran at the Brighton defence. In turn Anwar El Ghazi made a fantastic run off the ball, which opened up the space for Ollie. Watkins. Who then cut inside onto his right foot. He pushed the ball out of his feet and then unleashed an unstoppable shot worthy of winning any game which thundered inside the far post.
Watkins Wonder Goal
Watkins’ goal rightly took the roof off Villa Park. But for the next 6 minutes it was all about game management. Stevie G and Villa had ridden the storm, they had held firm and countered their opponents in brilliant fashion. During the goal celebration the old head of Ashley Young was showing his experience and leadership qualities. He was telling the players to focus, in order to see the game out and that their jobs were not yet done.
Any nerves among the fans had now been extinguished and the Villa Park faithful found their voice. It became a cauldron of noise and it was rocking inside Villa Park. Brighton had been sucker punched and Villa now rightly sensed victory. Suddenly the fear of losing for a sixth straight time was no longer weighing heavy on the players shoulders. Confidence came flooding back and Villa had a new lease of life, and were far from finished.
Five minutes later in the 89th minute, Captain Mings epitomised his performance on the day. With Villa’s second goal that would seal the victory. Mings chased a ball down that was destined for a Brighton throw in. He laid it off to John McGinn, and when McGinn’s initial cross was cleared Mings was first to react and gave the Brighton keeper no chance. Leon Bailey could have got Villa’s third right at the death. When he met a cross on the volley, but for the Brighton keeper making the save.
Marvelous Nakamba, had become something of a fans scapegoat under Dean Smith. He probably had his best game in a Villa Shirt. In fairness whenever he’s been called upon he’s been professional, he’s never sulked and just comes in and done his job. Perhaps he’s more suited to Stevie G style.
What was noticeable was how all the retained coaches kept quiet. Where as under Dean Smith they’d all be shouting instructions and jumping up and down
Onwards & Upwards