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Ride Away - Albion Away Report


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A beautiful Indian Summer of a day at the Hawthorns, an open entertaining game with Villa ending up as deserving 2-1 winners - it almost makes up for having to go up at daft O'clock to go to the game. I'm not at all sure games against the Baggies need to be at 12:00.

Get up early I did, and with no trains from the North West to get me to the game, I had to trundle my trusty car out from the garage. The early start probably gave me a feeling of how the Villa players must be feeling - that sensation of not quite being fully with it due to journeys and early rises - Monday London, Thursday Bulgaria and now 12 O'clock on a Sunday in West Bromwich.

The atmosphere in the ground, in the sun, was rather more laid back than on occasions past, and less spiteful than the derby games with Small Heath ®, but there was plenty of noise all the same. I'm not sure if the game was on the telly, hopefully it was, because the detail has gone from my tired mind. What's left is an impression of both sides playing good football, I was impressed with the Baggies passing game and movement, though they lack any kind of focal point to many of their moves.

Villa, as we know are pacy and with the 3 injured players from midweek returning most definitely have a focal point to the attack. He's bigger than me and you, and he could perhaps have had a hat-trick. He had to settle for just the one, and it came after about 25 minutes or so - a solid header in off the angle of the bar and near post pretty much unchallenged. Ashley Young had crossed in from the left from a free kick.

That goal seemed to knock Albion back - they'd looked slightly unsure - as if wondering exactly what Villa might do to them, and the unsureness almost immediately got worse. practically from the kick off a hapless defender passed the ball straight to Gabby who ran on and beat Scott Carson. From 0-0 to 2-0 within about 90 seconds.

We looked well in control, obviously, but let Albion back into the game thanks to a mistake of our own - a well hit shot from the corner of the box was allowed to bounce off the sprawling Friedel, who really should have held on to it and a forward just bear Laursen to the loose ball. It was at this point that I said bad words about Friedel - along the lines of him making quite a few mistakes, and not many top drawer saves so far this season.

But I guess the thing with 'keepers is that they have to clear their mind off what's done and concentrate on what's to do.

What to do, was make a blinding save from a point blank header a few minutes later.

Half time saw some grown ups in animal costumes race across the pitch, for charity, apparently. The Wolves man in an oversized costume won, Villa's Lion was second.

In that heat they'll know how the players felt by the end of the game.

The second half sarted not unexpectedly with Albion coming out with renewed confidence and vigour, but to be honest despite their approach to the game - the diametric opposite of Stoke's style, really, they just didn't look that dangerous.

Villa however did - once we'd weathered the early pressure we took control for a period and really should have scored at least one or two more. A lovely cross from Stan Petrov, again superb, was headed onto the post by Carew, who'd earlier shaved the post from the angle after being put through again by some sweet football. Both time Carson was beaten.

Carson saved from NRC, other moves broke down as maybe fatigue and the heat started to affect players.

Subs started coming on for both sides, players started getting knocks and the ref started getting his cards out. The heat got to him too.

MO'N did his usual "take the left-back off and swap everyone around" thing, so Shorey off, Luke Young across to the LB spot, NRC to RB and Milner on to play right mid.

Stan, after one too many bruisings hobbled off and Craig Gardner came on, and later Carew was replaced by Cuellar, just to see out the last 5.

Luke Moore on for the Albion was given a good round of applause from the away end too.

We held on without too many alarms, cheered off the team, cheered Ian Taylor again sat in the away end, and went in search of some scoff.

A good start to the season, a very good week - 3 wins, all away, in 6 days.

Some marks

Brad - 6 - one great save, one error.

Luke Young, did fine, booked again. 6

Nicky Shorey - he's neat, he passes well, isn't the quickest, but had a good game - 6

Martin Laursen - 8 - excellent

Curtis Davies, also excellent. 8

NRC - another good game from Nigel - still makes the odd bad choice, but is playing well. 8

Stan Petrov - another 8, and another good game from the real Stan.

GB - He knows how to play, where to play and where to be. Classy, but weary. 7

Ashley Young. Not quite at his best today, but worked tirelessly. Refs think he goes down too easily, and sometimes they're right. At other times he gets some rough treatment and little justice. 7

Big John - MoTM - 8.

Gabby - He's improving - his hold up play is miles better than a year ago, he scored, he terrifies defenders, and yet he still frustrates at times with his runs. As long as he keeps improving, he'll, er, keep improving. 7

The ref did alright, too. He got some stuff wrong, perhaps, but let the game flow and gave players breathing space - he used his noggin.

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Yeah, watched the game on Sky and agree with everyting you say. However, why do i still get the feeling that we are still some way off from being a really good team?

Maybe it's due to our games being a battle, rather than us winning by pure football! We were holding on by the final whistle against West Brom and indeed MON brought on our new central defender to give us five at the back to to close out the game! I would like to see more flowing football from us, especially in midfield. I find Reo-Coker very frustrating to watch, the amount of times he gives the ball away has me tearing my hair out! I still think we are short of the quality midfielders who are comfortable on the ball. Yes we have Barry, but i'm still not convinced about Petrov and if we had signed Arshavin, then we would have had more quality in midfield! Gabby scored a wonder goal, but he looked tired and he already looks as though he needs a rest. Carew played well, but with his injury record, MON should have brought in another quality striker as cover! Harwood is not quality! I think, by Christmas, our first choice, front two, will be in need of a rest, so who do we replace them with to give them a rest? This is a worry, but i salute our team for the fantasic start they have given us and with a new striker, or two, and certainly one creative midfielder in the January transfer window, i think we can give the top five a run for their money!

Ciaran Doherty.

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I'm not at all sure games against the Baggies need to be at 12:00.

Because the police won't let us play at any other time which is a pity because I think both sets of supporters might be trusted not to make a 3pm Saturday kick off into a battleground.

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a well hit shot from the corner of the box was allowed to bounce off the sprawling Friedel, who really should have held on to it and a forward just bear Laursen to the loose ball.

great report Mr B. :)

the player who was 2nd to the ball for their goal though was wee Nicky.

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