Paul Lambert insisted before the game he would take the truth of his bitter exit from Norwich to his deathbed.
By Nick Mashiter
And while he has such a hold on his former club, the Villa boss will be happy for his secrets to remain silent.
The truth may out one day and, while studious Lambert will not publically admit it, a third straight victory at Carrow Road was sweet for so many reasons.
Pre-match, he dismissed any chance of reconciliation with the Norwich hierarchy, with whom he so spectacularly fell out while looking to move to Villa.
And after this outcome, the Canaries board are unlikely to be seeking a reunion either.
Victory, courtesy of Brad Guzan’s penalty stop and Libor Kozak’s first Villa goal, came at a price, though. Christian Benteke limped off with a hip injury which will certainly rule him out of tomorrow’s League Cup clash with Tottenham.
But the game at least proved Villa can win without their Belgian battering ram, easing fears and claims they are a one-man team. And – without summer buy Jores Okore – the defence finally clinched that elusive clean sheet.
Spurs tomorrow will offer more of a threat than the limp Canaries, with the hosts’ laborious and predicable attacks comfortably handled.
But while Leandro Bacuna and Ciaran Clark almost turned the ball into their own net, Guzan was equal to everything.
His early penalty save denied Robert Snodgrass while Lambert hailed his stop to turn Gary Hooper’s effort over at the death as world-class. At the 27th time of asking Villa finally kept a Premier League shutout, a boost in itself although Guzan insisted it was not weighing on his mind.
Villa’s defence held out, but owed as much to Norwich’s ineptitude as to their’ efforts. The Canaries simply went AWOL in the final third.
It means any celebrations must be tempered. Ending a run of three defeats is always welcome, but the fact remains that without Benteke and Okore, Villa are significantly weakened.
Against a more imaginative side, Villa will still struggle. Norwich never did enough to battle back.
The point remains from the Newcastle defeat that if a team with potency push the claret and blues back, they will succeed.
Lambert will be aware of that, but whether he has addressed all of last season’s issues remains to be seen.
The new-boys will need time – and they deserve it – to adapt and it would be unfair to judge them for another month at least.
Villa are stronger, that is not in doubt, and the process of change is continuing. The early signs are good even if Okore’s injury leaves Villa’s defence exposed and Benteke’s hip problem is cause for concern. But Kozak’s strike will undoubtedly ease the goalscoring fears.
Antonio Luna, Okore and Kozak have all shown signs of promise with Bacuna’s impressive stint at right-back adding to his growing repertoire of positions. The Dutchman, in for the dropped Matt Lowton, kept livewire Nathan Redmond quiet after some early scares.
Only Aleksandar Tonev suffered a frustrating full debut at Carrow Road with his wayward shooting belying his ability to find good positions.
The Bulgarian was in for the axed Ashley Westwood, with Clark replacing the crocked Okore against a Norwich side who have scored only three times in the league this season.
But Villa can only beat what is in front of them, something which they did after a harum-scarum opening 20 minutes.
Andi Weimann could have scored twice inside three minutes when he shot at John Ruddy and then hit the post after a barnstorming Gabby Agbonlahor run.
Three minutes later Guzan was the hero when he guessed right to stop Snodgrass’ poor penalty after Clark handled the winger’s knockdown.
The miss inspired Norwich, though and Ricky van Wolfswinkel chested over Redmond’s cross as the hosts pushed.
The Dutch striker then volleyed wide as Benteke lay stricken on the turf, his afternoon over after 28 minutes.
It was the turning point, though, as Kozak’s introduction was followed by his first Villa goal inside 90 seconds.
Weimann’s pass found the Czech and when his initial shot was saved by John Ruddy, Agbonlahor pounced and slid the ball across for Kozak to fire in.
Ex-Celtic striker Hooper was thrown on to exert some pressure, but Villa always threatened on the counter.
Clark headed wide, Kozak hit the side netting and Nicklas Helenius’ free-kick deflected over.
Norwich, though, should have levelled at the death. Anthony Pilkington found Hooper six yards out and his mishit shot was turned over at full stretch by Guzan.
Victory, but tougher tests lie ahead.