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Not so happy Hammers!


John
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Please excuse my belated player ratings from Saturday’s game which are posted so late due to the sad demise of my old PC.

Villa sent West Ham home with their third successive league defeat and our impressive league form continues largely unchecked. We produced a good first half and although West Ham had much of the second we managed to hold onto a goal lead much more comfortable than we had a 3-goal one in mid-week. Although our stay in fifth place will only be fleeting most of the teams up until today have played the same number of games as us so it is not a false position.

Nice to see a 40,000 crowd but it was not so nice to see the reception given to our 78th minute substitute. This was not spitting Savo coming on or Steve Hodge or a badge kissing Dwight Yorke. This was a current Villa player who Martin chose to bring into the fray with Gardner tiring and to boo him questions Martin’s decision and only helps the opposition. All Petrov is guilty of is not looking like the player we had thought we had signed from Celtic this time last year. He came to us with a big reputation and looked to be money well spent during his early games last season. But, since then his form has been disappointing not just to us, but no doubt to him and to the manager that brought him here. Some might question whether he can cut it in this league which is clearly more demanding than the one he came from. The jury is still out on that, although he is an established international and might reasonably have been expected to settle in a little faster as a result than our other Celtic import. Homesickness is also not the same problem for Stiliyan as it is for a Scotsman who journeys down south; his words show nothing other than a commitment to succeed in a Villa shirt. What I would suggest is that we need is to show the same encouragement to both of these Celtic imports, who have for differing reasons found difficulty in making the change from the green hoops to the claret and blue shirts.

My player ratings from a game that took us into the top 5 albeit only for 24 hours are:

Scott Carson - 6 – Little to do but what he had to deal with he dealt with well, such as on 55 minutes when he stopped a close range Cole effort, when an equalizer had looked likely if anyone other than Cole had been on the end of it.

Olof Mellberg – 6 – Found his makeshift role more difficult today and Etherington had him for pace more than once. A dodgy header back to Carson on 37 minutes might have caused problems but he was first to get to the loose ball to clear the danger.

Zat Knight – 6 – Solid enough and works well alongside Laursen. Might have done better on 85 minutes with a free header from close range that was guided straight into Green’s hands.

Martin Laursen – 8 – MOTM – Another tremendous display and a passable John Wile/Terry Butcher impersonation when he came back on after injury with a bandaged head.

Wilfred Bouma – 7 – So solid again.

Craig Gardner – 7 – Another goal from a free kick on 24 minutes when his shot from the edge of the box was deflected past Green and into the corner of the net by Gabbidon. Nice to see us making these free kicks pay at long last. Looked very effective in the first half.

Nigel Reo-Coker – 7 – Our strongest influence in the middle yesterday and hit a decent effort on 11 minutes that Green stopped. Managed to stay focused and avoided getting involved in the squabbles that his former team and particularly Bowyer tried to tempt him into.

Gareth Barry – 6 – Not quite as effective as of late and that will no doubt have been noted by the watching England manager who must be desperate for a reason to not start him.

Ashley Young – 8 – Must have impressed the watching England boss. Our main threat up front by some distance hits such inviting crosses.

Luke Moore – 5 – We know he has ability, he knows it and so does Martin. But, it has to be worked at and shown on a regular basis to hold onto the shirt even when competition for it is limited. Badly needs a goal or two to up his confidence level.

Gabriel Agbonlahor – 6 – Hit a shot at Green’s legs on 84 minutes but was pretty well handled by their central defence.

Substitutes:

Shaun Maloney - 7 - Replaced Luke on 66 minutes and played his part in eating the minutes up in that corner as the game just drifted away from Curbs and his Eastenders. Made his usual good contribution when coming off the bench and may now be worth a start.

Stiliyan Petrov – 6 – Did nothing wrong after he replaced Gardner on 78 minutes.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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