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Player Match Ratings: Massive club defeats little club!


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Our first penalty of the season brought us our first goal in the last 15 minutes of a game this season and our first league win of 2015. It stopped the rot and brought to an end our embarrassing runs of 7 successive league defeats and of 12 league games without a win.


Let us hope that league wins prove to be like London buses for us and that having waited ages for one three come along at once.  


We hit 2 goals for only the third time this season and took our goal tally up to 15. Our first win in 7 league games also gave our new boss his first league win and took us out of the bottom 3.


Our penalty winner may have come very late but it would have been a travesty had WBA taken a point given the game could have been finished as a contest at half time had we had the rub of the green. Their equalizer came from their only shot on target. Given we scored 2, hit a post and had another 2 efforts scrambled off the line we were very worthy winners and recipients of all 3 points.   


We threatened to blow WBA away during a first half that we dominated with some of the best football seen at Villa Park from us or indeed from any of our visitors this season. This was a game that we showed we wanted to win the most. But in the second half no doubt stung by some choice words from their boss during the interval The Baggies pressed us more and we allowed them to come into the game. They then claimed a soft equalizer on 66 minutes and our players naturally were deflated by being pegged back having put so much into the game. But we did not surrender and emerged victorious having rallied and gone again for the win when the game having opened up looked to be drifting towards a draw. 


We face the same opponents at the weekend. Not only does that present us with an opportunity to appear at Wembley in an FA Cup Semi-Final it also gives us the chance to win a second ding-dong derby within a week. By putting two wins together it will also give us some level of confidence to take into our crucial next ten league games. Bring them on!         


My player ratings from a game that lifted us 3 points clear of the bottom 3 but left our blood pressures at a dangerously high level are:


Brad Guzan – 6 – An evening when he was rarely called upon to do his stuff.                                                           


Alan Hutton – 7 – Another whole hearted performance at the back and when going forward which he frequently did. Such a pity that the red mist descended on him again on 88 minutes when he earned his 10th booking of the season and a 2-game ban that we can ill afford. He followed through with his boot pushed into Berahino’s stomach and then stupidly twice went head to head with him when the forward reacted to this which left the referee with no alternative than to reach for a card.                           


Ciaran Clark – 8 – He has become so valuable to us and this was another exemplary display of central defending at its best.  


Jores Okore – 7 – Might have been punished on another day for gifting the ball twice near the edge of his box to Gardner on 3 minutes and then Morrison 41 minutes later but fortunately nothing came from either mistake. His was otherwise a solid defensive display and he got an important touch on 70 minutes to a Morrison cross that was aimed for the waiting Ideye who otherwise looked likely to at least test Guzan if not to put them ahead.                            


Matt Lowton – 6 – It was he who was felled for our late penalty by Foster when he raced off his line to offer us a late match winning opportunity and to complete what was almost a man of the match display for us from their keeper. Did well enough given he was again filling a position that is not his own through necessity but Matt is likely to get an opportunity on the right side now due to Hutton’s suspension.                


Charles N’Zogbia – 7 – A surprisingly good contribution particularly during the first half given some of his previous performances. Ran at defenders and looked for the ball prior to his substitution.      


Ashley Westwood - 6 – Worked hard throughout.                                      


Fabian Delph – 7 – Very unlucky in first half stoppage time to see a curled shot from the edge of the box that had Foster beaten strike the post. This was a solid midfield display which was his best since he signed his new contract. Fab found space as well as his man on a regular basis and kept us moving with purpose.       


Tom Cleverley – 7 – Hit a speculative shot from 30 yards over the bar on 20 minutes which did not trouble the keeper. But he worked hard throughout and continued to show the improvement in his game we have witnessed of late.     


Gabriel Agbonlahor – 8 – MOTM – Might on another day have claimed a first half hat-trick but he did score our vital opener. He ran on to receive a flick from a Guzan clearance off Benteke before outpacing Lescott and hitting the ball between the advancing Foster’s legs and into the net on the 22nd minute. Gabby had earlier been found in the centre of the penalty box by Benteke on 14 minutes. He turned well and hit a shot which Foster fumbled and allowed to run through his legs before he got a hand back to hook it off the line with most but sadly not quite the entire ball having crossed the line. Six minutes after he had scored N’Zogbia touched the ball to him and he again ran clear only to be felled by the advancing Foster inside the box a moment after clipping the ball past him. The ball had taken a slight touch off the keeper which slowed it down just enough to enable Lescott to clear it off the line.  


Gabby often saves his best for local derbies during which he also often scores. He repeated the trick yesterday particularly in the first half when his pace and runs proved too hot for the Albion defence to handle. It is more than a little infuriating that outstanding performances like this one demonstrate just how effective he can be for us when he is up for it but that this happens so rarely. Now is the time to reproduce something like this level of performance on a regular basis which would see him playing a big part in maintaining our top flight status.         


Christian Benteke – 6 – Again looked some way off his very best other of course than when he made two crucial contributions to our win with an assist for our first and a late penalty conversion of his own for our second. Christian settled the game with a second half penalty as he had done last season’s game at Villa Park. He showed his was possibly the only cool head in the ground when he made a stuttering run and stroked the ball into the right side of the net with confidence after Foster had made a move to the other side.         




Jack Grealish – 6 - Replaced N’Zogbia on 59 minutes. This was a high pressure game and one that it was always going to prove difficult for Jack to come on and make a big impression in but he did well enough in the time he had available. He was in the right place at the right time on 72 minutes when he connected with a Hutton cross but he was unable to get quite enough on the ball that went straight to a grateful Foster. But he did so well to win the ball back and was then brought down near the edge of the box for Leo’s free kick which is described below.  


Leandro Bacuna – Replaced Cleverley on 77 minutes. Did not have sufficient time to earn a rating but did squander a late free kick which he hit harmlessly off target with several players up and waiting for a good delivery into the box.


Andreas Weimann – Replaced Gabby on 82 minutes. Andi was not on long enough to gather any rating.    


Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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