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Barometer - Blackburn away report


blandy
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After all the talk about the weather this week, a chance to see whether Villa would continue to rain on the parade of the so called big four, or if winter's harsh toll would see us cast adrift.

The morning up north dawned bright, cold and crisp. Sparrows and starlings competed with an evil looking cat in the garden for the seeds of nourishment from the feeder, though I suspect that kitty has it's eyes more on the birds than the chaf - predatory instincts never leave the hungry hunter.

I drank tea and read the paper in the warm before setting off on the short journey to Ewood from my Lancashire home.

The local train got us into Blackburn at lunch time. We met up in the pub with Villans and Rovers from various parts and had the obligatory pre-match pints and chat. In previous years, young James had been able to predict scores and results with an uncanny accuracy. Today he was saying 1-0 to the Rovers, but pressed on the matter he was less certain - "who would score the goal then?" - "Santa Cruz" was the hesitant reply. I detected that he wasn't as sure as as hitherto. His Rovers supporting Dad was confident however - Big Sam 6 games unbeaten and all that.

The bus journey to the ground from the pub turned into a multiple taxi convoy and then a walk as the traffic clogged the streets.

Tickets sorted, we entered the ground to the sight of about 6000 Villans filling the away end and a reasonable turn-out of Rovers in the rest of the place.

The game itself was not by any stretch a classic. In recent seasons Villa have definitely had the upper hand against Blackburn, home and away, but having lived up here for almost 20 years, I've seen a heck of a lot of fruitless trips too.

Nerves were eased after maybe 20 minutes or so. From a corner, taken short, James Milner (who was tremendous throughout) ran unmolested at the Blackburn defence and just lashed a left footed shot from the angle into the top corner, down the far end. Blackburn had been timid and stand-offish giving far too much room and time to him.

With Zat dominant, Gareth Barry and Stan Petrov controlling midfield and the threat from Gabby, Ash and Emille Heskey, Villa were the better side. Brad Friedel who was warmly welcomed back by the Blackburn fans had now't to do.

Gabby had a goal disallowed for what looked a marginal offside just before half time and whilst chances were not exactly plentiful, I felt Villa were definitely the better side, although Mc Carthy and Co. did look to be potentially a danger, the danger never transpired.

A half time shiver and then on to the second part of the game.

Craig Gardner came on at right back for Carlos - presumably injured and several Rovers changes, but really the game carried on as in the first half for the next 20 minutes or so.

It was about this time that the much serenaded John Carew replaced Emille, Gabby dropped deeper and Blackburn started to get some decent possession. In truth they did little with it. Their fans shouted a few times for the things fans shout for, but the ref, (yet again) Steve Bennett wasn't swayed.

As time drifted on, Villa from a corner taken short, to use up time, lost the ball, but Rovers made mess of things, Gabby pounced and smacked the ball past Paul Robinson. 2-0. 4 minutes of stoppage time to see out. Gabby almost got a third, but hit over by an inch.

With the Blackburn fans having departed in numbers by now, we were left to celebrate an astounding 10th away win of the season, noisily.

A walk back into town, a few more scoops and then the train home. Obviously there was a signal failure and a 15 minute wait, making the subsequent beer and curry all the more enjoyable - the long wait adds to the hunger.

If our boys stay hungry, stay as committed and together as they were today, maybe, just maybe....well, anything really.

Villa were effective and efficient today, rather than exhilarating, but they deserved the win, without a doubt. Blackburn seemed resigned to their fate and lacking in any kind of initiative. Please let them stay up - their fans are too decent and fine, the ground too handy to want them to go down.

Some marks.

Brad - 6 - not much to do, truth be told

Carlos - 6 (Craig Gardner 7)

Luke Young - very good - 7

Curtis - 6.5 - soilid

Zat - 8 - he's playing really well.

James Milner - excellent, 8

Stan - quality performance from Mr Reliable - 8

GB - In the best form he's been in this season - 8

Ash - 6.5 - always a danger

Emille - 7. He's a worker and a real team player(Carew 5).

Gabby - 7 - comes alive and then drops off. Good goal.

Praise most of all for the team ethic, the unity and organisation, the collective belief and togetherness. There's a way about Villa now, away from home, which just reeks of solidity and a stronger level than most of the team we play.

I have yet to hear the other results from today, but without tempting fate at all, there's a good case to say Villa's place in the top 4 is totally right, others seem more prone to turmoil and torment at the moment, and despite the absolute collosal numpties who jeered last week at the end of that game, there is a unity at the club from fans to whoever you choose.

Enjoy it.

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Nice report Pete. Was bloody cold in the ground - think my toes nearly got frostbite ....

agree by and large with the marks. Stand out players for me:

Barry

Stan

Milly

Zat

Emily

all the rest (apart from carlos - was he injured or just taken off becuase he was having a bit of a mare?) were simply very good.

Brad: 7 - did what he had to do, which was not much

L Young - quality as usual 7

Carlos - not at the races - 5.5

Curt: mostly solid, with the odd lapse - 7

Zat: have we signed a new player? Superb - 8

Gaz Baz - dominant and quality in MF - 8.5

Stan - excellent again - 8

Milly - superb workrate & threat. Great goal - 8

Asher - slightly quieter, but always a handful - 7

Gabby - ditto Asher - 7.5

Emily - a real athlete, team player and bruiser. Always a real handful for the defence. Linked up well with the MF - 8

Subs: Gardner - more solid at RB than Carlos - marshalled Spit the Dog quite well - 7

Big JC - still some way short of fitness. Didn't run about too much either - 6.

a quality all round display and worthy win.

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Very fair report Blandy. I feel we have been playing this way all season, being very effective, rather than playing easy on the eye free flowing football, but as long as we are getting the results, then who cares?

Barry's fifth yellow means that he will miss the cup game with Everton next Sunday, but i would rather he would miss a cup game than a Premiership match! We will miss him though as he is the only central midfielder we have at the moment who looks anywhere near comfortable and creative on the ball! Regards, Ciaran

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