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And so ends another 90 minute FA Cup run!


John
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So it will need to be seventh time lucky next time (probably in next season’s Third Round!) as Manchester United knocked us out of the FA Cup yesterday for the sixth time since we beat the Busby Babes in the 1957 FA Cup Final.

It’s now been 51 years of hurt since yesterday’s guests of honour Sims, Sewell and McParland, went up to collect their winners’ medals at Wembley. This game had looked increasingly likely to be a stalemate as the game wore on and as time ebbed away in the second half it looked like we would be all too content for my liking with a replay at Old Trafford. Let’s face it Manchester United were far from at their best yesterday. Teams like West Ham occasionally beat them on their off days but history tells us that we do not.

There was not a lot between the two teams for most of this game. Neither side was at their best and it was a scrappy dour encounter that looked like one goal, if it came would be enough to settle it. As the home team, I think we needed to do a little more to try to make it us that opened the scoring, particularly when it became clear that the chasm that had existed between them and us when we met in mid October was not there last night. But, we have competed with them like this and better before only to succumb to late goals. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who feared this may be our fate again last night and that’s why I felt we really needed to do something whilst the likes of Hargreaves and Rooney remained on the bench. But, with them both on, the complexion of the game began to change. We started to come under pressure and in the last nine minutes the inevitable happened. That it happened twice rather than once produced a score that did not reflect the game itself but we have grown accustomed to that as well as to taking such cruel late blows.

Reading and in particular Dave Kitson who said during the week that he could not “give two sh*ts” about the FA Cup have rightly taken a lot of flak for making it so clear that they see the league as being much more important than the FA Cup. But, last night’s attendance which was our second lowest of the season (only our earlier cup defeat at the hands of Leicester attracted less through the turnstiles). Is this a sign that we Villa fans have no interest in the FA Cup either? Or is it that we have had enough of early exits from the competition at the hands of The Red Devils? I think it is the later. The fact that it was available on the television set in everyone’s lounge did not help either nor did it that this is the second of three home games for us in less than a fortnight after Christmas when money is always tight but the crucial issue may be that this was the least likely of these games that we would win and the chances of us winning the FA Cup are considerably less than those of us qualifying for Europe through a place in the top 7. It may also be that like the players we have some difficulty in accepting a game against Manchester United as one we can win. We don’t look at games against Chelsea like that and the day will come that we treat games with Manchester United in the same way as we do games with The Blues. But, it took a couple of wins and good results against Chelsea to achieve that and the sooner these come against yesterday’s opponents the better!

My player ratings from a game that all too predictably ended in another very hard to take FA Cup exit at the hands of Fergie’s Manchester United, that Fabio Capello will have found little evidence to support the England claims of most of our players or of most of those in white shirts come to think of it and that show that we do need to build on what still (to quote a former manager) remains a small squad (albeit a better one) during this window are:

Scott Carson - 6 – Pushed a speculative Ronaldo effort into the path of Giggs who was too shocked to capitalise on this to hit an opener on 43 minutes. Scott was then left fumbling to keep the ball in play on 63 minutes before being relieved to push it out for a corner as an opponent sensed a possible opportunity to take the ball off him inside the box. Scott then made a good double save from Carrick a couple of minutes from the end when he blocked a first effort and then held his second shot after the ball had landed back in Carrick’s path. Did not seem as comfortable as of late and will be unhappy to have conceded two on a day when he was not over worked as will our defence.

Olof Mellberg – 6 – Lost possession for their opener and you still can’t afford to do that with Giggs. Otherwise he gave his usual fully committed performance in his current role.

Curtis Davies – 7 – Looking increasingly comfortable alongside Martin.

Martin Laursen – 7 – Solid at the back and must be attracting a few envious suitors. We really do now need to get him to put pen to paper on a new contract.

Wilfred Bouma – 6 – This would have been another good overall display but for one crucial defensive lapse. He was caught out of position when Ronaldo hit the decisive opener having come onto a cross near the goal line from behind him. He really did need to make that ball his with Carson not in a position to make any stop.

Stiliyan Petrov – 7 – Another encouraging display and he hit a decent effort over the bar from 35 yards out on 12 minutes.

Nigel Reo Coker – 7 – Got his tackles in, kept the midfield solid in his holding position and must have seemed more likely to be effective in an England midfield to the watching Fabio than did the largely ineffective and much higher priced Carrick.

Gareth Barry – 6 – Not at his best last night and did not make his usual impression on a game that we needed all of our big hitters performing at their best to win.

Ashley Young – 6 – He does so much to make us tick, but did not produce his usual bright display last night. Ashley did hit a shot just wide from the edge of the box on 71 minutes but we have become accustomed to more from him than that and he again found difficulty in beating his defender on a regular basis.

John Carew – 6 – Clearly not near to full fitness but John was still our best forward last night. He took the ball inside the box on 34 minutes and hit the side netting with a decent shot. Worked himself into the ground against a more than good central defence.

Gabriel Agbonlahor – 5 – Not at the races last night. This was an opportunity to impress the new England manager and to provide the sort of support and hard intelligent running that might make Big John’s efforts productive. Those opportunities were not taken.

Substitutes:

Luke Moore – 5 – Replaced Big John on 64 minutes and made no real impression on the game.

Shaun Maloney - 6 - Replaced Petrov on 74 minutes. Did reasonably well during the very limited time he had available. Might have started has John not and for me was unlucky not to be the first to be called from the bench.

Craig Gardner – Replaced Bouma on 82 minutes and was left unchallenged 4 minutes later but headed well over the bar when he really should have been on target and at least forced a save. Not on long enough to earn a rating.

Up the Villa and let’s look forward to showing Reading that the league means just as much to us as it does them next weekend (or will they have their minds on their replay)!

John Lewis

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Have to agree with most of your assessment of the game John and the player ratings apart from Gareth Barry's. He was much better than the 6 you gave him. I would give him 8/10 as he bossed the midfield first half and left Ronaldo on the seat of his pants on at least one occasion. Tirelessly he put in the effort and skill (again) which should cement his reputation as being in the England squad and hopefully starting alongside Gerrard in midfield next September. Oh well, at least we can concentrate on the League now. With a couple of quality additions (right back and centre forward) we should have no excuses to push into a top 6 finish as we have no domestic Cups, no European games or African Nations to distract, injure and tire the squad. Roll on the rest of the season I say....!

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Oh well, at least we can concentrate on the League now. With a couple of quality additions (right back and centre forward) we should have no excuses to push into a top 6 finish as we have no domestic Cups, no European games or African Nations to distract, injure and tire the squad. Roll on the rest of the season

Good points VillanTommy. We only have suspensions to worry about and even with our small squad (with a couple of additions) should be in a great position to build on the achievements of the first half of the season.

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