Norwich City's crawl is agonisingly slow. For most of the past four months they have looked like a team trying to inch their way to the end of the season before solving their main problem, but the worry now is that it may be too late. Ricky van Wolfswinkel, the striker for whom they paid Sporting Lisbon £8.5m in March, will arrive in the summer, but by then the club's lack of goals could have cost them their Premier League place. At the very least Norwich fans are going to lose their fingernails during the final two matches.
Grant Holt's penalty was not enough to stop Gabriel Agbonlahor's brace from securing the points for the visitors – and nor was it enough to bring the strikers' tally for the season into double figures. That is strikers as in plural, since between them Norwich's forwards have contributed only nine league goals all term.
That is the chief reason they are three points from safety and at risk of being leapfrogged by Wigan Athletic, who have a game in hand and similar goal difference.
"We're not scoring a lot of goals and we've got to work round that and find a formula that allows that to happen," Chris Hughton said. "We had a lot of play in the final third against Villa but we haven't got what Villa have got, real clinical finishers in [Christian] Benteke and Agbonlahor."
Hughton knew things could unfold like this and tried to address his side's major shortcoming in January, when he made several attempts to sign the Celtic centre-forward Gary Hooper but had to make do with Leeds' Luciano Becchio, whose impact has been so negligible that he has been dropped for the past five matches.
Fans may wish the club had pushed harder to sign Hooper, but Hughton, ever the pragmatist, refuses to complain about his employers' prudence, even if it is in danger of backfiring. "We pushed as hard as we could in January – you have to work around what the circumstances and finances are," he said.
"It didn't happen and now we have to make sure we finish these last two games in the way we would like."
Those games are home to West Bromwich Albion and away to Manchester City. Norwich have won once on the road all season and Sunday's game against Albion seems the likeliest route to salvation.
"These are massive games, particularly the next one," admits Hughton, whose task may be complicated by an injury to Robert Snodgrass, the second-highest scorer with five goals, who limped off after 85 minutes. He will be assessed later in the week.
Unlike Norwich, Villa suddenly have positive momentum although their manager, Paul Lambert, is not taking survival for granted despite this victory taking them to 40 points and within a win of a top-half finish that was previously considered impossible.
"You are never safe until you have actually done it," Lambert said. "But we are three points away from ninth, which is incredible."
Man of the match Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa)