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Bring on Derby and then our local derby!


John
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We came into March playing like lions and came out of it having spent the rest of the month playing like lambs. The new month and this win it brought could not have come soon enough!

This convincing win has pushed us back above Blackburn and back into the driving seat for Intertoto qualification. It has also done our neighbours a very big favour as they limp towards safety on the backs of the performances of others. But, enough of them, we may have helped them yesterday but they cannot expect any help from us when they arrive at Villa Park a fortnight from today.

Before yesterday’s game a lot of us had felt that this might be a difficult one after our last couple of inept home performances. The first goal was crucial as was the second which followed a rare decent period from our relegation haunted opponents. So we got the goals when we needed them and the points that came with them that should allow us to put last month behind us and move towards and past our 60 point barrier.

This was also another good attendance. Had a lot of fans bought tickets in advance or are we not so fickle after all and why were there spaces where Bolton fans should have been (have they given up on their team already)? I think Martin can take a fair bit of credit for this one. He might not have made wholesale changes (our squad size does not allow for that) but he changed a couple of things and we looked a much different team yesterday to the one that turned in none performances in our last two home games following that.

My player ratings from a game that brought an end to thoughts of a premature end to our season are:

Scott Carson - 6 – A welcome clean sheet at long last. But, Scott still had a shaky 50th minute during some rare Bolton pressure when he diverted a cross just wide that looked until then as if he had put it in and he then missed the resultant corner.

Olof Mellberg – 6 – An early mistake on 6 minutes could have gifted Bolton the lead and put a much different complexion on this game but although his header back towards goal went straight to an opponent he did not pay the penalty and went on to have a solid enough game.

Zat Knight – 6 – One obvious moment of hesitation inside our box on 35 minutes but was otherwise pretty solid when called upon.

Martin Laursen – 7 – A solid enough display but he has still not found the exemplary form he had demonstrated so consistently this season before his contract was signed. Martin hit the post on 37 minutes from a tight angle (particularly for a central defender) after their keeper had pushed the ball into his path.

Wilfred Bouma – 7 – Our best defender yesterday and at times he looked outstanding. Is it not time we got his contract sorted so this can become a position we will have resolved before the window opens? As Olof has shown players with this sort of pedigree do tend to attract the attention of foreign clubs when they enter the last year of their contracts.

Stiliyan Petrov – 8 – On any other day this would have been a man of the match performance but our captain’s display led to Stiliyan coming a close second this time although he did look good throughout and pinged some lovely passes around. He clearly enjoyed the extra time that this deeper position provided him with and gave the sort of performance that shows why Martin had been so keen to get him on board from Celtic. It was very nice to see him get such a good reception on being substituted and he now needs to maintain that level of performance in what is left of the season and to get a run in this role.

Nigel Reo Coker – 6 – Seemed to enjoy the more forward role that he had made it clear he wanted recently and Martin was not slow to offer him this chance to show he can fill this position. Forced a save from their keeper before we scored our third after Gabby had found him having himself been found by a super pass from Petrov. But, then earned a silly booking that could prove costly with the game already decided.

Gareth Barry – 8 – MOTM – Two goals and two assists, a fantasy football manager’s dream! Young’s pin point cross found him on 9 minutes and his header found the net off Al Habsi’s leg. His second was a shot on demand from the Holte End that was deflected past the keeper on the hour mark. His was a strong performance and the fact that he was so involved in all 4 of our goals shows how important his contribution was.

Ashley Young – 8 – Back to something very near his best and he was far too hot for Bolton to hold. Good runs and silky skills. When Ashley ticks then so do we.

John Carew – 6 – Did some good work but this was another quiet game from the big man. However, his fitness for this one had been in more than a little doubt during the week and this might explain why his contribution was less than he would have wanted. We might just need those Norwegian Villains to make plans to get over for our next home game to ensure that John will be back to his very best as he was when they last made their presence felt at the Newcastle game.

Gabriel Agbonlahor – 7 – Much better than of late particularly after he got a much needed goal which should help his confidence level in the coming games. Made a couple of good speedy runs and applied the finish to Barry’s fine cross for our second on 56 minutes after an excellent move that had began near our own penalty area and that was so well worked and smooth in the build-up.

Substitutes:

Marlon Harewood – 7 – Replaced Carew on 78 minutes after he had taken a knock and The Hare was fed by Barry and scored our fourth on 85 minutes when left unmarked, leaving their keeper leaden footed with a header that nestled into the corner of the net.

Patrik Berger - Made no impression on this rare run out when he replaced Ashley Young on 83 minutes and looked like he needed longer than 10 minutes to get up to speed given that he has seen so little first team action this season.

Wayne Routledge – Replaced Petrov on 86 minutes. Not on long enough to rate but he did look lively on his introduction and I expect he will have opportunities to show us more in what remains of this season.

Up the Villa and good luck to Peter Enckelman later today!

John Lewis

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2 goals and 2 assists for an 8/10 harsh i reckon, good performance though, how did NRC perform i didnt notice him as much

I might have given him a 9 if he had scored a hat-trick shortshadyuk :winkold: Reo started well but did fade a little and needs to cut out the silly bookings as we can't afford to have our best players sitting in the stand in the run-in.

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Petrov – 8 – . He clearly enjoyed the extra time that this deeper position provided him with and gave the sort of performance that shows why Martin had been so keen to get him on board from Celtic.

This is a puzzler fo me, as to why it has taken MON so long to realise that this is where he is most comfortable in the PL.

Playing in the SPL is different - the standard is so far below the PL level that Stan could shine in a more forard role.

In the PL, where the standard is far higher, he needs that little bit of extra time & space that playing a bit deeper gives him. When he played the "anchor" role towards the end of last season, he performed really well there, and it allowed GB a bit of extra licence to rove.

The problem with all this is, where does it leave NRC.

Also, we shoudl remember that this was "only" Notlob.

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I think Gabby should be deducted a point for that awful celebration

Kept watching it back on Prem plus....hilarious....not quite Nani, Benjani or Martins, more like Eddy the Eagle Edwards

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The problem with all this is, where does it leave NRC

I think playing further forward in the midfield which is what he had told Martin he wanted to do Jon, I agree 100% with your other observations.

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I think Gabby should be deducted a point for that awful celebration.

I thought I would let him off just this once as it has been a while since he had one to cellebrate. :winkold:

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This is a puzzler fo me, as to why it has taken MON so long to realise that this is where he is most comfortable in the PL.

Now he just needs to realise Gardner is better than NRC and we're sorted :D

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