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Match Report: vs Small Heath


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Birmingham City 1 Aston Villa 2

Sunday 11th November 2007

FA Barclays Premiership

St Andrews

Sometimes its best to wait a few hours after the game to write a match report. Emotions can be a bit high, and my head can go a bit fuzzy. Today was one of those occasions.

First, a kind of have something to own up to, I guess. Whilst I fully believe we have mre important games than these against Birmingham, there is something that makes beating them extra special. I don't know what it is, it just puts an extra spring in the step.

Pre Match

I think we all felt the same going into the game. Please don't let one of our players make a silly, awful mistake that costs us the points. Please don't lose. Please, just win.

Which is odd. As for me, we SHOULD be beating a team of poor quality like Birmingham. Especially if we are to meet the ambitions that we are said to have. The fact that they are the local team to us should have no importance at all. But it does.

The only change Villa made from the team that ground out the win against Derby was John Carew making his comeback from injury.

The Goals

Let's start the wrong way around, shall we? Villa's winner, from Gabby Agbonlahor was a shining example of how far he had come since, well, even last year. Question marks were still up against him - he was ligtening quick but with the ball at his feet and using his strength there were concerns. Both have stadily improved and at the moment I'd say he is performing as well as any other English striker.

Luke Moore, a sub on for Carew held the ball well and released to Young on the Left. Young put in a perfect cross and Gabby got in front of Ridgewell and got a well placed head onto the ball. Taylor struggled for a position in the goal and the Villa fans, team (and probably staff too) went mental. They had got three points, when only one minute earlier it looked like it'd be a five minute struggle to keep hold onto a draw.

Small Heath had equalised in the second half, with Forsell, a player who when fit is far too good for them, got a powerful header onto the tricky De Ridder's cross. Forsell found himself in acres of space between Laursen and Knight, the former was only just arriving in the six yard box.

But the best goal came within ten minutes of the start of the game. Much had been made of Liam Ridgewell playing in his first Birmingham derby for the dark side. For all his defensive problems, he'll get you a fair few goals at the other end, and many fans from both teams fancied Liam to get a goal today. What many didn't expect him to do though, was just stand there and look at the ball when Petrov put in a superbly dangerous cross after outwitting Kapo. Petrov, again, had a fine game and when everyone around him wanted to hoof, he took the ball, kept it simple and passed to a team mate. Had Gabby not had such an important two minutes towards the end, Stan would be my man of the match. His delight when Ridgewell managed to score his eighth goal for Villa was superb - it proved to his detractors that yes, he does care, yes, he does want to have success at Villa, and the last few games have proved that yes, he does have the talent to achieve that.

Thoughts on the performance

We had some very, very good chances. Put it this way, we had more chances from where you could realistically see a goal coming from. Gabby had a chance to make it two just before half time, and Nigel Reo-Coker managed to totally screw up a volley into a nearly empty net. Nigel once again swapped to the right with Petrov coming inside during the second half, and the poor bloke was knackered after 75 minutes. He ran his legs into the ground though, and hwen a player is putting in that much effort, you can't criticise. Also, in a game you'd have put him down to be a certain yellow card, he didn't pick one up. In fact, I can't remember one mis-placed tackle.

I am absolutely delighted with the result. I'm really, really happy. However (and you knew that was coming), had that second goal not come five minutes before the end, I think the Villa team would be fcing a fair bit more criticism. The main complaint for me, is that whilst we were clearly the better team with regards to talent, for long periods of the ame the team resorted to the long ball hoof. And it wasn't working - it was just giving the opponents the ball back. When we did get our feet on the ball, got Petrov, Young and Barry involved in the play, then we looked dangerous. But for too long we often looked like we were struggling to create anything.

We did, however, do enough to win the game. Which seems to be a returning theme over recent weeks. And I don't care how we win, as long as we do.

The Ref

Much has been made over the refereeing performance. Mainly coming from the mouth of a manager who says he doesn't moan, but......and then moans. Still, if I was a manager of a poor team, struggling to get points and my position was in trouble (especially with a new owner who appears to be volatile at times), then I would look for other things to blame.

Steve Bennett wasn't a great choice for this game. He likes to flourish cards, but at least he was consistent. Gareth Barry was carded early on for the first mis-timed challenge and from then on he carded for any similar foul.

There are two penalty calls which Bruce is particulary miffed about. The first, is where Zat Knight appears to move his arm toward the ball to put it under control. It happened on the edge of the box - literally on the line. Bennett gave nothing - perhaps one can argue that he let them play on and Jerome went on to strike a shot at goal. I don't know - I think we were lucky with that one.

The second seems to have caused most trouble, but I can't understand why. Laursen makes what only can be described as a rash challenge on De Ridder, so rash that he seems to completely miss both the player and ball. At worse, Laursen's boot grazed alongside De Ridder's boot - but it was nothing that could put the player off his stride. Yet, once De Ridder realised what had happened, the literally threw himself to the ground. Bennett blew and gave De Ridder a yellow for diving. It was a close one - we've had worse given against us before, that's for sure. And perhaps, if the winger hadn't thrown himself to the floor so dramatically, exaggerating his fall, then he may have got something. So a valuable lesson there. Cheating never pays off.


How long have we got?


The very direct style of play seems to give the opposition a bit of help now and again. Still, if we keep the wins coming...

The Opposition

Has fight, but little skill. In three months time they could be a very different team, with a very different structure. Whether that's good or bad for them - who knows? And who cares? And I'm not sure their new captain, Liam Ridgewell, who may have failed to win over some fans due to his connection with us, will do next to win back the affections of his own fans. Lets face it, this is their biggest game of the season, and he handed us a great start.

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Don't forget Special Agent Ridgewell was also marking Gabby for our second goal :nod:

Good report John, completely agree about Petrov coming back into the team and showing what he can do, like you say if it wasn't for Gabby's antics towards the end of the match he'd probably have been my MOM for the third game running

Lets hope we can gain some more confidence as a team with this result against the axis of evil and get another three points on the road at smogsville

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I enjoyed that report - pretty much agree with it all - except one major thing which seems to have gradually been gaining momentum in some quarters - we do not use the long ball excessively !!

I agree that when we do we look less effective, but if you look at the stats we are in the bottom 6 in use of the long ball. I accept stats don't mean everything but it is simply the case that we use it at rare times tactically and at other times like other teams as a get out.

Anyway, those 6 more points than last year are looking good so far....

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