It wasn’t one for the footballing purist – that’s for sure – but the majority inside what had been a twitchy Carrow Road cared not one jot. A day not for artistic impression but for three points.
Back in August, who wouldn’t have taken 20 points at the half-way stage?
Of course there is a lot of hard work ahead and, yes, we desperately need some quality reinforcements in the January window but to end what has been a thrilling 2015 on a high was something to be celebrated.
And there was something heart-warming about watching those in claret and blue slink away, heads bowed after all the pain they’ve inflicted on us since you know who fell for their ‘courting’ back in 2012.
Thankfully as said gent departed Villa Park so to did the hoodoo. And a hat-tip to the Barclay and Snake Pit for offering the Villa faithful some of their own medicine.
Amidst 95 minutes of grit, commitment, endeavour and, let’s be honest, banality there was still the odd flash of quality, two of which were sufficient to win the game.
City’s only truly cohesive attack of the opening 45 was the cue for the opener and, for all the intricacy of the build up, it took a thumping volley from the ‘wrong’ foot of Jonny Howson to finally test Brad Guzan, who failed at his first attempt.
From thereon in it was a case of doing nothing silly and, a few nervous moments aside, City just about succeeded.
The second half was attritional at best but throughout the defence, with Ryan Bennett looking every inch a Premier League centre-back, coped with all that Villa could throw at them, which in truth was actually not very much.
While decent in the defensive and middle third, the Villans offered precious little where it mattered and that Declan Rudd’s first significant piece of second-half action came in injury time tells the story, although he did show a great command of his area throughout.
His is one of the success stories and is a classic example of taking your opportunity when offered it. He no longer has the aura of a ‘number two’ keeper.
The clincher, when it finally arrived, came courtesy of a fine dink from Wes – who had one of his quieter days – and a magnificent, thumping header from Dieumerci Mbokani, who by contrast enjoyed his best day in the yellow and green.
The Congolese striker definitely falls into the ‘has a little something about him’ category and I suspect we’ll be seeing quite a bit of him between now and May.
Whether Alex Neil’s plan was for City to invite Villa on to quite the extent they did is a moot point and I suspect with better ball retention some of the second-half angst – particularly from a gent who sits directly to my left and shares my surname – could have been avoided, but ultimately it was a job well done.
And with Newcastle and Bournemouth losing, and Swansea and Chelsea 🙂 only drawing it was fine day and a fitting way to sign off.
Much will still hinge on City’s success – or otherwise – in the pending transfer window and, as the regular reader of the column will know, I have my concerns over the club’s ability to attract players of the required quality.
But, with David McNally and the manager both bullishly optimistic, perhaps this time we’ll emerge stronger and better equipped. And if so, then there is no reason why City can’t acquire 20+ points in the second half of the season and occasionally entertain us along the way.
With Southampton, Saturday’s visitors, only four points ahead of us in 12th place there is no reason why the gaze can’t be northward instead of over the shoulder.
But for now let’s savour the win. Every win at this level should be lauded; they are bloody hard to come by.
A Happy New Year to one and all and thanks, as ever, for reading MyFootballWriter,