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    • 1 hour ago, HanoiVillan said:

      He's been good, but he's hardly irreplaceable. There's surely another PL team with a decent young goalkeeper to loan out, or a free transfer or something. You don't need Manuel Neuer in the Championship; Wolves got promoted with nearly a hundred points with John Ruddy in goal. The best teams score more than their opponents and limit their chances with possession. 

      Agreed. 

      He has been good but I can't think of many games where I feel like he got us the points. He has been part of a solid defence but not someone who can't be replaced. 

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  • Blog Entries

    • By John in VillaTalk blog
         0
      Villa won this tie at the Riverside and finished the job last night. It was a close call between the two teams, but we were so determined to emerge the victors that we were not to be denied.
      Boro have played us four times in the Championship this season and have not scored against us. If anyone was going to score last night, it was Villa that had looked the more likely to do so. Boro had a little more possession than we had last night but they rarely threatened to do anything with it. Our game management was as impressive as was our defence resolute.  
      We started strongly and had the better of the second half when it was our opponents who needed to press for a goal to level the aggregate score. Although at times we were forced back in the first half the clean sheet that secured the win that clearly meant so much to our team was rarely under threat in hindsight although a Villa goal would have eased our understandable nerves.
      Our players gave all they had and were backed by an impressive wall of noise that was produced by a packed claret & blue clad Villa Park. Boro’s one and only plan was to give the ball to Adama. That plan did not work on Saturday and it did not work again last night because on both occasions he was unable to get the better of our formidable defence. Pulis assisted us by repeating the same tactics that had failed in their home leg and by not starting with Bamford and Fabio last night when they had to seek a goal.     
      So, it is to be a Wembley playoff final with Fulham that makes or breaks our promotion campaign this season. Fulham will be the media’s firm choice. They can play some nice football, but have they ever come near to the level of performance that we produced to humiliate this season’s champions at Villa Park two months ago? They have had their off days this season as have we. There was not a lot to choose between the two clubs points tallies at the end of the season and we have both beaten each other once. I think we have the big match experience and the team spirit to clinch promotion at Wembley.
      To do that we need to produce the sort of Wembley performance that we gave against Liverpool 3 years ago rather than the one that we produced a month later against Arsenal. We won a cup final on the same day that we will be facing Fulham 36 years ago. Wembley would be a great place to clinch promotion but as we know it is no place for losers. Let’s win one again to get back where we belong on the 26th!               
      My player ratings from a game before which we remembered Jloyd and after which we celebrated reaching Wembley once again are:
      Sam Johnstone – 7 – Confident and assured for most of the game. Was perhaps fortunate to still be on the pitch at the end having got a hand to keep out an 87th minute Adama effort when he had strayed just outside of the penalty area with his mind on claiming the bouncing ball. Downing’s resultant free-kick from the edge of the box thudded against the crossbar much to Sam’s relief.   
      James Bree – 7 – Lost possession on a couple of occasions early on but did his bit and settled into the game well. Did well to head out a 40th minute Adama cross at the far post with Howson having ran into position behind him.                
      James Chester - 9 – Another confident display. Hit a 37th minute shot wide of the post from a Grabban header.    
      John Terry – 9 – Just one win from picking up another trophy. Led by example last night.       
      Alan Hutton - 9 – Had Adama in his pocket once again. Adama had the edge in pace but Alan had the guile, will and experience to win his duel with him.    
      Robert Snodgrass – 8 – Covered an awful lot of ground last night.           
      Mile Jedinak - 9 – MOTM – Played a crucial role in front of the defence and his contribution like his beard was immense last night.   
      Conor Hourihane – 8 – Worked tirelessly to deny his opponents space and time. Charged down a 10th minute Randolph clearance but the ball deflected harmlessly to the left. Almost got on the end of a 34th minute Adomah cross but Friend made a timely and important challenge.
      Albert Adomah – 8 – Another that put in a big shift for the cause. Had a 71st minute shot from the edge of the area deflected off a defender past the far post.
      Jack Grealish – 9 – Curled a sweet 75th minute shot from the edge of the box which Randolph did well to keep out at the far post. He just oozes class.              
      Lewis Grabban – 8 – Worked hard up front and was denied by Randolph’s outstretched right leg when he got on the end of a 60th minute Adomah cross after a good one two between Jack and Albert. Hit a shot from well outside of the box 10 minutes later that Randolph tipped over.      
      Substitutes:
      Jonathan Kodjia – Replaced Grabban on 79 minutes and did his bit tonight. Nice to see him joining in with the celebrations at the end. Not quite on long enough to get a rating     
      Glenn Whelan – Replaced Hourihane on 85 minutes. Not on long enough to merit a rating.
      Birkir Bjarnason – Replaced Adomah on 91 minutes. Not on long enough to gather a rating.     
      Get Up Villa!
      John Lewis
    • By John in VillaTalk blog
         0
      Our unlikely hopes of automatic promotion were finally extinguished beyond any doubt yesterday. We will end the season in fourth place but will hopefully end it with a Wembley win to show for our efforts this season.
      Ex Blue-Nose Cameron Jerome gave Derby County a 14th minute lead yesterday that despite Villa enjoying the lion’s share of the possession they had looked increasingly like holding onto until Lewis Grabban hit our late equalizer and put their invitation to the playoff lottery on hold for another week.
      Villa deserved a point from this game at the very least and can now move on towards the playoffs having lost only two of our twenty-three home league games this season.
      The East Midlander’s arrived hoping to win their first game at Villa Park since 1988. Having gone a goal up they resolved to keep what they had by means of a dogged well organised defence. On another day we might have scored four but on this occasion, we had to be content with one and with keeping our powder dry for the three playoff games on which the success or otherwise of our promotion campaign will be dependant.     
      Who knows we may meet our visitors again in those playoffs. On 26th May (a date of great significance in our club’s proud history already) a Wembley appearance may propel one of these two clubs back into the top flight. I for one would rather like that that meeting to happen, and I would back us to breech their defence more than once on that occasion to claim that final promotion place.
      We are now able to rest players who may benefit from that in our final game of the season at The Den. Of those players that started yesterday I would wrap Elmohamady, Terry, Chester, Snodgrass, Adomah and Jack in cotton wool next weekend.             
      My player ratings from a game after which Gabby made his final Villa Park appearance as a current Villa squad member are:        
      Sam Johnstone – 6 – Kept out a 51st minute shot from the edge of the box from Lawrence.
      Ahmed Elmohamady – 6 – Did well to get back to block Weimann’s 73rd minute shot.  
      James Chester - 7 – Dependable and solid as ever.        
      John Terry – 7 – Welcome back! JT and Chester are such an effective central defensive pairing.  
      Neil Taylor – 4 – Substituted on 23 minutes due to injury. Should have just ran the ball out for a corner but instead gifted the ball to Weimann who then played the ball to Jerome for their goal. May well struggle to dislodge Hutton from the starting line-up now that he is recovered from injury himself.
      Robert Snodgrass – 7 – Hit a fierce 75th minute shot from the edge of the box after his free-kick had come back to him which Carson tipped over unseen by the referee apparently. Worked tirelessly and kept trying to move Derby’s parked bus aside.
      Glen Whelan – 6 – Had a decent game yesterday.      
      Jack Grealish – 8 – MOTM – Played a nice one-two with Grabban on 31 minutes chested the ball down well but his shot was kept out by Carson’s right foot. Hit a shot over the bar from the edge of the area on 61 minutes and another one wide 15 minutes later. He simply makes us tick.         
      Conor Hourihane – 6 –Tried to curl a 32nd minute shot from the edge of the box inside the far post but it was safely gathered by Carson. The ex-Villa keeper also was on hand at his right-hand post to save another 67th minute effort from him from the edge of the area. Somehow hit a 70th minute header from Snodgrass that fell to him at the far post wide.  
      Albert Adomah– 5 – Hit a nice cross that looked destined to be turned in by Grabban on the line just before the interval after Jack had found him with an inch perfect ball. Looks in need of a couple of weeks rest after having been a big player for us to date this season. Albert was substituted inside an hour.  
      Lewis Grabban – 7 – Curtis Davies had him in his pocket for a fair bit of this game, but he did what goal scorer’s do and hit home our equalizer and his 20th goal of the season on 84 minutes. Hourihane hit a powerful shot that Carson blocked but the ball rebounded to Terry who coolly played it along to Lewis who applied the required finish. Headed an Adomah cross harmlessly over the bar on 25 minutes when he should have been on target also headed a ball from Elmohamady onto the post in first half stoppage time.  
      Substitutes:
      Alan Hutton – 7 – A very welcome return. Alan came on for Taylor in the 23rd minute. Made some decent runs forward and had a 79th minute header which went just wide of the post.   
      Jonathan Kodjia – Replaced Adomah on 59 minutes. He is increasing his match fitness with each appearance following his long injury lay off but would benefit from the confidence that a goal brings and almost got one in the 74th minute when he hit the post from a Snodgrass cross.  
      Josh Onomah - Replaced Whelan on 81 minutes. Josh was not on long enough to gather a rating.  
      Get Up Villa!
      John Lewis
    • By John in VillaTalk blog
         0
      A second successive home win and clean sheet has left us just 270 playoff minutes plus stoppage/extra time away from promotion.
      We did not need to be at our best last night to emerge the victors and we were not. We had by far the better of the game and ran out comfortable winners, but we took our foot off the gas noticeably in the second half and other teams might have made us pay the penalty for that. This was our third game within a week, so it might have been tired legs rather than a casual approach that brought the visitors more into the game in the second half, but we never quite killed them off and a one goal lead can often not prove quite enough. This was a night when we might have boosted our goal difference I hope that we do not regret having not done so.  
      Leeds are not the team to fear that they once were, but neither are we. They had some unfamiliar names in their starting line-up but of these their young goalkeeper Peacock-Farrell kept them in the game and their full back Pearce also looked very promising. These are two players that on this showing I suggest we would perhaps do well to keep an eye on for the future.    
      My player ratings from a game that left me thinking what might have been had we performed a little better in a couple of our recent games and not spent so much of this season without Jack, JT and Kodjia are:        
      Sam Johnstone – 6 – Tipped a 3rd minute Alioski shot over the bar. Rarely called upon after that.
      Ahmed Elmohamady – 6 – A decent enough performance.    
      James Chester - 7 – Failed to get a touch on a great ball from Onomah on 69 minutes that was all that was needed to seal our win. Dependable as always at the heart of our defence.        
      Mile Jedinak – 7 – Has done well alongside Chester in the centre of our defence as two successive clean sheets suggest. Mistimed his header on 76 minutes when Snodgrass found him with a free kick.
      Neil Taylor – 5 – Not yet quite up to the level he has given us at times in the past.
      Robert Snodgrass – 7 – Tried to curl an 18th minute shot inside the far post which Peacock-Farrell pushed out. Unusually hit a couple of free kicks harmlessly into the wall but hit some nice crosses and kept working at it.  
      Glen Whelan – 6 – Did a decent enough job as our holding midfield player. Kept things simple and did well to be in the right position to cover at the far post to head away an attempt by Phillips to turn in a cross on 50 minutes.      
      Josh Onomah – 6 – Much better than of late. Did well to work himself a 33rd minute shooting opportunity but flashed his shot wide of the near post. Kept busy throughout.         
      Jack Grealish – 8 – MOTM - Had a couple of attempts to repeat his match winning shot against Cardiff but they did not trouble the keeper. Made a nice run into the box on 69 minutes and hit the ball from just outside of the 6-yard area which Peacock-Farrell blocked with his outstretched leg.         
      Jonathan Kodjia – 6 – Ran on towards a nice early Snodgrass ball hit from inside his own half only for Peacock-Farrell to run outside his area, beat him to it and clear it with his head on 18 minutes. Looked odds on to hit a second goal for us when he was pushed by O’Connor at the near post as he looked to get his head to a sweet Grealish cross. For some reason his penalty claim was denied. I was surprised to see him start but each minute he gets sets him up to make a bigger contribution in our playoff games. Substituted having got 67 minutes game time.     
      Lewis Grabban – 7 – Elmohamady hit an intended cross from the right so wildly across the goal that it fell to Grealish just outside the left-hand edge of the box. Jack then hit a perfectly flighted 29th minute cross which Lewis headed unchallenged into the left-hand corner of the net for our winner and his fifth goal for us. Was not quite able to turn a nice 61st minute ball from Snodgrass past Peacock-Farrell from close range and the keeper also got to Kodjia’s attempt to turn in the rebound which was ruled out for offside.         
      Substitutes:
      Albert Adomah – 6 – Came on for Kodjia in the 67th minute. Grealish chipped a lovely ball over a couple of defenders to Albert whose 75th minute shot was blocked at the near post by Peacock-Farrell. He then left a defender for dead on 84 minutes on the left flank but then hit the ball wildly across the face of the goal rather than find Snodgrass who was unmarked on the centre edge of the penalty box.          
      Scott Hogan - Replaced Grabban on 78 minutes. Not on long enough to earn a rating.  
      Chris Samba – Replaced Onomah on 85 minutes and was not therefore on long enough to gather a rating.
      Get Up the Villa!
      John Lewis
    • By John in VillaTalk blog
         0
      Two Championship heavyweights traded blows last night before Super Jack landed a knock-out blow in the 85th minute that was good enough to win any game.
      Cardiff’s defeat is their second on the trot and they may now find pulling back Fulham who are on such an impressive run to be beyond them. There is therefore now a decent prospect of this fixture being repeated on 26th May subject to both teams emerging victorious from their two-legged semi-finals and avoiding each other in these.
      After the game Neil Warnock said, “you could see what it meant to Villa tonight the way you thought they’d won the World Cup when the whistle went.” He is right it wasn’t The World Cup and it is unlikely to prove too decisive in the promotion race, but it might just act as a bit of a confidence booster for us and knock that of his own club should the two teams happen to meet again next month.    
      We played a lot better than we had at Norwich (it would have been difficult to play any worse) last night and the win takes us within four points of third placed Cardiff. A win on Friday against Leeds United will now see us qualify for the playoffs. Sadly, points dropped recently and unnecessarily have made automatic promotion an unrealistic prospect for us.         
      Cardiff worked hard and pressed us giving our players very little time on the ball particularly in the first half. Although we look the better team on paper the game is not played on paper as the league table currently demonstrates. Our visitors could consider themselves unfortunate to have not had scored as the first half drew to its conclusion with them on top. The second half was a different matter with Villa posing an increasing threat until Jack hit his world class winner.        
      My player ratings from a game that Villa produced a Royal Command Performance for the watching Prince William who was sitting comfortably next to his Villa hero John Carew last night are:
      Sam Johnstone – 8 - MOTM – His saves kept us level for Jack to hit our late winner. Having done so well to keep out a Whelan header in the third minute of first half stoppage time he then recovered quickly to block Paterson’s attempt from the rebound. Kept out a 57th minute Zohore shot from the edge of the box with his left foot at the left post and did the same on the 82nd minute with another shot from Mendez-Laing.        
      Ahmed Elmohamady – 6 – An improvement upon his last game.    
      James Chester - 7 – So solid at the back and was a reassuring presence in JT’s absence.       
      Mile Jedinak – 6 – Filled in well for JT alongside Chester.
      Axel Tuanzebe – Picked up a knock which led to his early substitution when losing possession on 16 minutes near the centre circle to Mendez-Laing who ran on to hit a shot against the far post. Did not merit a rating during the time available.
      Robert Snodgrass – 7 – Had a penalty shout on 46 minutes when he went to ground after Bennett leaned into him just inside of the penalty area. Worked hard and well.
      Glen Whelan – 4 – A late replacement for Bjarnason who was injured during the warm up. Twice came uncomfortably close to getting an own goal in first half stoppage time. Morrison played the ball back across goal after Whelan had cleared his initial header only for Glen to send it goalward where Elmohamady was in the right place at the right time in the second minute of first half stoppage time to clear the ball off the line. In the next minute he headed a Bennett free-kick which looked destined for the back of the net before Johnstone pulled off a tremendous save to keep it out with his left hand.    
      Conor Hourihane – 5 – Worked hard. Was found by a great Grabban ball on 69 minutes but having taken a touch his left foot effort ended in the side netting tis a pity his right foot is just for standing on. His 80th minute shot from the edge of the area after Grealish’s back heel had given him the opportunity was then pushed wide for a corner by Etheridge.      
      Albert Adomah – 5 – Substituted after an hour. Hit a second shot inches wide of the post from a 34th minute Snodgrass corner after his first was cleared back to him by Bamba.       
      Jack Grealish – 8 – Hit our stunning 85th minute winner when a Snodgrass free-kick was cleared to the edge of the box and fell to him in space to hit a right footed volley in off the inside off the left post. Given little protection by the referee having been clearly targeted for some special treatment by our opponents.    
      Lewis Grabban – 6 – Doesn’t seem to carry quite the goal threat he did earlier for us. Hit the side netting on 2 minutes having been found by Snodgrass and headed a 48th minute Grealish cross wide of the far post.     
      Substitutes:
      James Bree – 5 – Came on for the injured Tuanzebe in the 26th minute. Showed signs of ring rustiness but that was only to be expected.       
      Jonathan Kodjia - 6 – Replaced Adomah on 60 minutes. Ran inside the box beat a defender and had a 65th minute shot saved by Etheridge at the near post. Gaining increasing match sharpness with each outing with a view to being at his best for the playoffs.  
      Chris Samba – Replaced Hourihane on 88 minutes and was not therefore on long enough to gather a rating.
      Up the Villa!
      John Lewis
    • By John in VillaTalk blog
         0
      The pride of the Black Country arrived at Villa Park yesterday expecting to record a further win. They snuck out of the ground later with their tails between their legs having been clearly outplayed on the day by the pride of the Midlands.
      Cardiff and Fulham fans would have expected Villa to drop at least a point last night. They were to be disappointed. This looked a tough game for us but perhaps we underestimated the team’s will to win a little and by doing so over-estimated the impact our visitors would be allowed to make upon the match which brought them their heaviest league defeat of the season.    
      This was a memorable game and performance. It was a game that those Villa fans who were fortunate enough to attend can tell their children and grandchildren about in future years.    
      It was the day that our players and manager made Villa Park a fortress once again. Villa produced a performance that was even better than the one that gave us victory last month against the Small Heathens and we needed to do so against what is a significantly more competent team.    
      This was a hard-fought local derby. In the first half there was little to choose between the two teams. Villa took an early lead but were pegged back by the confident visitors who looked solid and dangerous for the rest of the half. The second half was a different matter. Wolves were blitzed by three second Villa half goals that they had no answer for. Villa take the honours from the games between the two teams this season 4-3 on aggregate then!
      Our visitors will come the end of this season take the place in the top flight that their consistently impressive overall displays this season have earned them, but they might not be surprised after yesterday’s game to find Villa occupying the other automatic promotion spot alongside them to ensure that this local derby is played in the Premier League next season.      
      My player ratings from a game that gave us our tenth win from our last twelve matches are:
      Sam Johnstone – 7 – Reassuringly solid on those occasions that he was tested. Could do little to stop Jota forcing in their equalizer.        
      Ahmed Elmohamady – 7 – A solid display.    
      James Chester - 8 – Scored our second on 57 minutes stretching to hit home a well-placed Snodgrass free-kick and wasn’t he happy about it?       
      John Terry – 8 – Was the rock on which our solid defence was built upon. Did very well to clear the ball over the bar with Bonatini waiting to get on to a ball that had been played back towards him by Doherty before their equalizer and directed a later Snodgrass free-kick towards Chester who was not quite able to connect with it. There was no way he was prepared to accept anything other than a Villa win from this game. Terrymendous!
      Neil Taylor – 7 – Looks capable of making this position his own now made a splendidly timed tackle inside the box on 78 minutes.
      Robert Snodgrass – 8 – Worked hard and did more than his fair share of tracking back. Showed he really wanted this one with a whole-hearted tenacious display.
      Mile Jedinak – 7 – We look a much more solid midfield with the bearded one in it. Got his head to    Snodgrass’s corner which led to our early opener.
      Conor Hourihane – 7 – A solid performance.    
      Albert Adomah – 8 – MOTM – Albert was a constant threat to the visitors down the flank. He scored our first after 8 minutes when he was in the right place at the right time to hit the ball in from close range, put a sweet cross over for the vital third goal which gave us a 2-goal cushion and did a solid job for us when back in his own half to stifle their forward movement.     
      Jack Grealish – 8 – He really is some player, isn’t he? Looks to be able to make the sort of immense contribution to a game that he made in that Liverpool cup semi-final week in and week out now.   
      Lewis Grabban – 7 – Scoring goals for fun, isn’t he? Added his fourth goal for us in his last four games with our third on 62 minutes. Hit the side netting at the near post on 43 minutes after turning well after Grealish has done so well to get a cross over to him. Bruce uses the loan market to great effect.     
      Substitutes:
      Birkir Bjarnason – 7 – Came on for Albert in the 75th minute and hit our fourth with a toe-poke from the edge of the box 10 minutes later having ran through their defence to reach there. 
      Henri Lansbury – Replaced Hourihane on 81 minutes so was not on quite long enough to earn a rating.  
      Scott Hogan – Replaced Grabban on 86 minutes and was not therefore on long enough to gather a rating.
      Up the Villa!
      John Lewis