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Tigers mauled by Lion!


John
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Another home win has taken us back above Liverpool into fifth, has left us level on points with fourth placed Spurs for a minimum of 24 hours and has kept us 5 points clear of the eighth placed team whose supporters must be having nose bleeds!

We were out of the trap quickly today and could have been four rather than two goals up within the first half hour if our early chances had been converted. We took the foot off the pedal a little in the second half but this was a result we needed to keep us in contention in the coming weeks and given Hull’s recent good run one that proved easier to secure than it might have been expected to. Hull’s recent resurgence has a clear link to Jimmy Bullard’s return to the side and although they were already behind when he went off on 18 minutes his absence minimised any chances they may have had of getting back into the game. The reception Villa fans gave Jimmy as he went off was a warm one and it showed we like his own fans hope his absence from football will be only a short one on this occasion.

It has been asked how Martin can accommodate Milner, Young and Downing in the same team. Today showed how. We seemed to be playing that bit further up the pitch and to be posing constant problems to a defence who were unable to try to nullify Ashley by putting two defenders on him because teams know now that if Ashley doesn’t get you James or Stewart will! On occasions our captain may need more support in the centre of the midfield such as from Reo next weekend for example but this formation is good to watch and as seven goals from two games shows it will win us games.

My player ratings from a game that produced 7 bookings but was far from the ill tempered bloodbath that this booking count suggests are:

Brad Freidel – 6 – A quiet day for Brad who was very rarely tested and could have done nothing with a Fagan shot that rattled the woodwork on the hour that could have brought Hull back into the game.

Luke Young – 7 – Might have had a goal in the first minute when Heskey put him through on goal but he hit the ball wide. Luke produced some solid defending, covered well when necessary and produced a threat to the Hull defence when moving forward and linking well with our wide men.

Richard Dunne – 8 – Solid at the back when tested but it was up front where he made his most significant mark today. Milner was given too much space on 13 minutes and found Richard unmarked in the box who drilled the ball past the keeper and into the net with a finish that any striker would be happy to claim as his own.

Carlos Cuellar – 7 – Another very solid performance and the more games he gets in the centre the harder he may prove to displace.

Stephen Warnock - 7 – Gets better with every game. Solid at the back and posing an increasing threat to defences as he gets forward more often and links so well with the players in front of him.

James Milner – 9 – MOTM – A must for the England squad and may well make the team itself if he can continue to produce this level of performance over the rest of the season. We know what to expect of James and we are very rarely disappointed. He set up our first goal, scored our second and looked the perfect fit for the more central role he had with us today. Oh and what a goal! Hull’s keeper Duke headed the ball out for a throw in on 28 minutes that substitute Sidwell caught and being aware of the situation fed to Gabby. He took a quick throw to James who took one touch before chipping the ball past the despairing keeper as he tried to get back into the goalmouth and over defender Gardner who was trying to cover in Duke’s absence.

Stiliyan Petrov - 8 – Pulled all the strings in our midfield today allowing Milner, Young and Downing to trouble their defence at will and moved the ball forward more often than he did backwards today.

Stewart Downing – 7 – This full game will have done yet more to shake off any cobwebs there may have been after what had been a long injury lay off. Stewart was only inches over on 41 minutes with a good shot from outside the box having been found by Petrov. He gives us a lot more options when moving forward and will get better with each game he plays as I suspect we will.

Ashley Young – 7 – Looks to be getting nearer to the Ashley we were enthralled by last season. Did well to eventually cool his head after Hunt’s provocation led to a booking on 50 minutes and then was brought down insider the box by raced onto a flick from Big John.

Emile Heskey – 7 – Another encouraging performance. Emile showed signs of what gives him an England shirt so often in a Villa shirt on this occasion, by holding the ball, bringing it under control and feeding others. Might have scored on 6 minutes to bring his recent goal tally to two from two games when Ashley played him in but he scuffed his shot wide of the post.

Gabby Agbonlahor – 6 – Showed some continued signs of improvement and had a hand in our second (as did Sidwell who might rightly claim a share in Gabby’s assist). But Gabby seemed to lack the cutting edge today as was exemplified when he ran towards the penalty area alongside a defender but then appeared to tread on the ball and lost what seemed a good opportunity to hit our third on 78 minutes.

Substitutes:

John Carew – Replaced Emile on 77 minutes. Not really on long enough to rate but was on long enough to score our third, having found Ashley before he was brought down and was then confident enough to demand the ball for the spot kick. Hit his penalty hard and straight down the middle but if he is to claim the job on more than an occasional basis he will need to vary his penalties as keepers will soon predict where the ball is going as can we. But, he does hit them very hard!

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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