Today I saw Villa play their first ever play-off final at Wembley.
Despite the result, it was a still a great experience. Villa out sung Fulham fans both outside and inside Wembley, which is a fantastic stadium and I count myself lucky because many fans won’t have the privilege of watching their team play there.
Here’s the match report I did for the Claret and View;
There it is then. Tom Cairney’s 23rd minute goal was enough to pave the way for Fulham into the Premier League as Villa prepare for another season in the Championship.
It’s not a nice feeling, failure. Sitting silently at Wembley and looking across to a white wall of clappers.
There’s no way to sugar coat it, but we shouldn’t forget all of the good moments this season, beating the Blues, smashing Wolves and Jack Grealish’s last minute winner against Cardiff to name a few.
Anyway, into the game, and it was a very tentative start from both sides. I remember looking up at the digital clock seeing ten minutes and thinking how? Nothing has happened!
Robert Snodgrass’ scuffed shot was one of our very few chances in the first half in which the Cottagers dominated.
Villa were too deep, and were made to pay when Ryan Sessegnon slipped a ball through John Terry and Alan Hutton allowing Tom Cairney to finish.
Fulham had deserved it, keeping possession well while Villa just couldn’t get the ball, and when we did we would just lump it up to Lewis Grabban or try and beat a man and fail.
Our best chance of the half came when Robert Snodgrass chipped a free kick into Jack Grealish who hit his half volley over.
Grealish had been a victim of Ryan Fredrick’s stamp earlier, and looking back the 25-year-old didn’t get his due punishment. How that could’ve changed the game.
Nevertheless, Villa could’ve so easily been 2-0 down at half time. The aforementioned Fredricks crossed in but Sessegnon headed high and wide.
In the second half things completely changed. The Pride came out fighting, Grealish heading over from Adomah’s cross with just the Fulham goalkeeper to beat.
Then Connor Hourihne flashed the ball across goal from a tight angle.
Jack Grealish seemed to kick into life as soon as the second 45 got underway. Beating four players, the midfielder could only hit his shot straight at Bettinelli.
While Villa were on top, Fulham still looked dangerous, with Kevin McDonald and Stefan Johanson both going close.
That would be the Cottagers last real chance because after 69 minutes, Denis Odoi picked up a second yellow for his foul on Grealish.
From there on it was attack versus defence. Scott Hogan came on and nearly made himself a hero but glanced Adomah’s cross wide.
Frustratingly, Villa managed to penetrate their opponents box many a time but couldn’t test Bettinelli.
The last few moments were horrible. Fulham were keeping the ball in the corner and using all the time they could with their substitutions. Jack Grealish had a shout for a penalty in the closing stages, but you get the feeling it just wasn’t to be.
So that’s it for the 2017-18 season. An enjoyable one, but ultimately one of failure. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but we must get behind the team as always. UTV!