Jump to content

Search the Community

Showing results for tags 'Match Report'.

  • Search By Tags

    Type tags separated by commas.
  • Search By Author

Content Type


Forums

  • Administration
    • Welcome Forum
  • Football
    • Villa Talk
    • PL: Man City a
    • Pre-Season / Friendlies
    • Other Football
    • Supporters Clubs
  • Match Forums
    • PL: 2021/2
    • PL: 2022/23
    • Previous Seasons
  • Off Topic

Blogs

  • A Badly Cleaned Blackboard
  • The Optimist
  • Lancs' Laments
  • Aston Villa Review
  • Trinity Road
  • My Geeky Youtube Channel
  • Deadly Doug Ate My Hamster
  • A Rant from the Sofa
  • John's Blog
  • VillaTalk blog
  • HalfTimePost: Villa Rants
  • leviramsey's Blog
  • Sam's Blog
  • MakemineVanilla's Blog
  • Analysing The Squad
  • GaryDavis
  • The Villa View
  • Pride of Witton
  • My 10k mile pilgrimage to Villa Park - An Open Diary

Categories

  • Articles
    • Match Reports
    • Match Previews
    • Club Stuff
    • Reserves
    • Youth Team

Product Groups

  • Donations
  • Other Site Options
  • Retired

Find results in...

Find results that contain...


Date Created

  • Start

    End


Last Updated

  • Start

    End


Filter by number of...

Joined

  • Start

    End


Group


Twitter


Google Chat


Skype


Website URL


PSN


Xbox


Location


Interests

Found 16 results

  1. This may now be our worst start to a Premier League season ever but we are a young team that will get better as the season wears on and as we grow more used to playing together and playing the sort of football our new manager is looking for us to play. Albion have had some years together now and although their managers have changed the way they play the game has not. They have come on in leaps and bounds and are no longer the yo-yo club they once were. They are now a decent outfit that will look for a top half finish this season and may well get it. They have broken the spell we held over them for some decades and some of their fans now apparently see a draw at Villa Park as two dropped points. Enjoy it while you can Baggie Boys but do not get too smug because you are now at your peak and we will only improve in the coming games and seasons to the point where once again you will see a point at home to us as a maximum expectation! Albion started well and we finished the stronger of the two teams. We had the better of the first half and kept possession well with some nice crisp passing but having scored one having already had one chalked off for offside at the start of the second half they then grew in confidence and strength before our second half substitutions turned things back in our favour. So it ended honours even and that was a fair result for me and one that we can be happy enough with given we came back from a goal down although I would not have said no to a cheeky late winner! My player ratings from a game that has left us with five points from our first six league games and that showed we now have some real competition for starting places are: Brad Guzan – 6 – Did well to keep out a Tamas cross come shot at his near post on 64 minutes and blocked a Lukaku shot at his near post on 89 minutes. The least tested of the two keepers today. Matthew Lowton - 6 – Matthew did not quite step up in unison with the rest of our defensive line when we were trying to play Morrison offside in the build up to their goal but another decent enough display otherwise Ron Vlaar – 7 – Got his foot to Morrison’s cross for their goal only for it to run onto Long who applied a good striker’s finish. Ciaran Clark – 6 – Got a deflection on Lukaku’s shot on 84 minutes that beat Guzan and shaved the far post. Joe Bennett - 7 – A very promising home debut. Looked solid enough at the back and hit a decent free kick from the edge of the box on 57 minutes which beat the wall and just flew wide of the post but I think Foster did have it covered. Brett Holman – 8 – MOTM - Hit a rasping shot from 30 yards on 26 minutes which Foster tipped over the bar. He then ran into the box on 41 minutes and his shot took a deflection off Jones but Foster did well to get an outstretched hand above his dive to keep it out. Another very good hard working display. Karim El Ahmadi - 7 – A good solid performance and he played a key role in holding our midfield together. Fabian Delph – 6 – This was nearer the level of performance that he showed in his early games for us and he seems to be starting to enjoy the responsibility the new boss is giving him. Marc Albrighton – 6 – A welcome Villa Park following his injury. Might have conceded an early penalty on another day when his arm moved towards a cross inside the box although that would have been harsh it has happened to players before. Kept busy enough until his lack of games led to his being replaced on 66 minutes. Gabriel Agbonlahor – 7 – Gabby had to start after his superb mid week cup performance at Manchester City and although he failed to get on the score sheet this time he was a handful for the defenders he faced particularly early on. Hit a good early cross on 2 minutes that McAuley managed to get a touch to before Benteke could who had been just behind him and looking to get onto the end of it. Hit another good cross towards the same target 12 minutes later that Olsson needed to head out for a corner. Needs to maintain the sort of level of performance and commitment that he gave in that cup game throughout games but this display was still a step up on much of last season if not such a big one as he had climbed to earn this starting place. Christian Benteke - 6 – Held the ball up well enough particularly early on but Bent will be challenging for his spot and he will need to continue to hit the ground running with us to keep him and/or Gabby out on a regular basis. Christian did well to use his strength to rob a defender on the wing on 45 minutes but having cut into the box he then hit a shot that sailed over the bar. He was just beaten to the ball by Tamas on 52 minutes after Holman’s cross went through Gabby’s legs and he had looked likely to get us a quick equalizer. Substitutes: Charles N’Zogbia – 6 - Replaced Albrighton on 66 minutes. I might have been tempted to start him after his goal in mid-week and he played his part in getting us something from this one when he was introduced. Darren Bent – 7 – Replaced Benteke on 68 minutes and did what we signed him to do score a goal to earn us a point/points. Vlaar got a head to Bannan’s corner on 80 minutes that Clark almost turned in but the defender’s block fell to Bent who threaded the ball past keeper and defenders and into the net. He might even have had another on 87 minutes when Lowton pulled the ball back to him on the edge of the box but he lifted his shot over the bar when he might have been expected to have forced a save. Has to start the next one surely? Barry Bannan – 6 - Replaced Delph on 71 minutes and looked lively. Up the Villa and Stay Strong Captain! John Lewis
  2. This was a no win game that we did win. Had we lost the press would have had a field day and the pressure on the team would have increased considerably on what it already is. But as we won it will just be said we were expected to do that anyway. As we did back in 1994 we have knocked Tranmere out of this cup competition. We did so at a much later stage back then and we were both better teams then than we are now. But a win is a win and it was a vital one in that it will give us a little breathing space and should bring a little bit of confidence back into the team. We did not need to go above second gear to win this one so the jury is still out concerning whether we actually do have a third or any higher gear this season. Our defence was not tested and our midfield was risk averse so the service to the forwards was again lacking given this was a game in which we had the lion’s share of the possession. Could we have a decent run in this competition? Given a kind draw or two, some investment in the squad and our manager getting the squad into shape as the season continues there is a chance. After all worse sides than we currently look have won it in the recent past (I seem to recall a local team that went out of the competition last night did so a couple of years ago for example)! My player ratings from a game that has left us still in a winnable cup competition that we have a happy habit of winning but which has been absent from our trophy cabinet for too long are: Brad Guzan – 6 – Welcome back Brad after that brief period spent off the wage bill. Brad was rarely called into action but did the necessary when he was called upon to do so. Eric Lichaj - 6 – A decent performance and he was keen to get forward. Matthew Lowton – 6 – Given a game in the centre when I think he would have been better to have had another game at full back to help him in settling into that position at our football club. But we are not spoilt for choice at the moment in the centre of our defence or come to think of it anywhere else so our manager had little option given Vlaar was to be absent. Did a solid enough job alongside Nathan in the circumstances. Nathan Baker – 7 – Nathan was solid and commanding particularly in the air albeit against an attack that offered little or no goal threat. He could well be one of our youngsters who can kick on and become a first team regular in the fullness of time as he does not look out of place in the centre of our defence. Enda Stevens - 6 – Substituted on 67 minutes having shown some early promise on his first home start and having had a part to play in our first goal as well as trying to give us some much needed width when he got forward. Fabian Delph - 6 – Some signs of encouragement last night as he imposed himself on the game more than he has done for some time now and he now needs to bring this forward when he comes up against stiffer opposition than was the Tranmere midfield that he came up against last night. Scored our opening goal on 37 minutes hitting a loose ball into the net from inside the box after the keeper had denied Bent. Chris Herd – 6 – Substituted on 76 minutes to give Burke a run out. Scored our second to take the game away from our opponents on 65 minutes when he hit home the ball after the keeper had pushed a shot from Ireland out. Solid in the middle. Barry Bannan – 7 – Maintained possession last night but that might have been expected of him given we were up against opponents that are plying their trade 2 divisions below the one he is operating in. Hit an awful pass back on 10 minutes that required 3 blocks the first of them by him to avert the danger. Shot wide of the post from the edge of the box on 14 minutes, hit a free kick just over the bar on 28 minutes and hit another shot wide on 52 minutes after Ireland had turned the ball back to him from the edge of the box. Needs to use this improved performance to build his confidence, consistency and performance levels to the level they were some time ago now. Stephen Ireland – 8 – MOTM - Our main creative source by some distance last night. He has the capacity to run games like this and with confidence and regular starts can do the same in league games. Played a nice ball through to Bent on 35 minutes whose shot was kept out by the keeper’s leg and was in turn presented with a shooting opportunity by Bent on 52 minutes when he headed the ball down to him which he hit over the bar. Picked his spot from the edge of the box on 75 minutes but keeper Williams managed to keep it out and had a chip over the keeper ruled out. Andreas Weimann – 6 – Worked hard enough as usual but has had more effective games in his short first team history. Headed a nice ball from Lichaj over on 63 minutes and provided Bent with some much needed company up front and defenders with more than one man to look out for. Darren Bent - 6 – He shoots he scores! Took advantage of slightly less limited service than he has had to date this season by hitting our third on 80 minutes when he thundered the ball into the top corner of the net having been set up by Weimann after some very good work by Ireland. Had looked frustrated early on and some way below par but he got into and contributed more to the game later. Brought down in much the same way that had earned Clark a red on Saturday by Taylor who clipped him to earn a yellow on 27 minutes as he was bearing down on goal. Substitutes: Brett Holman – 6 - Replaced Stevens on 67 minutes and could have done with a start last night for me to help him settle into the team and to give us more width. His nice cut back set up Bent for our third. Charles N’Zogbia – 5 - Replaced Weimann on 71 minutes and again showed odd glimpses of the player he can be albeit in the limited time that he had available. Made the least impact on the game of our three substitutes last night. Graham Burke – 6 – Came on for Herd on 76 minutes and clearly relished the opportunity hitting a shot from the edge of the box that the keeper gathered easily enough moments after his introduction. Looked for the ball and seemed more willing to move forward with it than were some of his more experienced colleagues. Up for the cup Villa and Stay Strong Captain! John Lewis
  3. …came the chant. And what a delight it was. The triangle of passes all over the pitch led by the industrious Delph, promising KEA and floating Ireland looked slick and quite refreshing. The game ended with 65.8% possession to Villa, which as the away team, especially as we are Villa, is quite astonishing! Admittedly, some of the possession fizzled out as they made there way to JJ's goal, but the signs are there of what Lambert wants us to do, and I like it. We played a fluid 4-4-1-1 with Ireland in the hole behind Bent, but N'Zogbia and Holeman on the wings were constantly cutting in and swapping positions, and Lowton at RB was offering a lot of extra support down the right flank, making N'Zogbia's wondering a lot more effective. Given, Clark and Vlaar were obviously given the same brief by the gaffer, with very few long balls being played and only when there were no other options. A delight to see made more entertaining every time Collins lumped the ball long for West Ham, only to be found by a Villa head or Given's gloves. Given always looked for a quick throw out or shot pass, and Vlaar and Clark, with Lowton on the right always offered options. Passing from the back, and through the midfield with wide men cutting in, we found it easy to keep the ball, and only really lost it when we went up to Bent too quickly as the major issues with this current side was the lack of support for our new captain. Bent clearly offers a goal threat, and does help out well for set pieces, but his game is very ineffective without support and as much as KEA, Ireland and Delph tried, we just didn't get men forward ahead of the ball and Bent enough. This for me was the main issue of our play. Yes we were away from home, and the team has to remain disciplined and in shape, but we were there to win, and you don't win many games without shots on goal. Baker at left back was is obviously filling a hole. I was delighted to see Lambert stick to his guns and not even include Hutton and Warnock with the travelling party. They are not good enough and need to be replaced. Lowton is the man for RB, I really like the look of him, but Baker will be exposed too much at left back and I hope he doesn't get disheartened if he has to play there too much. At one point today Vaz Te slipped passed Baker as if he want there, but Baker won everything in the air and offered good cover at centre back when Lowton was bombing on and the defence shifted over. The lad is a great prospect in the heart of our defence but he is not a full back. Bannan, Gardner and Weimann all came on and the youth will play a large part on this season, but apart from Bannan, our subs today did not have much of an impact, and BB only had 9 minutes. Weimann was limping onto the team bus leaving as well, so I hope he is ok. He face was grimacing a lot as he stepped up to the bus and I don't think that was just about his lack of service during the game. This new look Villa team, with 4 new starters and only 187 appearances between them (Giggs has 539 on his own!) did look a little raw in parts, but the promise is there. The Intent from the manager to play the way football should be played and the way Villa fans want to see us playing gives me hope for the next 37 games. We did create a few chances today, and looked solid enough at the back, I think we are nearly there. As I said in my last post, 2-3 more players are needed, but with Gabby and Albrighton coming back that will help a lot with our attacking side, and Dunne will be a big bonus to our inexperienced back 4. Having looked at our side throughout pre-season and studying them hard today, I would say a striker has to be our priority.If Bent were to get injured we would be in trouble and at home I would like to see us play 2 up top with Gabby out wide. A central midfielder would be next on the list. I like Delph and Bannan, both played well today, but neither are quite there yet. But not that far off! Overall, I have hope. I left the stadium a little more happy than I thought after meeting Ray Houghton, Ian Taylor and Marc Albrighton in the press box, all three were happy to pose for pictures and have a quick chat. Albrighton also confirmed he is not on twitter, so that cleared a few things up there too! I predict a solid if unspectacular mid table finish, which after last season, I would be very happy with, but I do think we are only a few players away from a very good team, so who knows what could happen if we get onto a good run and the confidence starts to flow. Given - 7 - Made a few good saves, was solid on crosses and distributed the ball as well as I have ever seen Lowton - 7 - Looked promising going forward and solid enough at the back. A very hard worker with a lot in his engine. Vlaar - 6 - A nervous 15 minutes before the half did concern me, he was out jumped a few time by Cole and looked visibly ruffled, but he came back strongly in the sec on half and will be a great edition to our defence. Clark - Made some good interceptions, passed the ball well out o defence but was caught out once or twice. Needs more games in the hear of our defence. Baker - 6 - Good in the air, covered well in the middle, but he is not a full back sadly. N'Zogbia - 5 - A few exciting moments, but he is too easily push off the ball and his work rate is not good enough away from home. Better, but not there yet. Delph - 7 - Passed well, looked composed and offered support to Ireland, but he still dives in too much on the tackle, and just doesn't offer the presence I want to see in the middle of our midfield. Needs more stature. El Ahmadi - 7 - MOTM for me, passed very well, always offered support, always wanted the ball, very rarely gave it away and stayed strong to the end. A lot more to come I think, but a solid start from the new heart of our team. Holeman - Taken off after the hour, I presume because of the knock he got in midweek, but played well, worked hard and linked play up nicely. Did try a few too many ambitious passes and shots, but this guy will be a star for us. I like the look of him a lot. Ireland - 7 - Passed well, tackled back, worked hard and nearly put in a few killer passes. He is getting his groove back and I think with more games and the confidence to play the way he wants, we will see the best of Ireland this season Bent - 5 - Didn't do much wrong but he didn't see much of the ball either. UTV
  4. So we did find a point from somewhere and that along with Albion’s point at Bolton has spared us from the last day of the season relegation anxiety that now awaits others. We did not get there with a fifth home win of the season but we got there with a determined rearguard action. The vital point came against a Spurs side who had a Champions League place to fight for and which dominated most of the game even more so when they went down to ten men. Our tactics were negative and involved getting men behind the ball and dropping back deep inviting Spurs to try to break us down. It was not particularly pretty to watch but it proved effective and the players gave a whole hearted performance to secure our safety. We started well but created little and often found our defence included our midfield as might have been anticipated given the number of defenders that started in it. Spurs had the lion’s share of the possession but troubled our keeper only rarely and we were able through dogged often last ditch defending to stop countless corners and forward momentum producing more then one goal. So a plucky last home performance sees us survive and limp over the line to reach 38 points which thanks to our vastly superior goal difference on those who are below us will be enough. But it was way too close for comfort and it was not in any way acceptable for a club of our status. Without changes and investment we will most likely face another relegation fight and the more of those you face the more likely it is that you will lose one. It is a season that has offered little by way of entertainment and one in which we have produced the least ever home league victories of any team in Aston Villa history. That is not the proud future or the type of history we were expecting Randy! My player ratings from a game that demonstrated the gap between these two clubs that was none existent a couple of seasons ago are: Shay Given – 7 – Produced a splendid one handed save on his near post from Bale on 38 minutes and clutched another effort from the same player from inside the box on 82 minutes. Cool, calm and effective when called upon. Alan Hutton - 6 – Not the best of starts but he did reasonably well at the back before a dangerous challenge by Rose led to him being substituted and left Spurs down to ten men. Carlos Cuellar – 7 – MOTM - If this was to be his last home game for us then it was a very solid one. Looked very comfortable in the centre of our defence until his flexibility led to his spending most of the second half at full back and he then looked solid enough there as well. I guess we cannot afford to pay his wages anymore as a football club because I do not see his departure as a football decision rather than a financial one and I do not see us paying the money in wages or transfer fee to get someone better or more adaptable than him. Richard Dunne – 6 – One moment of madness spoilt an otherwise sound central defensive display but the penalty he conceded could have cost us the game and threatened our survival and it was a silly challenge to make on the edge of the box on Sandro who was posing no immediate threat on goal. Might have made up for that on 76 minutes when he all but forced home a header from a good N’Zogbia corner. Eric Lichaj - 6 – A solid performance again from a player with a big future at our football club. Charles N’Zogbia – 5 – Some way off his best yesterday but I think he may have come off due to injury had we attacking options on the bench to replace him. Chris Herd – 7 – Kept trying to find a way through and was well up for the fight. But enough of that fracas earlier in the week! Chris owed us a performance and he gave us a big one putting his indiscretion behind him as both he and Clark provided a solid obstacle to Spurs forward movement throughout. Stephen Ireland – 7 – What few things we did creatively came from him and he put a good shift in yesterday. Ciaran Clark – 7 – Gave us the lead on 35 minutes with a speculative shot from well outside the box which took a wicked deflection off the shoulder of Gallas to leave former Villain Brad flat footed and the ball nestling in the back of the net. Stephen Warnock – 7 – Worked very, very hard and covered a lot of ground for the cause almost having run himself to a standstill by the end but then going again each time he was called upon. Emile Heskey - 7 – Did all that could be expected of him as a lone striker and it was not his fault that he lacked support alongside him. Did not have the pace to get a shot in when Ireland intercepted a ball in his own half and then played a nice ball between two defenders for him to run onto but Kaboul reached him before he was able to pull the trigger when running clear on the edge of the box after 11 minutes. Held the ball up very well. Substitutes: James Collins – 6 - Replaced Hutton on 53 minutes and played his part in securing the point. Andreas Weimann – Replaced Heskey on 53 minutes before himself being replaced on 70 minutes having picked up an injury in a challenge with Brad Friedel as he raced on to try to reach a ball from N’Zogbia before our former keeper could. Not on long enough to rate but provided the energy we were looking for until he left the field. Nathan Delfouneso – Replaced Weimann on 70 minutes and was largely ineffective other than for one sweet ball that he played out wide. Nathan has needed to grab opportunities like these to prove he can fulfil his promise but performances like this have seen him fall below the player he replaced yesterday and who is now a distance in front of him in the pecking order. Staying up the Villa and Stay Strong Captain! John Lewis
  5. Clubs that are below us continue to pick up unexpected points against teams that we tend to roll over against. We like Wolves are much more predictable as proved the case when we got another point as we edge ever closer to elusive safety. But as we limp to that line we all know that we are just one bad result from being pushed towards the abyss. Our next home game represents that banana skin. It is a 6 pointer that we just cannot afford to lose. Defeat could leave us a mere 3 points ahead of Bolton (who have already beaten us at home this season) and we already only have 2 points and our goal difference to spare over QPR and Wigan. Sad days indeed and we walk a tightrope without a safety net on Tuesday. They will be up for it and we need to be as well. We started yesterday’s game on a high tempo but the goal needed to come then when we were first to the loose balls and putting pressure on our opponents when they had the ball. But as we know Martin sets his stall out on riding out the first 20 minutes of an away game and after that the game fell into the pattern of many at Villa Park this season. They had their fair share of the play and created a couple of good chances one of which could have been ruled onside and left us in an even direr situation than we are now. But the rub of the green went our way for once with 15 minutes of the game left to set up a squeaky bum Cup Final on Tuesday. Our former manager got a predictable pre-match reception as did our former player Craig Gardner initially when he made his way off the field following his sending off. Gardner eventually left to some applause from fans that were around the tunnel having removed his shirt to reveal a Support Stan t-shirt and I cannot help but wonder whether Martin’s reception might have been different had the story of his departure been made public. As Martin said about his reception, “It’s natural, considering they have never known my reasons for leaving. I was expecting it and I got it. The idea that I left Villa in the lurch…I apologise maybe for it being 5 days beforehand. But I came to this football club a fortnight before the season started with a team that had almost been relegated the previous year. When I left and the timing is never great really 5 or 6 games before the start of the season I think the team was infinitely better than the one that I had. Internationals galore, players who have gone on to other clubs and been excellent. I’m talking about Milner, Young and Downing people like that”. So had he lined up a replacement for Milner and been told no? Was the reason something that would have made his position at the club untenable? We may never know. But we do no those players are gone, have not been adequately replaced if replaced at all and what was a top 6 team has now become a bottom 6 one! My player ratings from a game that has not changed the fact that we have had only one win at Villa Park since Bonfire Night are: Shay Given – 6 – Did the necessary on the rare occasions he was called upon to do something. Carlos Cuellar - 6 – Surprisingly started ahead of Hutton but he looked solid, particularly when he moved into the centre where he is most comfortable in place of Collins. He may find himself back in the centre on Tuesday given James’ injury. James Collins – 6 – Was having one of his better games before injury struck at Villa Park again. Did well to get to a back pass that turned into a 50/50 ball which spared Cuellar’s blushes on 15 minutes. Nathan Baker – 6 – Steady enough at the back but it was disappointing that he did not react and try to get on the end of an N’Zogbia cross that just needed him to get something on it before it sailed past the far post on 13 minutes. Eric Lichaj - 7 – Solid once again and he deserved to get the nod yesterday although Warnock may not have felt so if he was fully fit. That late run was awesome and summed up his commitment to the cause. Charles N’Zogbia – 6 – We need him to be back and somewhere nearer his best in the run-in. He produced something of a threat yesterday and hit a shot on 13 minutes that was turned wide by the keeper. Stephen Ireland – 7 – Not quite as influential as of late but did very well to get back to clear Bendtner’s shot off the line on 68 minutes. Chris Herd – 8 – MOTM – Covered and worked tirelessly in our midfield. He appears to have what it takes to become a first team regular with us if he can avoid the second season that has claimed other promising players in the past and present. An impressive all round display. Marc Albrighton – 5 – Worked hard but too often his crosses were less than accurate. Andreas Weimann – 7 – Such a busy player who makes runs in anticipation of the ball getting there rather than after the ball has been played. Unlucky on 19 minutes when he was brought down on the edge of the box by Turner’s foot taking his. Chose the wrong option twice, on 29 minutes when he got free of a couple of defenders to hit the side netting with a near post shot when he should have tried to hit the ball across the keeper and did the same thing on 47 minutes with a better opportunity. Heskey threaded the ball through 2 defenders to put him in near the end but he delayed rather than tried to hit a shot early and then found Bannan whose shot was well off target. Gabriel Agbonlahor - 6 – Looked bright at the start but his shoulder injury did for him and led to his leaving the field on 48 minutes without breaking a goal drought that now stretches back 3 months. His committed first minute challenge on the keeper bounced into Weimann’s path and Mignolet did well to recover and save his effort which had looked on target. Four minutes later Gabby cut inside and had a shot deflected by a defender’s leg to safety. Substitutes: Alan Hutton – 6 - Replaced Collins on 43 minutes when at long last the bench noticed he could not continue due to injury. Did as we have come to expect in his familiar role with Carlos moving into the middle. Emile Heskey – 7 - Replaced Gabby on 48 minutes and the big man did all that could be reasonably expected of him and did make a difference when he came on. Emile won balls in the air, flicked balls on and worked hard. Barry Bannan – Replaced N’Zogbia on 83 minutes so not on long enough to earn a rating. Stay up the Villa and Stay Strong Captain! John Lewis
  6. The lowest home league crowd of the season yesterday witnessed our make shift injury ravaged team fail to add to the 4 home wins we have managed so far this season at Villa Park and try as they did they were unable to give us a second home win in 5 months. It is little wonder given these statistics that home crowds are dwindling. Although this game was held on an Easter Monday (albeit one plagued by inclement weather) when crowds are normally expected to be higher than the norm and Stoke are some way short of being glamorous visitors an attendance that was 5,000 lower than the attendance for the same fixture last season must surely set some alarm bells ringing on the financial side. These should add to those that have been ringing for some time seemingly unnoticed on the playing side by the money motivated men at our football club. Stoke are not good travellers lately and this was only their second away point from their last 6 away games. Given our lack of home wins this season it seemed inevitable that this game would finish all square as so often has been the case in recent meetings between the two clubs. But we really needed all 3 points yesterday to add to the unexpected point we took at Anfield on Saturday and given we held the lead for almost 40 minutes it did seem like 2 points dropped at the end of the game. But Stoke are a team that we struggle to beat with a full first choice starting eleven and their uncompromising style is one that we have always found difficult to break down even when we had the likes of Milner, Downing and Young to call upon. So although it was not pretty it was a hard earned and an important point. Yesterday the team itself cannot be faulted for effort but we did lack guile, width and the ability to apply sustained pressure on their defence. The two points are also not the first we have lost this season due to goals that have been conceded at set pieces. This was our 21st goal against from a set piece this season and that is a 21st that is no cause for celebration! It is the worst record in the division and has contributed much to us being where we now stand rather than sitting safely in what would otherwise be mid table mediocrity. My player ratings from a game that sees us continue to limp towards safety by continuing to get our points in singles are: Shay Given – 6 – Not a busy day yesterday. But there was a negative point when Shay came for but was unable to claim a Collins header in first half stoppage time from a Delap throw that looped alarmingly towards our goal mouth rather than clear. Alan Hutton - 5 – Has been looking better of late but did not do so yesterday. James Collins – 5 – James was bullied out of it by Huth on a couple of occasions at set pieces and needs to be stronger than this in such situations. Huth used him for leverage when getting above him to score their equalizer and can thank the referee that was allowed to stand but he did much the same shortly afterwards from another set piece in the build up to Shawcross’s disallowed effort. After his poor attempted headed clearance from Delap’s cross Collins was also second to Etherington’s resulting cross that Walters headed just over. Had his own 18th minute header from a corner easily gathered by Begovic at the foot of his near post. Nathan Baker – 7 – Looked much more comfortable yesterday than he had on his last Villa Park appearance and deserves a run of games to show whether he can continue to build on these encouraging early signs. Eric Lichaj - 6 – Not as effective as he was in his exceptional last home appearance but he was good enough to stake a claim to continue in this role. Barry Bannan – 5 – Worked hard enough but he needs to be imposing himself more in games like this now and his distribution was off at times yesterday. Barry was replaced on 74 minutes but he has shown he is not effective out on the wing. Stephen Ireland – 7 – Our main if not only creative threat again. Chris Herd – 6 – Two head injuries the second of which involving the abrasive Huth led to him being stretched off with concussion on 88 minutes. Hit a ball from N’Zogbia over the bar on 75 minutes but needs some creativity around him. Stephen Warnock – 6 – Solid enough defensively but rarely made an impression moving forward in this midfield role and for me he seems able to get forward more when playing as a full back than he did yesterday before he was replaced following an ankle injury on 59 minutes. Got a very good block on an on target first half Palacios shot. Andreas Weimann – 8 – MOTM – Hit a stunning goal to give us the lead and a point. Played a one – two with Ireland on 32 minutes and then picked his spot curling a lovely shot past Begovic and into the top corner of the net. Might have managed a late injury time winner when Ireland did well to find him in the box but he lost his footing having earlier hit another shot from the edge of the box that was deflected into Bergovic’s grasp. Big Eck is clearly a fan now having said post match, “It was truly inspirational. It was a wonderful goal from a very promising young player. You get great goal scorers and scorers of great goals and today he proved he could do both. Goals talk it’ll be very difficult to leave him out.” Don’t then! Gabriel Agbonlahor - 5 – Starved of service but he missed the one opportunity he got when on 56 minutes Bannan found him and he side footed the ball past the keeper but also past the post to the extent that it went out for a throw in. That chance could have sealed the win. His goal threat is much missed. Substitutes: Gary Gardner – 6 - Replaced Warnock on 59 minutes and was a tad unlucky to be penalised for a nudge on Pennant (who went down like he had been shot) that gave them the free kick on the edge of our box that led to their equalizer. Another who would thrive on a central midfield role rather than a wide one. Charles N’Zogbia – 6 - Replaced Bannan on 74 minutes. Nice to see him back and available for selection during the run in but not for the first time he made little impression on the game albeit in the 21 minutes he was on the field. Emile Heskey – Replaced Herd with 2 minutes of normal time left not on long enough to rate. Stay up the Villa and Stay Strong Captain! John Lewis
  7. Yesterday was a day for our captain who with great courage was at the game bedecked in his Villa coat and sitting alongside his wife and children. Before the game he was in the dressing room to wish his teamates all the best and prior to the game both sets of players wore shirts bearing the words “Our thoughts are with you” (Chelsea) and “Support Stan” (Villa). The fans support for him pre match and on the 19th minute was clearly emotional for Stan and I am sure our good wishes will have fortified him for the fight he now faces. All our very best wishes for a full and speedy recovery Stiliyan! Football has taken a back seat during the past couple of days as our thoughts have rightly been with Stan and his family. But, we lined up yesterday with a team that comprised of 9 players who this time last season were mostly sitting on the bench and getting their 90 minutes in reserve games in front of hundreds rather than thousands (albeit on Manchester City’s bench in Given’s case). So this was always going to be a big ask for us with so many first team players missing but we almost claimed a point during 4 minutes that produced 2 goals and hopes of a vital point that might have been 3 had Gabby not been brought back when running clear before their reply. But defeat it was. However the players should take some encouragement from their performance today as the next 3 home games will not be against the likes of Chelsea. Wins for QPR, Wigan and Bolton yesterday have moved the goalposts as far as what we need to do to secure our safety. Teams below us are picking up unexpected wins but we are not. We are beginning to look over our shoulder and to hope 3 of the 4 teams who lie below us who are 4 and 5 points behind us with an inferior goal difference do not get another 5 or 6 points or more between now and the end of the season because at present it is hard to see where the next 3 points are coming from for us. Another 3 points might be enough and another 6 surely would be particularly if a win against Bolton was amongst our points haul. But, has any team conceded so many goals from corners this season? It seems to be a crucial flaw in our defence no matter who plays in it and one that has not been addressed over the course of this long and depressing season. It might be too late now but it is something we need to focus on for the last 8 games that will define our season. My player ratings from a game that Chelsea did enough to win without needing to come out of second gear until the last 15 minutes brought the game and sadly ultimately them to life are: Shay Given – 6 – Got a leg to a Torres shot on 6 minutes after Luiz had played a sweet ball past Baker and into the striker’s path. Eric Lichaj - 8 – MOTM - Hutton has looked better of late but of our many absentees his absence was least felt today given the quality of the performance Eric produced today and he topped it off with our equalizer on 80 minutes when he was on hand at the far post to turn in Albrighton’s cross. His was also the long throw that led to our equalizer. Writing 19 in the turf as a part of his goal celebrations was also a class act. James Collins – 7 – Did well enough as the senior of our central defenders and appeared to thrive on the responsibility. James popped up with our first goal on 77 minutes when getting his head to Lichaj’s long throw. Nathan Baker – 5 – Did not look comfortable yesterday and hopefully that will come from the confidence a run of games can provide, after all it was his first full game in the centre of our defence. Nathan did well on 23 minutes to get to a loose ball before Torres after Mata’s shot had come out off the post. Stephen Warnock – 6 – Got forward well particularly in the second half although his final ball could often have been better but he was not alone in that. Did well to deny Torres on 9 minutes but the loose ball was pouched on by Sturridge for their opener. Barry Bannan – 6 – Worked hard. Stephen Ireland – 7 – Another very good display and he produced some nice touches for those around him to move onto. Chris Herd – 6 – Put a shift in without quite reaching the levels he had during our last home game but he did not have our captain’s guiding hand alongside him this time and this was an inexperienced midfield finding itself up against some very established exponents of the art. Gary Gardner – 6 – Wasted out wide and it seemed strange that we did not use Marc wide and play Gary in the middle from the start given our lack of options. Andreas Weimann – 6 – Busy throughout. Gabriel Agbonlahor - 6 – Unlucky to have been foiled by Cech’s trailing leg on 43 minutes to deny us an equalizer after Weiman had fed him inside the box as he was when pulled back for a foul on Terry when he was racing clear with a chance of giving us a lead during our purple patch. Substitutes: Marc Albrighton – 7 - Replaced Herd on 70 minutes and made a difference by getting a number of crosses over including the one that led to our equalizer. Does not always seem to look up to see who is available when he is shaping to hit a ball over and he would be better for doing that. Emile Heskey – Replaced Weimann who had been carrying an injury on 82 minutes and had a header saved by Cech having started in the middle with no doubt a view to protecting the point we lost within a minute. Not on long enough for a rating. Stay up the Villa and Stay Strong Captain! John Lewis
  8. Three substitutes combined to give us our first home win for four long months yesterday. The usual chorus of “you don’t know what you’re doing” greeted the first of these three substitutions. But it was that player whose first goal for Villa changed what might otherwise have been boos to cheers at the end of a game that we really needed to win. Big Eck might claim these were inspired substitutions the result of which demonstrated that he did actually know what he was doing after all. But that is a claim for him to make and I doubt that in the present climate he will, but no matter, the roar of the fans that still remained in the ground when that ball hit the net was a joy to behold and how long it has been since we have had the opportunity to celebrate a win, a goal and even better a late winner at Villa Park? Let’s now go wild and do it again Tuesday week and by doing so make our safety all but mathematically certain. We had a decent first half given our recent standards at Villa Park and given the lions share of the half that we had Fulham must have been as relieved to have been still level at the break as they were disappointed to still not be at the final whistle. I was surprised that Fulham were so lacking in ambition given the run they were on and that played into our hands during the first 45 minutes and gave us time to settle. In the second half they did spring to life and did for a while look the more likely side to win it. But we kept at it until the death and those three young lions combined to do for them right at the end of what had been a better game than many of us had expected and one that I think we had the better of and so deserved to win. My player ratings from a game that has left us 11 points clear of the bottom 3 are: Shay Given – 6 – A quiet day at the office but he was on hand to do what was required when necessary stopping a Johnson shot creeping in at his near post on 31 minutes and helping a Duff effort over the bar on 53 minutes. Alan Hutton - 7 – His best game for us in our shirt. A very solid defensive display and did not look out of place when he came forward. James Collins – 6 – Not put under too much pressure but he was competent enough yesterday alongside Carlos and did well to chest a corner down on 18 minutes that he then hit wide. Carlos Cuellar– 7 – The best of our back four for me yesterday and since his return to the starting line up to the extent that the loss of Dunne has not been felt as much as I had anticipated it would be (as yet). Stephen Warnock – 6 – No costly defensive error today. Stephen just looked solid defensively when he was tested. Marc Albrighton – 6 – Looked better for us than he has done of late and made some decent runs at defenders if not always producing an end product. Unlucky to see his effort from just inside the box rattle the woodwork on 61 minutes after Gabby had fed Hutton who then himself did the same for Marc to set up the shooting opportunity. Faded a little as the game wore on. Stephen Ireland – 7 – His rehabilitation continues apace and after this sort of performance he needs to start every game between now and the end of the season and we might then have this player back at his confident best and pushed further up where his touch is most effective. Chris Herd – 8 – MOTM – Worked very hard and he is beginning to look more accomplished in our midfield than he has a right to be as someone who is primarily a defender. Stiliyan Petrov – 6 – Solid enough and kept possession well but he will get more by encouraging young players around him than blaming them when something goes wrong. Charles N’Zogbia – 6 – Seemed to be getting a second wind when he was replaced and he was our main wide threat up until then. Gabriel Agbonlahor - 5 – Given a lot of work to do as a lone striker but he seems to lack sharpness on his return from injury which I have put down to his not being match fit to date. Given a very good opportunity on 17 minutes when Petrov pounced on a Murphy error to put the ball into his path but his shot was straight at Schwarzer. Substitutes: Andreas Weimann – 7 - Replaced N’Zogbia on 72 minutes and gave us the vital winner in stoppage time after Bannan had fed Gardner whose shot from the edge of the box was parried out towards Andreas whose diving header was well stopped by the keeper’s left hand but Weimann was not to be denied and his forward impetus led him to bundle the ball in with some aplomb when unbalanced but determined. His was a poacher’s goal. He took the chance that something might happen and something did when he pounced on the goalkeeping error. Barry Bannan – Came off the bench to replace Herd on 82 minutes and had a hand in the goal but was not on long enough to secure a rating. Gary Gardner – Replaced our captain on 90 minutes and showed what a player he is in the making with his very first touch when he pinged a great ball from one side of the field to another before his late shot led to a mistake by Schwarzer and our winner. Not enough touches to gain a numerical rating but this brief cameo demonstrated that he has the talent to win games for us and this will be the first of many. Up the Villa! John Lewis
  9. I’ve not caught a home reserve game for some time, not since they were shuttled away to Bodymoor Heath and the indignity of closed doors, so apologies if I’m as rusty as the doors on Alex McLeish’s trophy cupboard; I’ll do my best. Finding the Holte Pub now closed on weekdays, I settled for a beer, a burger and a raffle ticket in the Trinity Road while I waited for a team sheet – and when it came, it boasted a very strong line up. Siegrist in goal with a back four from left to right of; Stevens, Baker, Williams and Lichaj - in front of them a midfield bristling with potential in Johnson, Gardner, Bannan and Carruthers and in front of them Andy Weimann and Nathan Delfouneso. Villa Park is still a beautiful place to watch a game and sometimes seeing it empty at the reserves lets you appreciate it that little bit more. The Real of reserves warmed up in white before trotting off to allow Peter Beardsley a chance to gather all the balls into the big bag – bless him. We went at them from the off, with the first chance falling to Delfouneso who couldn’t quite find any force to go with his smart near post nod. It signalled good early pressure and a succession of corners from which – brace yourselves – we looked dangerous. A lovely one-two between Weimann and Johnson saw a shot deflected over as we dominated the early play – Newcastle’s one chance of the first fifteen minutes coming when a ball over the top beat our offside trap and Siegrist hesitated in coming for it – when he eventually got there he did well, and flattened the number nine for good measure. I was just building up to having a go at Delfouneso for a slightly easy-oasy attitude to the game when he was substituted – an injury meaning Callum Robinson was to get seventy minutes, sorry Nathan – surprisingly Carruthers went in support of Weimann with Robinson despatched to the left wing. Carruthers slightly misjudged an attempted chip over the keeper shortly afterward as we again began to turn the screw – we were camped in the Newcastle half with our forwards pressing the ball really well. A Bannan through ball set Robinson away and one-on-one with the keeper who produced a smart save on the half hour mark, before Carruthers had another volleyed effort blocked. A goal was coming and duly arrived when Carruthers found the ball on the corner of the area and slipped it to Gardner, under pressure from a couple of Newcastle defenders he confidently struck a shot that snapped past Baird for a thoroughly deserved lead. We were playing some lovely stuff and Carruthers was unlucky to see a shot, volleyed with the outside of his foot from twenty yards cannon off a post - Bannan almost topped that with a forty yard lobbed effort that was ultimately a simple enough save for the keeper. His next two were anything but; firstly stopping a Gardner drive through a crowd that he must have seen late, then quickly getting across to palm away Johnson’s firmly struck follow up. Just before half time, Newcastle almost found an unlikely equaliser on the counter but Siegrist pulled off an excellent stop of his own to keep us ahead at the break. It had been a half of enjoyable, attractive, confident Villa football with no shortage of quality – so good I celebrated with a half time fag with the Bannan family. Colin Calderwood wandered by. At half time, Newcastle made the dangerous decision to bring on two outfield substitutes – dangerous because they’d only brought the two with them. I can only assume the back up keeper had to listen to forty five minutes of good natured Geordie reminiscence from Mr Beardsley on his own in the dugout for the remainder. There was no shortage of entertainment on the field either, with Gardner just wide in the opening moments. Then a lovely little move unfolded for our second, with Carruthers and Johnson finding the most delicate of one-twos in a crowd of black and white stripes before the former rolled a ball across the six yard box for Robinson to bundle home. Carruthers and Bannan were really enjoying themselves now and tying the team from the Tyne in knots – one particularly special dribble from Bannan seeing him bamboozle his way around five Newcastle defenders in the box, they looked like they were chasing a Jack Russell – at times the two of them were untouchable and a joy to watch. Carruthers was again unlucky on 53 minutes, curling a lovely shot from outside the box around Baird before clattering a post for the second time. No matter, a short corner moments later saw Gardner combine with Johnson to find himself free in the box – he laid a ball off to Weimann who placed it nicely into the corner for a well deserved third. Carruthers headed over as we produced a stream of chances, there were flicks, tricks, dribbles and more crosses than a twilight convention as the team really turned on the style. Gardner again got free in the area from an incisive Bannan ball and was fouled by the keeper, nothing given by the referee as Robinson had his follow up shot blocked but the ball fell nicely to Carruthers who finally missed the timber – hammering a shot home from the edge of the six yard box – four up and not flattered by it. A Johnson goal was perhaps harshly ruled offside before Courtney Cameron and his fancy haircut replaced Carruthers on seventy minutes. Johnson was next for the curly finger, a knock leaving him to be replaced by Jack Grealish. Captain Barry had decided he’d have a bit of rest and let the new boys run for a bit so played the quarterback role for the last twenty minutes, pinging a succession of perfect passes to the flanks and probing down the centre like a tiny boss - Cameron fired just wide from one of the long ones and Robinson almost made hay from one of those down the middle – Newcastle started to look like they wanted to get back on the bus. A Bannan corner once more produced the unsatisfying clonk of ball on aluminium, Baker’s header this time the instrument of choice before Stevens forced another good save from Baird. Bannan himself had another go at dismantling the frame with a lovely curled effort that hit the upright in pretty much exactly the same spot as Carruthers had fifteen minutes before – it remained unmoved. Even in the three minutes added on we might have had another with Weimann forcing Baird into one final fingertip save. Frankly, I didn’t want the whistle to come. It did. Four goals, we hit the woodwork four times, and the keeper made a sackful of good saves it could have been seven or eight – more than that though, we played with quality, style, élan, verve and joy – watching the first team I sometimes feel like I’m losing my soul – this was a tonic. As individuals there are a lot of players that can take a lot of credit from this, but as a team performance it was a real treat – sumptuous, sublime and superb. We’re back the same time next week and we’ve got a home game for the first team before then – if you need a little pick me up after Saturday, I’d recommend Monday night with the reserves. Some ratings: Siegrist – 7 – Sometimes he looks a little nervous, but he actually does a good job of looking after his area, he takes crosses well, distributes the ball reasonably and is a very good shot stopper – in so far as a nervous looking teen called Benji can do, he looks quite commanding. Stevens – 7 – First I’ve seen of him and initially he reminded me a bit of a sober Warnock – he’s got a similar gait. He looked reasonable on the ball and got forward to support attacks pretty well – I’d like to see more of him, but he could be all right. Baker – 8 – He was commanding in the air, quick over the ground, passed the ball well and hit the bar from a set piece. Just all round goodness. Williams – 7 – Defended doggedly and got forward a lot, I thought he did well with the ball and looked sensible throughout. Lichaj – 7 – Looked like he enjoyed getting down the flanks and getting at Newcastle, particularly in the first half and linked up well with Carruthers. As a fitness exercise, I reckon this was the most fun he’d had since his injury – looked solid. Johnson – 7 – I’ve a feeling he prefers to be down the middle but he did a very good job on the left hand side. As part of this four man midfield he looked like he belonged. He’s got energy, a reasonable touch, decent passing and enthusiasm to burn. Gardner – 8 – Sat behind Bannan and Carruthers for much of the match and managed things from there, he kept everything neat and tidy and recycled the ball for those two to use. He seems to have the ability to just have space, whenever and wherever he wants it – a neat trick that. Bannan – 9 – there were times in the second half where he looked like Maradona, teasing and twisting the Newcastle defence to distraction – when you see him at this level, you realise just how good he can be – passing, vision, creativity and fun. If he can get even half of this working in the big league he’ll worth keeping for years. Carruthers – 9 – Oh my. He’s come on a whole lot since I last saw him – he used to want four or five touches and he seems to have learned how to kill a team with one or two – his movement and his lay offs were first class tonight and he looks to have developed into a player with real potential. Weimann – 7 – Worked his socks off up front but should maybe have scored more than once given the quality we played with and quantity of chances we created. Still, he was full of life and scored again. Delfouneso – 6 – Unfortunately injured, a shame – he’d have enjoyed this. Subs Robinson – 7 – positioning was good, he looks like a goalscorer, he’s tall and reasonably quick – still young and maybe needs to develop that bit of power a good striker needs, but he’s a prospect. I like. Cameron – 7 – Quick, lively and with a good touch, I’d like to see more. Grealish – 7 – Nice balance, lovely quick feet, I’d like to see if he’s got pace – if he has, then we’re in business.
  10. We went into this game in the hope of keeping a clean sheet rather than going for a win. We did that because of a fear factor that our run of abysmal home results that stretches over months rather than weeks has fed. But, what chance really was there that our porous defence could sit back and invite the league leaders to come at them for 90 minutes without conceding a goal? It was slim and none for me. I think our team selection was very negative and although I can appreciate that Big Eck may have wanted to make a point to Ireland and N’Zogbia after their reactions at Newcastle can we really afford to leave them out in a game such as this when doing so denies us of most of our creative ideas? This was all too easy for Manchester City who coasted through the game knowing a goal would surely come and who were put under no real pressure until the last few minutes of the game when we showed what might have been had we started with Ireland and N’Zogbia. We once went into games like these at Villa Park at worst with hope but now seem content with mere damage limitation. That will not bring us the points we need at Villa Park to secure safety for ourselves rather than to rely on there being 3 clubs in the places below us in the bottom 6 that will be unable to overhaul the minimum 7 points advantage and double figure goal difference that we have over them. But how sad it is that we have now come to flirt with the bottom 6 when we had so recently grown accustomed to a top 6 finish and having taken umbrage to our last manager referring to us a mid table team on his appointment we now see that as acceptable and along with profitable player trading and wage bill reduction among our key objectives as a football club. My player ratings from a game that has left us languishing in the bottom six are: Shay Given – 6 – Beaten on 27 minutes by a Johnson shot and had the post to thank for us not going a goal down earlier than we did. Stopped a fierce Zabaleta effort on 55 minutes and blocked a close range effort at his near post 9 minutes later. Alan Hutton - 5 – Cuellar looked the better of our full backs today and he is a central defender who when played as a full back usually plays on the other side of the field. Failed to get forward enough but so did everyone else. James Collins – 5 – Followed the ball rather than his man for their winner and how wildly that supposed Villa fan celebrated scoring yet another goal against us. Richard Dunne – 7 – Got a header in from a corner that Hart saved on his near post on 80 minutes and he will be a loss to our defence in the coming weeks as he recovers from the brave challenge he made on Hart particularly with Clark having an injury that ruled him out of starting this one. Carlos Cuellar – 7 – MOTM – Made a makeshift position one that he looked comfortable and experienced in. Did well to get a foot onto a Johnson cross on 83 minutes before his opponent and might just have popped up with an equalizer when he got nicely in position only to put a header well over the bar on 88 minutes. Emile Heskey – 4 – Did all that could be expected of him in this particular midfield role which was not nearly enough although the blame is not his that he is asked to perform there for us at this stage of his career. Stiliyan Petrov – 6 –Steady but unable to make much of an impression without one of the young injured enforcers he has had playing alongside him for much of this season and he like the rest of our midfield were easily bettered by the likes of Barry and Milner who he found himself facing rather than playing alongside. Gary Gardner - 6 – Asked to do a big job and showed some nice touches particularly early on. Marc Albrighton – 5 – Worked hard enough in his own half before being replaced by Ireland on 78 minutes but he rarely got forward and it is doing that which can make him worth a starting place rather than what it seems he was asked to do today namely to harass opponents as they walked through our midfield. Robbie Keane – 7 – He will be much missed at Villa Park. A player who I had not anticipated ever actually seeing in a Villa shirt but who has showed us what we have missed up until now with his hard work and by setting an example of the winning approach he expects of those around him. Worked hard throughout looking for space and the sort of service that arrived only fleetingly at the end of the game. Thanks for the memories and the 3 points at Wolves Robbie! Darren Bent – 5 – Lacked any service and without it he poses no threat but he came so close to giving us a point on 90 minutes when he turned on a Collins header from a corner that Hart did exceptionally well to keep out with one hand. Substitutes: Charles N’Zogbia – 6 - Replaced Heskey on 69 minutes and immediately gave us some threat from the wing that we had been so lacking up to then. Stephen Ireland – Replaced Marc on 78 minutes and showed some nice touches in what time that was made available to him which was not enough to gather a rating. Stay Up the Villa! John Lewis
  11. The January transfer window slammed shut on the eve of yesterday’s game. Our transfer business took the form of concluding a deal that had been arranged during the previous window and using the money that we received for the outgoing Lowry to cover the wages of Robbie Keane until he leaves us later this month. This game has shown us how much we will miss Robbie when he does leave us and that will be all too soon. Although he may not be as fleet of foot as he once and may not quite have the same engine he remains a clever player with a goal threat who gives us something we have been missing. He is able to encourage those around him to play by maintaining the performance levels he sets of himself and his presence and the respect he has earned in the game demands something approaching that level of performance from his team mates. You get what you pay for and what we got may just be enough to get us to safety sooner than might otherwise have been the case. QPR had a much more active window than us and that paid early dividends with a debut goal from Cisse that put us once again on the back foot at Villa Park. When Warnock handed them a second I guess most of us thought that was probably the end of the game as a contest. But as Arsenal showed us on Sunday it is possible to come back from two goals down and we did that to get something from this game and to add another point towards our safety target. Bent’s 100th Premier League goal that came late in the first half was vital. It gave us some belief that we could get back into the game after all and it lowered the sound levels on what would otherwise have been a very loud chorus of boos. We started the second half very strongly and played some good football at times but when the goal did not come we did not accept that it was not going to be our day and came again until we got our second and at the end it was them that were looking for the final whistle and with a little luck and a referee that was prepared to make a decision we might just have won this one with one of the two very strong cases for a penalty we had last night when a hand and an arm denied us goals. My player ratings from a game that has increased or maintained the gap between us and those who occupy the spots at the foot of the table we need to avoid are: Shay Given – 6 – Rarely tested on a night when he nevertheless found the ball resting in the net behind him twice. Alan Hutton - 6 – His best game to date in our shirt. Got forward pretty well and got some decent crosses over including the one that presented Bent with our vital first goal just before half time. Carlos Cuellar – 6 – A good display that reinforces my view that he should not be shipped out at the earliest opportunity as he is one of our more solid defenders. Richard Dunne – 6 – Solid enough but not an easy game for him up against the pace of Cisse. Stephen Warnock – 4 – Recovered pretty well from the profound embarrassment of stretching their lead to two goals when a twelfth minute Taiwo cross went over the head of Dunne and his inexplicable header went across Given and into the corner of the net . He almost did the same thing against Everton but Given was not able to save his blushes this time and we may need to put a man on him in the box in the future as he has become a threat to our goal when a cross comes over. Charles N’Zogbia – 8 – A particularly encouraging second half when he ran for fun at defenders and his confidence levels will have taken a big boost from his splendid goal on 79 minutes. Petrov pulled a lovely cross back for Charles who hit a sweet first time volley into the corner of the net for our second. Had a shot on 86 minute pushed out by Kenny for a corner after Petrov had found him and he almost got a winner in stoppage time but Onuoha’s head blocked his goal bound effort. Stiliyan Petrov – 7 – Another tidy performance. He keeps possession well and it was his fine cross that led to our equalizer. Might have scored on 36 minutes when a shot from Keane was deflected off him and cannoned onto the crossbar on 36 minutes. Unlucky on 51 minutes when his shot wrong footed Kenny only for the keepers trailing leg to keep the ball out of the net. Ciaran Clark - 6 – He remains a defender who is being asked to fill a specialist midfield role and at times it showed. Made a good run and was found well inside the box by Keane on 13 minutes but he failed to get a shot in from a good position. Might have scored with an on target shot at the end of a good flowing move that Derry’s raised hand kept out only for the referee to turn down what was a clear penalty. Stephen Ireland – 7 – He is maintaining the sort of form we had feared we would not see from him in a Villa shirt and he looks to be enjoying himself and relishing the opportunity to play football regularly again. Got a block in on Wright-Phillips’ shot but the ball ran through to Cisse whose first time shot gave Given no chance for their opening goal. Robbie Keane – 8 – MOTM – See above. He made us tick up front and played a large part in much of the good things that we did. Had an effort from inside the box saved by Kenny on 32 minutes and a minute later could not quite turn in a Dunne header from a Petrov corner from close range. Hit a curling 58th minute shot that Kenny stretched one hand out to and was not quite able to connect with a good Warnock cross on 73 minutes. Darren Bent – 7 – A good display last night and he was clearly motivated by the opportunity to get that 100th goal and get it he did. Got a strong header onto a Hutton cross from outside the box on 40 minutes which went a couple of feet wide of the post before scoring 5 minutes later. Ireland found Keane who played a nicely weighted pass to Hutton whose inviting cross was slotted past Kenny by Darren who had got across his marker. Could have done better on 70 minutes when his bouncing shot went wide of the post. Seemed to be denied a penalty on 83 minutes when Cuellar flicked on a corner that he hit well which Smith cleared off the line with what seemed to be his arm as he turned into the shot. Substitutes: Barry Bannan – 6 - Replaced Clark on 70 minutes but we really need to be starting him in games like this rather than going for the more cautious approach of playing a defender in the middle at home. Did what we have come to expect from him during the time he was on the field. Up the Villa! John Lewis
  12. Two great goals on his starting debut and at 31 it is clear he still has a lot to offer. He has always been an intelligent player, never blessed with blistering pace but we have been reminded of his ability to read and influence the game on numerous occasions at Villa Park over the years so it was nice to see the boot on the other foot yesterday when he ran the show against Wolves! I remember in the 98/99 season when we were trying to buy him from Wolves and how excited my mate Jimmy and I were at the prospect of such a talented young player joining us, we were top of the table at the time and flying under Gregory and an addition like this along with Juninho (who was apparently also close to signing) would put us in pole position to cement our challenge for our first Premiership title. That season he rattled in 16 goals and you could see then he would go on to become top draw. You can imagine the disappointment when the rumours went round we had lost out to Coventry for the sake of an extra 500k as Doug didn't feel he was worth the extra cash. So Cov snapped him up for £6m and the great Marcello Lippi picked him up for Inter a year later paying £13m for his services. Of course I am in no doubt that Doug would have also sold him for that sort of money so we would probably only have had him for a year anyway! I know some people have knocked Doug over the years for the way he ran the club but this period will always stand out for me as the one time we could have and should have signed a couple of quality players and become real contenders for the years to come, we were close. So close. But I digress, 12 years later and 3 well deserved points in the end following a good old fashioned display of determination and commitment spattered with 2 great finishes by the player we should have signed all of those years ago. I have never been a fan of McCleish and like most Villa fans was gutted when he was appointed, given the ease of our first few fixtures most of us expected us to have more points than we do at the moment but he seems to have the knack of picking up just enough points to keep his head above water without us looking particularly threatening to the rest of the league. But I think he deserves a lot of credit for the performance yesterday, he dropped Warnock on the back of a couple of poor displays (although I would say he is having a decent season), shifted Clark to left back and started Keane, also giving Gary Gardner a start in midfield. Gary is a player I have watched closely over the past few years from youth, reserves and now finally the 1st team. He reads the game well, gets in good positions, good passing ability and can certainly strike the ball. They way he plays reminds me of the drive and hunger that Gerrard had as a young kid coming through, always getting into space, wanting the ball and making great runs. I am not saying he will be as good as Gerrard was but if he can keep playing his way I expect him to be a big player for us in the future. So Alex set the team out to attack and we got off to a great start, Bent proving that if you chase down defenders you can reap rewards. After the pen though we dropped off a bit as Wolves bossed the game, Kightly running Clarke ragged on the right and causing him no end of problems until he ran into the box, cut inside and rolled a shot into the bottom corner. I can't really fault the goal, yes Clark should have been tighter on him and certainly been goal side to stop him getting the shot in but he is young and will hopefully learn from these errors. Sometimes though you just get left for dead. The second goal however highlights what is so frustrating about us this season! the lino (sorry assistant referee) stopped Wolves taking a quick corner, great you think, time to regroup and get organised for the set piece, or not. As the ball comes in everything looks ok, everyone looks like they have been picked up, Collins is behind his man but will get a challenge in, the only danger he could cause with his back to goal being the flick on back onto the back post. Then for some reason Dunne decides to leave his man Edwards and race to help Collins despite the fact he would have to get through two players to get the ball! We know the rest, the ball comes in Dunne leaves Edwards unmarked and the ball is flicked on for Edwards to score. While you can forgive errors player make (everyone is human) I find an error like Dunne's yesterday simply mind boggling! All season we have been rubbish at defending set pieces and seem to take a schoolboy approach to them. When you know these players are capable of more, it is beyond frustrating. So half time and Gabby goes off with a sickness bug. Alex to be fair to him identified that Clark was having a tough time, brings Warnock on and pushes Clark into his more familiar midfield role. Warnock did well, shutting down Kightly and we were able to push on in the second half and get the goals we needed. I won't talk too much about Keane's goals other than the fact that they were both excellent finishes, the second one in particular where Keane orchestrated the move from the middle of the park and then hung back on the edge of the box to smash home the winner was simply brilliant to watch. I am sure he will be going back once his loan deal expires but I would be more than happy to keep him on a permanent deal. The red card was a no brainer for the ref, Marc may have initially fouled Henry (not intentionally I would add) but nothing can excuse his reaction. If you look at the replay Marc is actually lying on the floor with his hands held in the air when Henry lashes out with his heel, he wasn't expecting it nor able to protect himself so I don't think Marc over reacted which is some peoples opinion, let's see Lawro get booted in a surprise attack and see how he reacts, I am sure we could find some people willing to help test the theory. Looking forward to Arsenal away, Keane being an ex-Spurs player will love to score against them. Just need to see what trains we can get there and back and find a decent away pub so if anyone knows one near the Emirates let me know this week! UTV Srathem
  13. On a positive note we avoided becoming the first Aston Villa team in 49 years to lose 5 consecutive home games. Back then from April 1st 1963 we lost home games against Everton, Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday, Wolves and Nottingham Forest. That run had started with defeat against Everton but this time 4 consecutive home defeats were brought to an end with a draw against the same opponents for whom Villa Park has not been a very happy hunting ground in recent years. Before kick-off this had looked a likely draw between two teams that have flirted with Champions League qualification in the recent past but who are now both in downturn with money being too tight to mention. Everton shaded the first half and it was not until the start of the second half that we began to put some serious pressure on their defence which might well have cracked more than once had we been able to sustain the pressure on it that all but evaporated when they equalized. Their goal led to the game swinging back to them as our confidence levels dropped alarmingly to where they had been at the start of the game. During the first half this game had increasingly looked like it might be settled by a single goal if there was to be a goal at all. Had it been them that had got that goal that may well have proved to have been the case as I wonder if we would have had the belief to have come back into the game this time where we could not against Swansea. But it was us that opened the scoring and their equalizer came when we had looked much more likely to get a second than to be pegged back. But after that equalizer the pendulum swung back away from us and if anyone was going to clinch it after that, it looked like they were the most likely to do so. This point does break the run of home defeats but against the Everton side we faced yesterday it was for me 2 points lost rather than a point gained. It was a better performance than we gave against Swansea but it would have been difficult to have produced one that was not and the result like many at home this season was disappointing. I think we missed an opportunity today. Had we started with Robbie Keane the crowd would have been lifted and he would have had an opportunity to lift his team mates from the start of the game if not to get another debut goal. I understand he may not have had enough at this stage to have given us a full 90 minutes yet but I would rather have started with him and then taken him off when he had the opportunity to have given us some impetus rather than to have brought him on with the crowd deflated, his team on the back foot and with only 9 minutes left to make a difference. My player ratings from a game between two clubs who have become a mirror image of each other on the pitch and at the bank that produced a sixth successive draw between them are: Shay Given – 7 – A welcome return from injury for our first choice keeper who proved a point although Brad has proved his worth during his absence. Made a good one handed save from Saha’s header on 17 minutes which had helped on a good Baines free kick. He also did very well on 23 minutes when his fine reflex save kept out a goal bound header from his own player as Warnock kneeled and headed a Drenthe cross that had gotten a deflection off Hutton before reaching our full back. He then kept out a Fellani header from a Baines free kick with his upper shoulder at his near post on 50 minutes. Alan Hutton - 5 – His most important contribution could well have led to a penalty but instead impeded Saha as he looked to get an inevitable opening goal by connecting with a cross from Donovan that had sped across the face of the goal and over Collins. So Saha rather than the ball ended up in the back of the net on 23 minutes with the referee unsighted. Distribution was not too good at times but he has had worse games for us although he still needs to step up to a higher level to secure his starting place. James Collins – 5 – Cahill got in behind him on 14 minutes to almost get a touch to an inviting ball from Gibson. Not greatly tested but he still did not seem near the player he was during his first year with us. Richard Dunne – 6 – Our most effective and solid defender once again. Stephen Warnock – 4 – Improved in the second half. But could well have got his name on the score sheet but for Given and hit some wayward balls. Showing signs of the form that led to GH resting him recently rather than of the improvement he had shown earlier in the season that had seen him somewhat nearer his best. Replaced to make room for Robbie on 81 minutes. Marc Albrighton – 5 – Did not track back with his man to cover Anichebe’s run towards goal for their equalizer and instead let his man go to appeal for an offside decision that would have spared his blushes but would never come. Cross delivery was not at his best yesterday and I had thought Big Eck might have looked to replace him with N’Zogbia the way things had been going. Stiliyan Petrov – 6 – Had a 7th minute free kick from outside the box punched out of danger by Howard. In a more holding role today which he did reasonably but he was not therefore able to get forward to the good affect he has been doing of late. Ciaran Clark - 6 – Did well enough and can hold onto the ball but he is a defender in the midfield who is papering over a crack and we do need to look to bring a player to fill this holding role during this window. It is at central defence where his future with us will be. Stephen Ireland – 8 – MOTM – He was playing too well to make room for Keane today and I was glad to see he got the nod to start given his recent form as he needs the encouragement. Stephen ran the show and linked well with Bent particularly during our purple patch during the third quarter of the game making our goal and showing good movement and touches throughout. Gabriel Agbonlahor – 6 – Wasted out wide. Nevertheless he picked the ball up just inside their half on 41 minutes, ran on and picked his spot to curl a nice shot from outside the box that Howard kept out with a hand at his far post. Needs to be more central where he can be kept more involved. Darren Bent – 6 – He gets goals and that is why we need to keep him. Leapt like a salmon to reach a Warnock cross having got in front of a defender but his header sailed over on 40 minutes. He opened the scoring on 56 minutes hitting the ball into the roof of the net after Ireland had found him after he had flicked on an Albrighton cross that Duffy headed back in his direction for him to pounce on and to then find our scorer. Darren then got on the end of another good Ireland cross 2 minutes later guiding a good header from just inside the box on target that Howard kept out. More involved in the game than he has been of late in others. Substitutes: Robbie Keane – Replaced Warnock on 81 minutes and looked keen. I was surprised that he did not start given he is only with us for such a very limited period and that he did not come on earlier than he did after they had levelled things up. Not on long enough to earn a rating. Up the Villa! John Lewis
  14. Swansea gained their first ever win at Villa Park yesterday and in doing so a team that is still being tipped as a potential candidate for relegation leapfrogged us in the league table and left us sitting far from pretty in twelfth place with them now above us on goal difference, so what does that say for us? What a way to start a new year having finished off the old one in such style. Having bettered Chelsea at the bridge surely we could beat a Swansea team that had yet to win away from home this season and which had made 7 changes from the one that had taken a point from Spurs on the same day as we had humbled Chelsea. Was it complacency that did for us or playing 2 games with much the same team in 48 hours? Or was it that we started with most of the team that had deserved a vote of confidence after their win at Chelsea but one that is set up to defend and hit teams on the break which has worked well enough away from home but that is not well suited to face a team at Villa Park that is set up with the same intention and that invites us to break them down? Swansea in giving us our fourth consecutive home defeat gave a passable impression of the likes of Wigan who in the past who have taken points at Villa Park by putting men behind the ball and inviting us to come onto them and then hitting us with their pace on the break. Having gone a goal up and then two clear with soft goals at the start of each half they sat back and waited for the pressure that never came other than in the form of corner after corner that they dealt with without any real cause for concern. So any break from criticism that Big Eck might have hoped to earn on the back of an unexpected win 48 hours earlier was lost in 90 minutes yesterday with his side giving him a stark contrast between the highs of Chelsea and the lows they hit yesterday. Where does the blame lie? Big Eck is the obvious target as Randy knew he would be when making the appointment but he has taken over a team that he has told us is in the process of being rebuilt but he is not being given the cash to do it. So for me although I would have started with Albrighton and would have liked to see us adopt a more positive approach to the visit of Swansea, he is not the only one that bears the responsibility. A lack of investment and a wretched performance from players who had proved they are better than this only 48 hours earlier also played a major part yesterday. My player ratings from a game that has seen us plunge once again into the bottom half of the table and led to the points we took at Chelsea being carelessly lost just 2 days later are: Brad Guzan – 5 – Beaten twice and had some difficulty in dealing with back passes when pressed by their forwards particularly with the one from Collins that he back peddled on and then found one of their players with a hurried clearance whose first touch found Routledge for their second. But he did well to stop another Dyer effort on 28 minutes after he had gone past Warnock and he stopped them adding a third on 87 minutes by bravely diving at the feet of Allen. Carlos Cuellar - 4 – A decent enough first half during which he got forward reasonably well but his day was ruined as was our own when on 47 minutes. Carlos was beaten all to easily by Routledge who then cut inside and found Graham whose shot hit the post and it was Routledge who reacted before any of the watching defenders to drill the rebound into the net through Cuellar’s legs. Carlos was replaced by Hutton 8 minutes later. James Collins – 4 – Found the pace of Swansea’s forward movement difficult to manage as did his colleagues at the back and this was another less than convincing display that may see his starting place again under pressure. Got up to an N’Zogbia corner on 22 minutes but his header was directed straight at the keeper. Richard Dunne – 5 –The best of our defenders for me and although he might well have walked when he pushed Dyer down with both hands after he had lost it after being penalised for a strong second half challenge on the same player it did at least show he was as upset by the way the game was going as we were. Headed over from a corner on 65 minutes and then headed wide on 84 minutes. Stephen Warnock – 3 – Set the tone for the game with his casual under hit pass back into the direction of where he had guessed rather than made sure Dunne was and Dyer raced onto the loose ball for their vital fourth minute opener which beat Guzan’s outstretched hand having taken a slight deflection as it passed through Dunne’s legs. He was given a torrid afternoon by Dyer who was too fast and too hot for him to handle and although he improved slightly in the second half it would have been difficult to have got any worse. Stiliyan Petrov – 5 – I was surprised to see him start after hobbling off against Chelsea. He started well enough but did not get forward as he has been doing of late and I think as the game wore on he increasingly felt the affects of playing 2 games in 48 hours and the related knocks taken. Ciaran Clark - 5 – For me he might have made way for a more attack minded midfield player yesterday when the onus was to be on us to break them down and that change became increasingly pressing when they opened up a two goal lead and we really needed to try to get some pressure on their defence to try to avoid this embarrassing defeat. Did the holding job he was selected for well enough but we were looking for a bit more yesterday. Had a half chance in the second half when a cross from Albrighton found him inside the box via Collins but the ball was taken off him before he had unleashed a shot. Stephen Ireland – 6 – Started well and was one of our very few players that worried the Swansea defence in the slightest before he was replaced by Marc on 68 minutes. He needs to be encouraged and taking him off when we needed his invention did nothing to do that or to help our search for a goal yesterday. Charles N’Zogbia – 6 – MOTM – Our main if not only real threat to Swansea’s far from overworked defence yesterday. Might have provided us with a late, late consolation goal in the last moments of injury time when Collins nodded down Albrighton’s cross and Gabby fed the ball to him only for his well hit shot to thunder off the post to safety. Gabriel Agbonlahor – 6 – Started wide again to accommodate Bent’s return to the starting line up and we badly missed the pressure he puts on defenders in a more central role by making space for himself, pressuring defenders and chasing after every ball. Darren Bent – 4 – Lacked any sort of service and without that he can appear to be a bit of a passenger. Substitutes: Alan Hutton – 5 – Replaced Cuellar on 55 minutes and was steady enough in what was by then a shell shocked back four. Marc Albrighton – 6 – Should have started as we missed the width and crosses he has been providing of late. Replaced Ireland to the tune of boos on 68 minutes and was equally as effective although it would have been better to have had them working in tandem to try to break down the Swans. Barry Bannan – Replaced Clark on 85 minutes. Not on long enough to earn a rating. A Happier New Year than this to all of my readers! John Lewis
  15. by jimcohen After 28 minutes at Upton Park today, the 3,000 Villa faithful clad in a mix of the traditional claret and "glow in the dark" neon green realised something was different about Villa. We were doing something that for 38 games last season, we very rarely did. Pass the ball! "We're passing the ball, we're passing the ball! We're Aston Villa. We're passing the ball!"…came the chant. And what a delight it was. The triangle of passes all over the pitch led by the industrious Delph, promising KEA and floating Ireland looked slick and quite refreshing. The game ended with 65.8% possession to Villa, which as the away team, especially as we are Villa, is quite astonishing! Admittedly, some of the possession fizzled out as they made there way to JJ's goal, but the signs are there of what Lambert wants us to do, and I like it. We played a fluid 4-4-1-1 with Ireland in the hole behind Bent, but N'Zogbia and Holeman on the wings were constantly cutting in and swapping positions, and Lowton at RB was offering a lot of extra support down the right flank, making N'Zogbia's wondering a lot more effective. Given, Clark and Vlaar were obviously given the same brief by the gaffer, with very few long balls being played and only when there were no other options. A delight to see made more entertaining every time Collins lumped the ball long for West Ham, only to be found by a Villa head or Given's gloves. Given always looked for a quick throw out or shot pass, and Vlaar and Clark, with Lowton on the right always offered options. Passing from the back, and through the midfield with wide men cutting in, we found it easy to keep the ball, and only really lost it when we went up to Bent too quickly as the major issues with this current side was the lack of support for our new captain. Bent clearly offers a goal threat, and does help out well for set pieces, but his game is very ineffective without support and as much as KEA, Ireland and Delph tried, we just didn't get men forward ahead of the ball and Bent enough. This for me was the main issue of our play. Yes we were away from home, and the team has to remain disciplined and in shape, but we were there to win, and you don't win many games without shots on goal. Baker at left back was is obviously filling a hole. I was delighted to see Lambert stick to his guns and not even include Hutton and Warnock with the travelling party. They are not good enough and need to be replaced. Lowton is the man for RB, I really like the look of him, but Baker will be exposed too much at left back and I hope he doesn't get disheartened if he has to play there too much. At one point today Vaz Te slipped passed Baker as if he want there, but Baker won everything in the air and offered good cover at centre back when Lowton was bombing on and the defence shifted over. The lad is a great prospect in the heart of our defence but he is not a full back. Bannan, Gardner and Weimann all came on and the youth will play a large part on this season, but apart from Bannan, our subs today did not have much of an impact, and BB only had 9 minutes. Weimann was limping onto the team bus leaving as well, so I hope he is ok. He face was grimacing a lot as he stepped up to the bus and I don't think that was just about his lack of service during the game. This new look Villa team, with 4 new starters and only 187 appearances between them (Giggs has 539 on his own!) did look a little raw in parts, but the promise is there. The Intent from the manager to play the way football should be played and the way Villa fans want to see us playing gives me hope for the next 37 games. We did create a few chances today, and looked solid enough at the back, I think we are nearly there. As I said in my last post, 2-3 more players are needed, but with Gabby and Albrighton coming back that will help a lot with our attacking side, and Dunne will be a big bonus to our inexperienced back 4. Having looked at our side throughout pre-season and studying them hard today, I would say a striker has to be our priority.If Bent were to get injured we would be in trouble and at home I would like to see us play 2 up top with Gabby out wide. A central midfielder would be next on the list. I like Delph and Bannan, both played well today, but neither are quite there yet. But not that far off! Overall, I have hope. I left the stadium a little more happy than I thought after meeting Ray Houghton, Ian Taylor and Marc Albrighton in the press box, all three were happy to pose for pictures and have a quick chat. Albrighton also confirmed he is not on twitter, so that cleared a few things up there too! I predict a solid if unspectacular mid table finish, which after last season, I would be very happy with, but I do think we are only a few players away from a very good team, so who knows what could happen if we get onto a good run and the confidence starts to flow. Given - 7 - Made a few good saves, was solid on crosses and distributed the ball as well as I have ever seen Lowton - 7 - Looked promising going forward and solid enough at the back. A very hard worker with a lot in his engine. Vlaar - 6 - A nervous 15 minutes before the half did concern me, he was out jumped a few time by Cole and looked visibly ruffled, but he came back strongly in the sec on half and will be a great edition to our defence. Clark - Made some good interceptions, passed the ball well out o defence but was caught out once or twice. Needs more games in the hear of our defence. Baker - 6 - Good in the air, covered well in the middle, but he is not a full back sadly. N'Zogbia - 5 - A few exciting moments, but he is too easily push off the ball and his work rate is not good enough away from home. Better, but not there yet. Delph - 7 - Passed well, looked composed and offered support to Ireland, but he still dives in too much on the tackle, and just doesn't offer the presence I want to see in the middle of our midfield. Needs more stature. El Ahmadi - 7 - MOTM for me, passed very well, always offered support, always wanted the ball, very rarely gave it away and stayed strong to the end. A lot more to come I think, but a solid start from the new heart of our team. Holeman - Taken off after the hour, I presume because of the knock he got in midweek, but played well, worked hard and linked play up nicely. Did try a few too many ambitious passes and shots, but this guy will be a star for us. I like the look of him a lot. Ireland - 7 - Passed well, tackled back, worked hard and nearly put in a few killer passes. He is getting his groove back and I think with more games and the confidence to play the way he wants, we will see the best of Ireland this season Bent - 5 - Didn't do much wrong but he didn't see much of the ball either. UTV Click here to view the article
  16. by Srathem Well what can I say, I have waited 12 years to see Robbie Keane in a Villa shirt and it was well worth the wait.Two great goals on his starting debut and at 31 it is clear he still has a lot to offer. He has always been an intelligent player, never blessed with blistering pace but we have been reminded of his ability to read and influence the game on numerous occasions at Villa Park over the years so it was nice to see the boot on the other foot yesterday when he ran the show against Wolves! I remember in the 98/99 season when we were trying to buy him from Wolves and how excited my mate Jimmy and I were at the prospect of such a talented young player joining us, we were top of the table at the time and flying under Gregory and an addition like this along with Juninho (who was apparently also close to signing) would put us in pole position to cement our challenge for our first Premiership title. That season he rattled in 16 goals and you could see then he would go on to become top draw. You can imagine the disappointment when the rumours went round we had lost out to Coventry for the sake of an extra 500k as Doug didn't feel he was worth the extra cash. So Cov snapped him up for £6m and the great Marcello Lippi picked him up for Inter a year later paying £13m for his services. Of course I am in no doubt that Doug would have also sold him for that sort of money so we would probably only have had him for a year anyway! I know some people have knocked Doug over the years for the way he ran the club but this period will always stand out for me as the one time we could have and should have signed a couple of quality players and become real contenders for the years to come, we were close. So close. But I digress, 12 years later and 3 well deserved points in the end following a good old fashioned display of determination and commitment spattered with 2 great finishes by the player we should have signed all of those years ago. I have never been a fan of McCleish and like most Villa fans was gutted when he was appointed, given the ease of our first few fixtures most of us expected us to have more points than we do at the moment but he seems to have the knack of picking up just enough points to keep his head above water without us looking particularly threatening to the rest of the league. But I think he deserves a lot of credit for the performance yesterday, he dropped Warnock on the back of a couple of poor displays (although I would say he is having a decent season), shifted Clark to left back and started Keane, also giving Gary Gardner a start in midfield. Gary is a player I have watched closely over the past few years from youth, reserves and now finally the 1st team. He reads the game well, gets in good positions, good passing ability and can certainly strike the ball. They way he plays reminds me of the drive and hunger that Gerrard had as a young kid coming through, always getting into space, wanting the ball and making great runs. I am not saying he will be as good as Gerrard was but if he can keep playing his way I expect him to be a big player for us in the future. So Alex set the team out to attack and we got off to a great start, Bent proving that if you chase down defenders you can reap rewards. After the pen though we dropped off a bit as Wolves bossed the game, Kightly running Clarke ragged on the right and causing him no end of problems until he ran into the box, cut inside and rolled a shot into the bottom corner. I can't really fault the goal, yes Clark should have been tighter on him and certainly been goal side to stop him getting the shot in but he is young and will hopefully learn from these errors. Sometimes though you just get left for dead. The second goal however highlights what is so frustrating about us this season! the lino (sorry assistant referee) stopped Wolves taking a quick corner, great you think, time to regroup and get organised for the set piece, or not. As the ball comes in everything looks ok, everyone looks like they have been picked up, Collins is behind his man but will get a challenge in, the only danger he could cause with his back to goal being the flick on back onto the back post. Then for some reason Dunne decides to leave his man Edwards and race to help Collins despite the fact he would have to get through two players to get the ball! We know the rest, the ball comes in Dunne leaves Edwards unmarked and the ball is flicked on for Edwards to score. While you can forgive errors player make (everyone is human) I find an error like Dunne's yesterday simply mind boggling! All season we have been rubbish at defending set pieces and seem to take a schoolboy approach to them. When you know these players are capable of more, it is beyond frustrating. So half time and Gabby goes off with a sickness bug. Alex to be fair to him identified that Clark was having a tough time, brings Warnock on and pushes Clark into his more familiar midfield role. Warnock did well, shutting down Kightly and we were able to push on in the second half and get the goals we needed. I won't talk too much about Keane's goals other than the fact that they were both excellent finishes, the second one in particular where Keane orchestrated the move from the middle of the park and then hung back on the edge of the box to smash home the winner was simply brilliant to watch. I am sure he will be going back once his loan deal expires but I would be more than happy to keep him on a permanent deal. The red card was a no brainer for the ref, Marc may have initially fouled Henry (not intentionally I would add) but nothing can excuse his reaction. If you look at the replay Marc is actually lying on the floor with his hands held in the air when Henry lashes out with his heel, he wasn't expecting it nor able to protect himself so I don't think Marc over reacted which is some peoples opinion, let's see Lawro get booted in a surprise attack and see how he reacts, I am sure we could find some people willing to help test the theory. Looking forward to Arsenal away, Keane being an ex-Spurs player will love to score against them. Just need to see what trains we can get there and back and find a decent away pub so if anyone knows one near the Emirates let me know this week! UTV Srathem Click here to view the article
×
×
  • Create New...
Â