I think I've only just got over that game. It was a bit of a throwback, really. So many games these days are quite sanitised - lots of tippy tappy football, no tackling, both teams with the same approach. Not yesterday though
The days started badly with the non-appearance of my train to Preston (for the second weekend running). A dash in a taxi, then the train from Preston to Liverpool and some re-assuring beers with Bickster in our regular pre-match haunt.
Once inside the ground, we for once had a decent view. Upstairs near the front, with no pillar in the way. Everton still do that oh so 70s pre match and half time stuff - seat bingo and the like, and the food matched the 70s feel - a half cooked, over-priced, hot dog as they'd run out of pies and pasties.
We'd barely chomped through the dried out bread when SIdwell scored a screamer - Luke Young cut inside, was given space, and passed into Milner in the centre forward position. His lay off was absolutely welted into the net from 25 yards by Siddy.
For the next 20 minutes Villa ran the game - quicker to the ball, they used it well and had Everton chasing shadows. But then things changed. The Everton fans perhaps got to the ref a bit, but it seemed to me that for whatever reason Everton had decided they wee going to start asserting themselves. They began to win free kicks, harry and chase more effectively and Villa were pushed back. We were not keeping hold of the ball, and weren't giving Gabby a chance on his own up front - too many aerial balls which were always going to be won by their defence.
Inevitably Everton scored. A free kick out on their left, and lescott tapped in after Sidwell missed it. They deserved their equaliser, and finished the half on top.
At half time I felt the manager would have impressed upon the players to keep hold of the ball better, pass to feet, don't try and rush everything.
Whatever, we started the second half as we'd ended the first - under pressure from balls into the box and attacks down the flanks. Laursen and Davies were defending manfully, but if it carried on in the same vein, Everton looked likelier to score than us.
You can't explain what gets into players heads, though. For some bizarre reason an Everton defender passed a ball back in the region of nowhere. Ashley Young had brilliantly read what the defender was about to do and was on the ball in a flash, beating the out-rushing keeper to the ball and plonking it into the net. Funny how things mirror out - a couple of weeks ago Sidwell did the same numb-brained thing for us.
Anyway, Villa now looked more likely to score. MO'N switched Ash into the middle and put Gabby on the left. This worked well - it stopped them attacking so much down that side, and left Everton unsure as to who should mark who.
Ash should have got a second goal, when clean through after the ref let play go on from a tangle between Barry and a defender. Barry had the ball, appeared to be fouled, then appeared in turn to foul the defender while squirting the ball forwards. The shot was on after Ash advanced, but he cut inside and lost it.
Back came Everton, piling balls into the box for the giant George Berry look a (bit) like Feliani. They hit the bar, headed just wide and generally had us defending deep.
The ref throughout the game had been giving some strange decisions - playing advantage when there was none, blowing when advantage could have been played, letting Feliani off for repeatedly fouling, even after being booked already. He wasn't biased, just inconsistent, really. In a way it helped the game, but it was infuriating both sets of players and fans.
I thought we'd hold on, just about to the end, but with only a minute or so of injury time to play, they scored again. A good finish from Lescott - a flying volley. He went mad, shirt off running to the Villa fans. (Why?)
Everton fans, most of whom had stayed to the end, raised the roof, Villa dejected. But hold on - from the kick off, Gabby through to Ash, he skinned Lescott and beautifully curled the ball into the corner from 18 yards. Like last year, Villa came back from the dead, this time getting 3 points instead of 1. Amazing. Fans and players celebrated hugely. Evertonians dejectedly trooped out. They were hard done by, truth be told. A draw would have been fair. Since when has football fortune been fair though?
A remarkably swift return to the pub followed, a couple more beers and then the train home.
The whole day cost me a fortune - about £100, frighteningly, but once again it was worth it. It's a bumpy old ride, following the Villa, but it's fun. Hold on to your hats.
Brad - 6 - didn't have too many saves to make, and not at fault for either goal. Reassuring, he is.
Carlos - 5 - not his best game, but he did OK
Curtis - 7 - calm. You need calm in a game like that.
Martin Laursen - 7 - His type of game - lots of heading and clearing.
Luke Young - 6 - he might not like it there, but he's doing a very good job at left back.
James Milner - 6 - Lovely lay off for the goal, worked incredibly hard to help out Carlos. Not able to get forward that much. He's an under-rated asset.
Siddy - 6 - belter of a goal, and like all of them worked prodigiously
GB - 6- started brilliantly, and played intelligently as always.
Stan - 6 - He's now a "you know what you're going to get, and you're going to like it" player.
Ashley Young - 8 - 2 great goals, could have had third. Lethal and lively.
Gabby - On his own up front, he's not often going to get much joy, and that was the way of it in this game. ANother who strove manfully for the team.