Away day blues #259

Last updated : 06 November 2004 By Keith Allman
Today's game took me back in time 19 months. We'd just beaten Burnley 1-0 to secure promotion, and faced a trip to Portman Road - but whether it be complacency, over-confidence or knackered from too much celebration, we crashed to a 3-0 defeat, all three goals coming in the first half. See where I'm going with this one?

Last Saturday's victory over Manchester United was a big three points and suddenly an air of confidence swept over the club. The local media began referring to looking up at Europe, rather than down at relegation. The phrase "we truly have arrived" was thrown about on local phone-ins and letter pages. And yet, seven days later, we travel away and lose 3-0 - once again, all goals in the first half.

What was disappointing today is that there was no spell when we were the dominant team or really looked like scoring - two shots on target all game tells the story well enough. There was so much lethargy in the team for starters. LuaLua looked disinterested on the left and frequently gifted possession. Yakubu and Fuller weren't getting the service they needed to truly trouble a Villa team unbeaten at home this season.

Crucially, the backline seemed to fall to pieces. It just goes to show football is a funny old game when a defence which kept out Rooney, Smith, Saha, Scholes Giggs et al last week, looked as if they were four blokes plucked out of the stand and who had never seen each other before. I guess one of the most annoying things about this result is that all three goals were down to error; whether it be defending the cross for the first, giving away the ball and then falling asleep for the second, or the complete mess that was the third. If the opposition score a couple of thirty yarders that break the net then you have to hold your hand up - when the goals could've been prevented, that's when the problems start.

Having said that, I'm still not genuinely concerned. Let's go back to 2003 again; although we lost that game to Ipswich so convincingly, in the three games after that result we won all of them, scoring eleven times. Now I'm not suggesting that we're going to completely rampage over our next three fixtures (Cardiff, Southampton and Manchester City, if you were wondering), but I do believe this is a minor blip. I have no doubt Harry will make it clear that after the Manchester United game the pressure is on; everyone has seen what we're capable of and fans will start demanding that level of performance more and more often. What they won't like seeing is this other side of the coin, as displayed today and against Everton.

Credit to Villa, they played very well and certainly deserved to win. They're a solid team, rather than spectacular - but at the end of the day they created their chances, took them when they came, and we made it a bit easier for them. A shame, but best to write it off as "one of those days" that we've become so used to on the road - if it happens time and time again, then we can get scared.