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Storm - Stoke Away Report


blandy
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My first visit to Stoke's "New" ground - I'd been to the old one a few times, and used to quite like it. The Britannia Stadium, today at least, was an impressive sight.

You know what you're going to get when you go to a newly promoted team's first game at home. You're going to get a belting atmosphere from the fans, fired up players, playing like their lives depend on it, and you're probably going to get a few goals.

We had all that, today.

The one thing you hope for when you go to such places is a good refereeing performance. We didn't get that. We got Mark Bloody Halsey.

The first thing to report on is the lack of parking anywhere near the ground. I eventually parked about 2 miles or so away in the town centre. No time for any beer, though to be honest Stoke doesn't look the sort of place you'd want to linger for a pint, on a matchday.

Anyway, to the game. Villa started with the same team as last week, but in our new black and blue away kit. Ashley Young in particular would have felt it appropriate, as he'll be bruised to bits after some mostly unpunished rough treatment. A marked man in more ways than one.

The first 20 minutes of the game was largely all Stoke, with long throws, long balls and mainly attacks down our right hand side. We'd seemed to have weathered the storm and had started coming into the game more, despite looking out of sorts in a number of positions - Gareth Barry in the centre, NRC on the right, and Gabby, Ash and Big John not getting much ball.

Stoke had put a number of balls into the box, mostly dealt with under some pressure, and we'd had just a nice turn and shot narrowly wide from Carew. Then Gabby broke free, seemed to be bundled over from behind, but my view was partially obscured and it was down at the far end. I could clearly se the ref, badly positioned, also with his view obscured, completely, by several players. Because of his poor positioning he couldn't have given us the pen, and the Lino was inert. People with a better view than me thought it should have been given.

In Stoke's next attack, one of their players tumbled on the edge of our box. Halsey didn't give a pen, rightly I think, but I half expected him to.

The ball wriggled about, trying to escape from all the players trying to hack at it. Brad nearly got to it, but GB, then Nicky Shorey got it. Shorey was hacked down. No foul given - then a Stoke player caught his legs round Shorey and fell over. Halsey was crouched there, itching to give a pen. So he did.

It was well taken. Brad almost got there, but it just beat him. The Stoke fans "Delilah'ed" their happiness. Villa fumed at the injustice.

Half time thoughts were that we'd been rubbish and Stoke's impetus, if not their quality, probably deserved to see them in front. During the first half, with NRC so ineffective on the right, MO'N had re-arranged things after about half an hour, with Ash going right, GB to the left and NRC into the middle. Truth be told only Stan Petrov, who was excellent throughout the game, had shown much in the midfield for us.

The second half saw us come back out as we had started, with GB back in the middle and NRC on the right. But we were much better and managed to play the ball around, getting more service to the forwards.

We equalised with a lovely goal. Combination play, possession, movement and trickery eventually saw Ash back heel for Carew's run and finish. Quality goal. Now the ground reverberated to the noise from the away section.

We were playing with much more confidence and belief, but then a loose pass from Barry, Stoke picked the ball up and ran at the empty left back position - Shorey having gone off injured, I presume. Routledge coming onto the right, Luke Young moved to LB and NRC to RB. Anyway, whoever the Stoke player was scored a cracking goal - with a fantastic turn past Laursen and a hard finish into the corner.

Stokies "Delilah'ed" again, but were hardly through the chorus when we equalised for the second time. A set piece goal, but not of our usual quality. Ash's delivery was mostly poor today, and this was too, but Barry got a shot in, from the mishit freekick and Laursen, I think tapped in the rebound.

Both teams were still trying to win it, and from one of a succession of long throws, Stoke did, with the last kick of the game.

So what have we found out about Villa?

Not a lot that we didn't know already, perhaps. We can score goals, but we let too many in. We don't keep the ball well enough throughout games. We desperately need a right midfielder/winger. Stilian Petrov is a quality player, and has now played very well for 2 games in a row. Gareth Barry is also quality but played a part in conceding 2 of our goals. He needs to get his mind straight.

What of Stoke? - I was impressed by the support they got - much different to the sterile atmosphere you get at many grounds, from the home fans. The players will need that support, because they're not all Premiership standard. They were well organised, and have simple but effective plan. They remind me a lot of Sheffield United under Warnock, not just because of the strip. I couldn't help but feel some empathy with them - it was their big day, or the first of many, and they won. Well done to them. I wonder if they'll struggle away from home, though.

What about Halsey? Once upon a time it used to be an accepted and widely pronounced opinion that "English refs are the best in the world". Now everyone keeps very quiet on that front. And Halsey is one of the reasons. He doesn't deserve the accusation of "cheat", that's unfair, but he needs to cut out his tendency to want to be "part of the story". Frankly if we never have the bloke ref'ing us again, it'll be too soon. We've had far too many of his "look at me" moments for it to be co-incidence. He surely must be like that to every team.... mustn't he?

Marks

Brad - 5

Luke Young - 6

Curtis - 6

Martin Laursen 6

Nicky Shorey 7 (Routledge 6)

NRC - 4

GB - 6

Stan Petrov - 7

Ashley Young - 6

Big John - 7

Gabby - 5

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Hey, Im a Stoke fan. Im not here to slag you off or anything stupid like that, because i really dont see the point...and im only 15.

Im the odd Stokie that can be nice.

I just want to thank you guys, and your team for a cracking game of football.

Its been years since ive seen such a well played, end to end match.

You played a blinder to come back twice, and that shows great spirit. So well done on that.

I will admit one thing however, i agree with you guys on the penalty decision, although i have seen softer penalties given.

Congratulations on your murdering of Man City, and very good luck for the rest of the season. You guys should finish high with the team you have.

Tom.

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Good read that report, cheers.

Did a wedding in stoke last week... started grim, well it looked grim when i got there but the people soon warmed the day up. Then it tipped it down on the way home, oh stoke. I don't wanna go there unless I'm being paid :D

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We equalised with a lovely goal. Combination play, possession, movement and trickery eventually saw Ash back heel for Carew's run and finish. Quality goal. Now the ground reverberated to the noise from the away section. ????? Well taken but we gifted you the ball from Delap

No mention of the definite handball by Petrov/Laursen in the 2nd half for a penalty then, Halsall the worst ref going then was he?

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We equalised with a lovely goal. Combination play, possession, movement and trickery eventually saw Ash back heel for Carew's run and finish. Quality goal. Now the ground reverberated to the noise from the away section. ????? Well taken but we gifted you the ball from Delap

No mention of the definite handball by Petrov/Laursen in the 2nd half for a penalty then, Halsall the worst ref going then was he?

yes, even then.

Halsey has a bit of history with us, my man.

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