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Villa break their hoodoo in the capital


blandy
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Spurs 1 – 2 Villa by Roonst83

Why oh why did I send back my ticket for this game? Id’ve happily enjoyed the walk home from North London to my home in Bromsgrove – because tonight I'm a very happy man. Not only have Villa got a vital (are they always vital) 3 points away from home, but we have exorcised some demon’s tonight.

I remember about this time last year when we played Spurs at their pace on their 100th Anniversary I believe –and after going 1-4 up we gave the game away and buckled under pressure. There was always going to be pressure tonight because of that and the commentator on Setanta Sports (poor man’s sky to be fair) didn’t do my nerves any favour by constantly reminding us of how the game finished up last year. But today we stood up and were counted and gave a fantastic performance against a strong Spurs team – no matter what anyone says about the absence of Berbatov, Keane or Defoe from Spurs’ line up – they had a team out tonight that they were confident could overcome us. However I feel this game was won predominantly in the midfield.

The midfield today were excellent. Let’s start with Gareth Barry. He was short of match fitness as we all know but having had 2 solid games for our country he came back to his club tonight and played extremely well again – his fantastic turning of the two spurs players leaving them for dead on the touchline as he set up Ashley young for our second goal fully justified why we worked so hard to keep this man. He has the capability to run the show and although he didn’t so much do that singlehandedly tonight, he still showed many moments of calmness and excellence with the ball. But our midfield worked tremendously as a unit – Petrov and an unsung hero again, he is slowly starting to win back all the fans who gave him a hard time of late. His performances so far this season have been the best I have seen from him, and in my opinion he has been our most consistent performer. This guy could’ve easily threw the towel in in the summer and thought 2eniugh’s enough2. He didn’t. Instead he has shown great determination and talent in almost securing his place in the midfield for the foreseeable future. He works very well with Barry, braking up the play well and getting stuck in there when required.

Nigel Reo-Coker was fantastic for us today too, showing his great engine, drive and determination, as we have come to expect from him since his arrival. Right side of midfield is not his ideal position, it is not his best position, but nevertheless he kept our record signing on the bench tonight with his fantastic performance. I was thinking before the game its about time Nigel grabbed a goal for us and after good work down the left by Agbonlahor sending a dangerous low cross across the spurs defence, Nigel was there and although people may say it was a chance that he really shouldn’t miss, any of you at Blues away last year will justify that he is sometimes liable to miss these chances when they rarely fall to him. Tonight he adjusted his body perfectly and side-footed the ball into the corner of the goal. Fantastic, nothing more than he has deserved all season.

The goal came at a great time for us, it enabled us to settle a bit especially as Spurs were putting some pressure on us from the off with some dangerous crosses which were effectively dealt with by our sturdy defence. After going one-nil up we then gained much more confidence which seemed to spread throughout our players, Laursen attempting a wonder goal from 40 yards, and then reo-coker put in a lovely cross which Barry did very well to get his head to, but the defender looked to have put him off somewhat and the desired power of the attempt wasn’t there –however the Spur’s goalkeeper still had to claw it out. More was to come as we piled on more pressure, another cross from Nigel resulted in hitting the post, and Gabby went close after a dangerous corner had seemed to have been cleared by the erratic ‘keeper in the Spurs net only for Shorey to cleverly loft the ball towards the goal where Gabby headed towards the goal only for the keeper to save his side from conceding again. Gabby should’ve scored.

With the many chances Villa had of adding to their shoreline, it would have been unfair in anyone’s eyes for Spurs to have grabbed an equaliser, but football isn’t fair – as all teams understand. But for the pressure Spurs put on us in the closing stages of the first half, sending many crosses towards our goal, having corner after corner –we showed that our defence were up to the task, have got their act together and bonded as a unit – as all four of Laursen, Davies, Shorey and Luke Young stood up to any challenge thrown at them. Laursen and Davies in particular looked calm and unphased, clearing any danger.

Half time was sanctuary and we went into the break with a one goal lead.

Now the second half was never going to be a half where I could sit relaxed, sipping my tea and enjoying the game. I can’t, not with last season’s fixture between us and Spurs still very much in my head – and my ears thanks to the commentator. We seemed to sit back a little deeper in the second half although looked lively on the counter attack. Gabby and Young using their speed and skill respectively when we drove forwards. Spurs threw on Bentley at the break and I was worried by this. He is a terrific player and is a signing that I was really hoping for when the transfer window was open. Indeed, he threatened on a few occasions with one or two crosses (which arguably he is as good as Beckham at) and a nice skilful turn and shot from the edge of the area which thankfully sailed over. Spurs were not threatening; it was honestly on until the 65th minute or so when my friend accompanying me with in watching the game remarked how poor pavlyuchenko was that I asked “is he playing?” I wasn’t being sarcastic, I had honestly not remembered hearing his name since Steve McManaman had mentioned him prior to the start. This again showed how well we were obviously playing.

Barry displayed just why he is sharper in the brain than most in the league when he brilliantly turned two spurs players in one go at the touchline deep into our own half – as he span away leaving his opposing players for dust he found Young on the half way line – then followed a confident and dazzling run which as Ashley Young strode through the Spurs defence and shaped up on the edge of the area to shoot – at which point I thought he had taken too long and I shouted he should have passed, luckily for me he didn’t and unfortunately for Spurs Ashley Young fired at Gomes who let the ball slip under his body – Young ran off to celebrate with the rest of the team in front of the truly magnificent Villa fans who were going crazy for our second goal.

Carew hobbled off injured which I still haven’t heard the latest news on how bad his injury was, but from how he looked, id be surprised if he was starting at The Hawthorns on Sunday. Milner was thrown on as his replacement and perhaps this was a difficult game to come into, with Spurs trying to pressure us and us defending a bit deep. He seemed a little sluggish to begin with, sometimes trying to do too much with ball when a simple pass was the better option. Nigel too was guilty of this once or twice in the second half – perhaps I’m being overly critical but I wasn’t sitting too comfortably despite our decent lead and it seemed like every time we gave the ball away I would fear the worse. I should have had more faith with our defence – but last season’s fixture was very much in my mind and I was at Stoke this season and that late winner will take some time before it is erased out of my thoughts this season. With that in mind, I forgive myself for being so worried.

We then sat very deep and allowed Spurs to pressure us more than I would have liked. We were looking tired, our midfielders especially. However our defence was still has sharp as it was from the very first minute – and special praise to Nicky Shorey who made one or two fine tackles in very dangerous places- one in particular when he bravely threw himself towards a powerful shot at goal by a Spurs player whose name I have forgotten. The former England fullback went up in my estimations tonight as I haven’t been overly impressed with his performances so far this season – but credit to him he played remarkably, along with the rest of his team at the back four.

At this point my nerves were ok, I wasn’t too worried, dare I say – we were sensibly being cautious not to go full pelt in search for our third goal and leave ourselves open at the back – instead we were waiting to break up any spur’s pressure and send our superbly rapid forward players on their way with various counter attacks – Gabby twice being sent down the left and in the first instance he really should have put Young through to try and wrap the game up, but we agreed (in my lounge) that he was on his weaker foot and perhaps lost confidence in his ability to put it on a plate, that and the fact that once he stops to think about what to do next, he usually struggles. Bale to be fair put in a great challenge to put the ball out for a corner. One player who didn’t put in a great challenge was Matthew Dawson who deliberately and quite viciously sent Ashley Young flying through the air with a powerful foul on the winger. Now I’m not saying that Dawson deserved a red card for that challenge – it wasn’t, it was a yellow card, but in light of recent refereeing decisions over the weekend with John Terry receiving a straight red for much less and Vidic getting cautioned for an elbow to the face, there is case for an argument that had it been another ref (Halsey for example) then the Spurs defender may have been sent off the field. But as I mentioned, it wasn’t a sending off offence, and the game is better when there 11 men on each side contesting, but I was worried about Ashley. Fortunately the replay showed that he was caught on the thigh and if anything he would have suffered a dead leg. Ashley got up and seemed to be nursing his forearm, which was probably caused when he fell from the air.

As the minutes ticked on, Spurs gave themselves a lifeline with a fortuitous goal as Jenas volleyed the ball at goal only for it to be heading well wide and hit the very quiet Darren Bent as he attempted to get out of the way, on the shins and deflected past Friedel. Oh no, this was not what we needed.

Everyone in my lounge gathering around the TV felt that the inevitable was about to happen - flashes of last season equaliser from Kaboul were going through my mind every time the ball was thrown into our area. Harewood was thrown on (prior to the goal) and it was mentioned that he was the prime culprit for letting back into the game with a ridiculous foul on Defoe in last season’s thriller. Spurs came at us, but we dealt with everything, they had one or two corners as we reached the 90th minute which again, save for one or two fortunate bounces on our part, we dealt with. Then we had our moment to wrap up the game and ensure all 3 points, yet another counter attack coming as a result of some terrific defending on the edge of our box, the ball was played out to Milner by Barry (I think) who found the new £12m signing in plenty of space. Milner ran towards goal and lashed a shot towards Gomes who parried the ball towards the substitute Craig Gardner who did as well as he could have in attempting to put the ball in the net only for his effort to be deflected into the path of Harewood who from only 6yardswith the goal at his mercy and the keeper absent somehow didn’t get ball in the net as he side slide kicked the ball against the on rushing Spurs defender who blocked the shot with his body by throwing himself as a last ditch bid to rescue his team. Greta defending or very poor miss? Ill go for the latter, it should have been 3. The chance had gone begging and I was left cursing the missed opportunity and had a terrible gut wrenching feeling that Harewood would again be at fault for us losing points for the second year running at White Hart Lane. More pressure from Spurs who were getting urged on from the crowd (who were mostly quiet and perhaps more accurately nervous all game) - those who still remained that is. More crosses were thrown in and dealt with by the boys in claret and blue. The referee Steve Bennett didn’t seem to want to blow his whistle and we were clueless as to how much stoppage time was out up by the fourth official as Setanta decided not to show us for some reason, which didn’t help the my nerves. But to the relief of my lounge and all the Villa fans at the game, along with the staff and probably players, the referee ended the game and we had recorded our first victory in London for 4 years – a statistic that whilst shocked me when I heard it today nevertheless felt fantastic to overcome.

We were victorious and all nerves turned into jubilation as we watched the whole team run to our fantastic support – who sold out their allocation which is a great feat on a wet Monday night in North London with the game being televised. We are fast getting a reputation for having one of the top support away from home, both in numbers and in voice. It was a great picture seeing Nigel Reo-Coker throwing his shirt into the crowd and in particular seeing Martin O’Neill run to the villa faithful and salute them with his trademark ‘hi-five’.

We had made amends tonight, not only for last seasons 4-4 draw, or for the 4 years without a win in England’s capital, but also for the performance at Stoke where we were surrendered to pressure and subsequently lost the game. Tonight we did not seem shaken at any time and we were very worthy winners.

It was a vital 3 points which puts us 4th. Ok we’re only 4 games into the season and the table will undoubtedly chop and change, but we have shown that we are ready for the fight this season and will come to difficult places such as White Hart Lane and play with a confidence and belief that we can take the points and also play some entertaining football.

With 6 more games in 20 days there will be increased pressure put on our team. But at least we have cover for positions this season, with Cuellar back to fitness and raring to, and hopefully Sidwell with us soon we should face this challenge head on. Carew’s injury has worried me and reminded me about the need for another striker – I don’t doubt that Martin O’Neill wanted to bring someone in, but with ‘Big John’ injured and Nathan Delfouneso not really ready for the Premier League, we may need to rethink formations for the many games we have coming up. For once, we can rotate our squad somewhat.

Great performance by Villa tonight and I’m especially chuffed for the fans who were in great voice throughout. Credit to you all. I only wish I hadn’t sent my ticket back.

Up the villa.

Jonjo Rooney.

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Yes it was a good result against a Spurs team who are lacking in confidence at the moment, so it was the right time to play them!

However, i agree totally with your worry about Carew getting injured! Carew was never going to play a full season for us, so MON should have brought in another striker, well before the end of the transfer window! The fact he did not, leaves us well sort in the striker department. In a recent interview on the Aston Villa website, MON stated that 'it was hard to find value for money!' Tell that to Manchester City and Manchester United, who spent over £60m on their striker department! MON had already been told that he would be able to spend £30m on one player! MON could have spent £20m on Arshavin, who could have played in the hole, just behind Agbonlahor, when Carew picks up one of his monthly injuries! When Carew is fit, Arshavin could have been the quality midfield playmaker, we badly need! Nevertheless, we have had a promising start in all competitions, i just hope we don't regret the lack of cover in our forward line, come Christmas?

Ciaran Doherty.

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