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We win!


John
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Who would have thought when we beat WBA on 10th January that we would have to wait nearly four months for our next and sixth home league win of the season? But, win we did to move back into fifth and we did it on the back of our first clean sheet in almost three months!

Everton must have thought that we would just continue dropping points and make it easy for them to finish above us as we had felt Arsenal would do for use a few weeks ago. Our job now that a victory has at long last been secured is to string a run of results together that will secure fifth place in the way that Arsenal secured fourth. Everton will have their eyes increasingly on a looming Cup Final appearance. Our job will be to stretch our current 4 game unbeaten run to 7 and to finish this season with a flourish rather than a whimper.

So we won the game between two teams that had up until last night not been able to buy a win for many a long month. We started brightly enough and dominated possession up until the last 20 minutes of the game, when our nerves began to jangle, we surrendered the initiative and our confidence began to ebb, until as the game drew towards its conclusion a win looked increasingly more in doubt as we found ourselves hanging on grimly by our finger tips to the points. A better side than Hull would have made us pay for our inability to convert possession into goals and on the increasing panic that sets into claret & blue shirts as games hurry towards their conclusion. Fortunately today we were not playing such a team and our fragility did not cost us on this occasion, as it has against the likes of West Ham and Stoke of late.

We were playing a team who are in free fall and who look likely to have to rely on the teams below them failing to catch them because of their own ineptitude rather than one who will be able pull away from the bottom dwellers through what they do themselves. That we made such hard work of winning shows how important a win was and what a good keeper we let go in Myhill as had it not been for his solid display the game would have been beyond Hull before their late pressure was applied. So, we now belatedly have the win we so needed some weeks ago and we need others to get the fifth place that our season deserves. Seven games unbeaten and winning our last four games would be a nice way to put the barren run that of games that preceded it behind us and to restore a bit of belief both on and off the field. Make it so Villa!

My player ratings from a game that we actually won rather than had stolen from us at the finishing line are:

Brad Freidel - 7 – Rarely tested but was a steadying influence when needed and stopped goal bound efforts during our late moments of alarm on 82 and 90 minutes.

Luke Young – 6 – Solid but not quite at his very best last night.

Curtis Davies – 7 – A much better display and did much to hold things together at the back last night.

Zat Knight – 5 – Can do better than this.

Nicky Shorey - 6 – Once again looked good going forward and was steady enough at the back although there does seem to be one occasion during most games where he takes what seems an unnecessary risk in a deep position which might be punished and cost us in a close game.

James Milner – 7 – Had a free kick tipped over the bar by Myhill on 24 minutes and another 40 minutes later that had Myhill stretching to keep out.

Gareth Barry – 7 – Hit a great shot from outside of the box that Myhill did so well to get to as it had looked destined for the top corner of the net. Another good performance and I hope to see more than another three of the same in our shirt.

Stiliyan Petrov – 7 – Once again a good display his consistency has been impressive this season.

Ashley Young – 7 – Back to something approaching the sort of form that secured him his well deserved Young Player of the Year award.

Gabby Agbonlahor – 6 – Broke clear on 45 minutes and forced a decent stop from Myhill with an on target shot but might have found it easier had he taken a touch rather than hit it early. Another point blank save from Myhill denied him a goal that could have made the game safe on 77 minutes had his effort from within the 6 yard box gone anywhere other than straight at their keeper.

John Carew– 8 – MOTM – Glanced a header from a Petrov cross just wide of the far post on 10 minutes and then stole past a defender on 35 minutes to get on the end of a nice Young cross and applied a delicate finish to give us our winner. His goals from league starts ratio makes him our most lethal striker and one we need to hold onto.

Substitutes:

Emile Heskey - Replaced Big John on 86 minutes. Not on long enough to rate (nor were the two below).

Craig Gardner – Replaced Young who had a knock on 91 minutes.

Nigel Reo Coker – Replaced Petrov on 92 minutes and came on to a warm welcome.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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We had a clean sheet and they had pretty much zero chances on goal - yet you give Zat Knight who made some great challenges and looked solid all game, a 5 - Luke Young who was also very good and made some great enterprising runs up the wing to support the strikers and worked his arse off all night, a 6 - and Shorey who had probably his best game in a Villa shirt, was solid at the back and was putting some good probing passes forward, a 6.

Giving sixes for clean sheets and solid games from the fullbacks seems odd enough but giving Knight a 5 is actually pathetically biased and I am actually glad that I am unable to understand your logic.

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We had a clean sheet and they had pretty much zero chances on goal - yet you give Zat Knight who made some great challenges and looked solid all game, a 5 - Luke Young who was also very good and made some great enterprising runs up the wing to support the strikers and worked his arse off all night, a 6 - and Shorey who had probably his best game in a Villa shirt, was solid at the back and was putting some good probing passes forward, a 6.

Giving sixes for clean sheets and solid games from the fullbacks seems odd enough but giving Knight a 5 is actually pathetically biased and I am actually glad that I am unable to understand your logic.

I think your ratings are actually pretty accurate John.

Zat didn't look at his best at all, against a woeful Hull side. 5 is not too far of the mark, although he maybe should have got a 6. Shorey looked Ok at times, poor at others, so a 6 for him is about right. Ditto young, who looked Ok but not great.

Had we been playing a decent side, this sort of shut out would have warranted higher scores for the defence. But Hull were poor, and the defence did just enough, no more. At times the defence looked very panicky. I never thought we were safe until the ref blew his whistle at the end.

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I never thought we were safe until the ref blew his whistle at the end

Nor did I and the relief was there for all to see at Villa Park when that whistle blew after another 4 minutes of injury time.

giving Knight a 5 is actually pathetically biased and I am actually glad that I am unable to understand your logic

I have no bias against Knight or anyone else in a Villa shirt Lexicon. I just call it as I see it and in this case our opinions are clearly quite different. I have no problem with that and as I have so often said in the past the views of everyone at a game are unlikely to be the same and each one has equal merit. I don't really see reason to resort to the use of words such as "pathetic" and "bias" or to a claim to be "glad" that the logic behind my ratings is beyond comprehension. But, I suggest we can agree to differ on that also.

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Great read as always John. Thanks. A well-deserved win against inept but sometimes over-physical opposition. I too thought Curtis Davies looked a bit steadier last night.

Maybe those who have said that MON should have made a couple of substitutions earlier on have a point.

But the other side of the coin was that it was nice to have the possibility of making late substitutions to eat up some time near the end.

MON has been criticised for not doing this in other games recently. So it seems a bit harsh for people to criticise him when he finally does do it.

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But the other side of the coin was that it was nice to have the possibility of making late substitutions to eat up some time near the end

Yes it did eat up some time but it can upset the balance of things its a fine line which worked on this occasion.

Football has and always will be a matter of opinions. Phil Brown felt his side deserved to win, I rest my case

So, do I. :winkold:

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I was happier with Knight's performance than you, John, but never mind.

The big point for me is made in your first para. We hadn't won for 3 months, and clean sheets were a distant memory. And yet we're fifth. Says a lot about how well we've done over the whole piece. If someone had offered a bet at the start of the year that we could go winless for three months and still be in the top 5, everyone would have thought them mad.

Could also add that with 3 games still to go, we have at least equalled last year's position, qualified for Europe earlier, and avoided getting into Europe via the back door. Not as good as a top 4 position, but good progress, and something more to build on.

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The big point for me is made in your first para. We hadn't won for 3 months, and clean sheets were a distant memory. And yet we're fifth. Says a lot about how well we've done over the whole piece

Agreed peterms, most clubs have a poor run (Arsenal did by their own standards) its just that our own ran for too long and having by our previous earlier consistent performances put ourselves in such a strong position it was a pity and I think unexpected to see things run away from us. Although all in all I like most would have taken 5th at the start of the season and the challenge to the big 4 we made earlier is one we can be proud of.

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