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The Sunny Road - Blackburn Away Report


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Blandy writes

A sunny Easter Saturday saw 4000 Villans in Blackburn Lancashire.

Spring, don't you just love it?

Certainly today was a beautiful day. The early morning mists cleared to make way for a blue sky and short train ride to Ewood for my local game. One of the highlights of the season for an exiled Villan is to be able to make just a short trip to the game, rather than endure hours travelling each way.

The local train pulled into Blackburn, and 4 of us went for a few sociable pints in the Adelphi. "Black Sheep" was drunk, perhaps in recognition of recent feelings about a few of the team. There were a few concerns about the line up, but I felt nervously hopeful as we caught the bus to the Fernhurst, closer to the ground.

The beer's a bit averarge in there, but standing in the sun, meeting with a veritable horde of VTers, no one seemed to mind. The fans were boisterous but well behaved, as we wandered into the ground.

After a quick meat n'potato pie (they had no brown sauce, which is shocking) I settled down to watch Villa control the game. All the action seemed to be down the far end. Villa's midfield probing and passing, and Blackburn doing little but defend.

Friedel, that excellent shot stopper, was at it again. Last season he'd played a blinder in the correspondng game, though Baros had been hugely wasteful. This season, with no Baros, and his replacement out injured, we played with "wee Shauny" and Gabby as a tiny tots front two. No matter, they posses speed and trickery and with Berger giving a bit of a masterclass Villa were well on top.

Like last season though, things didn't quite go to plan. Blackburn got the ball up to the Claret and Blue packed Darwen end, Gamst-Pedersen ran into the box, Bardsley tackled and down went MGP, for what looked like a delayed dive and a penalty. Somewhat soft, I thought. McCarthy lashed into the corner.

Villa didn't bat an eyelid, we just kept attacking, and before long had equalised. Bardsley crossed, and Paddy Berger in yards of space seemed to flick the ball past Freidel with the outside of his heel.

A bit of justice. We should really have been winning, but parity was the least we deserved.

Straight after half time, Villa got a very dodgy penalty for a handball. Right in front of me, Craig Gardener, playing on our right, on the edge of the box, knocked the ball into a Rover. He couldn't get out of the way, really.

Up stepped Gareth Barry, and after a delay he powered the ball from the penalty, but Friedel made a stunningly good save. I guess the ball was perhaps too close to him, but still, the power of it, and the ability to keep it out, rather than divert it into the goal was impressive.

Blackburn, perhaps sensing their luck was in, and revitalised by their Manager making a number of substitutions, started to get on top a bit.

Happily the ever popular David Dunn was closed down, Berger collected the ball and rolled it through for Gabby to zoom onto, round Friedel and roll it into the net.

It was at about this point that I lost my voice, and the last 15 minutes took an age to pass. We were now under the sort of pressure that I'd have expected us to be under for more of the game. Free kicks and corners, headers, shots - they all seemed to be down the far end, now. Tommy and the defence stood firm, though. Aaron Hughes came on for Bardsley, Gav for Berger and Steven Davis for Maloney.

Rovers hit the bar, we had a couple of breaks, and eventually the game ended. Huge relief was evident amongst the players and fans. A number of the players threw shirts into the away end.

And then the Big Screen showed that the other Claret and Blues, Burnley, had triumphed at the Sty. Further cheering and joy.

We have had far too few of these sort of days in recent seasons, but it was immensely enjoyable.

The only thing left to do was go for some more beer, and then a curry.

Some marks

Tommy - 7 very assured

Bardsley 6 - daft challenge for the pen, otherwise sound. Assist for the goal (Hughes 6).

Bouma - 7. Rovers had no threat to us from his side.

Olly - 7.5

Martin Laursen - 8. Both centre backs did exactly what you want them to.

Craig Gardner - 6. Solid on the right.

Stan Petrov - 6. Sat back a bit, but was tidy and cleaned up a lot and kept the ball.

Gareth Barry - 8. Missed a pen, could have scored a couple more, but played well, as ever.

Patrick Berger - 8.5 MoTM. Superb. Won the ball, held the ball, passed the ball, absolute quality. (Gav 6)

wee Shaun - 6 can be pleased with his efforts (Steven Davis 6)

Gabby 7 - Far, far, better through the middle. Looked confident. Took the goal superbly.

Just a top top day out.

I hope and believe there will be many more to come.

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Good summing up Pete.

Great to meet up with so many VT'ers - now we have faces to names - but boy there are a lot only their mothers could love :-)

Atmosphere at the ground was more like a cup match than a league game. Gabby proved he is a forward, Berger proved he was a great free transfer based on his footballing abilities, Laursen is a very good CH (shame he may well be off at the end of the season), and Maloney is one of those players you would hate to mark.

A very fast :oops: trip back across the penines and back home at quite a reasonable time

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Hooray, was looking for this!

So, is Philadelphia named after Adelphi?

After visiting Germany I now have an easier visual for when your lot talk about train rides. Love hearing about the meat pies.

Up the Villa!

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Excellent trip all around, company was superb, Villa fans the same apart from 2 or 3 idiots who tried to start a wholly inappropriate and wrong song - I blame the beer. Though it was good to see one of them moved in the 2nd half after a 'word'.

I think blandy was a little harsh on three players, namely Petrov, Gardner and wee Shaun who all I thought deserved a 7.

Petrov - was indeed sitting back but like I said last week I think this might be his future role. From there he can spot a pass without the added attention of the opposition.

Gardner - in a position that was unaccustomed to him, he did well to stay out right and not drift in too much. For those who were not there and referred to him as the replacement for Gav, then I'm sorry but not in this role he wouldn't be. His set piece delivery was good.

wee Shaun - played across the front line in the hole. Lively and a right nuisance to t'Rovers defence all day, no wonder he tired before being taken off.

Great day from start to finish, topped off by falling asleep cuddling up with AJ watching MotD!

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MON has just been on the radio, and when questioned on away support he mentioned how pleased he was with the Villa support at this one, and in particular how impressed he and the players had been when they drove into the Blackburn through the Villa throng.

He said they could barely see a Blackburn fan !

I missed the team coach going passed the Fernhurst. (I'm not sure how!) Well done to those of you that sang at it, it looks like the lads were very happy to see you.

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