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Someone Almost There - Blackburn Rovers League Cup Semi Away


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It was a long time coming last night's match - both in terms of a wait for a semi final and of course the postponement of the original game a week or so ago.

We hoped that the the contrast between the fevered desire to get hold of tickets for the game by us lot and the indifference shown by the Rovers fans would be reflected in the performances of the two teams over this game and the return leg next week, and to an extent it was, for the first half at least.

Blackburn is pretty convenient for myself, LancsVillan and AJ, so the evening started with leaving work just a bit early, a short train trip to Blackburn and arrival in the Pub by 6. We met up with Paddy and other Villans taking the sensible decision to avoid the fizzy beer and massive queues in the Fernhurst and settle for decent ale and good service in a better pub. I could have happily stayed in the warm for longer, but who wants to miss a semi final?

A quick jaunt in a taxi from town and we arrived at Ewood, still bordered by heaps of snow and icy paving. It was pretty apparent that there had been no late take up of tickets by the locals, despite the tickets being very well priced at only £15. It's a shame, because you always hope a semi final will be played in a packed ground, but I guess the "rugged" style of Allardycian football and a rotten run of results has taken many Blackburn fans into the No-zone layer - that place all fans go from time to time, where even if you go to the games, you actually don't like your team, you become immune to the dire form and bad results and just deny that there's any hope, for fear of further disappointment and pain, and most don't bother at all.

The Villa sections of the ground were somewhat different - packed, noisy, and expectant. 5,325 of us were there (plus a few more sitting on their hands in the home seats). Had we been allowed more tickets, we'd have probably sold as many again.

The first half started with Villa defending the end we were gathered in and for maybe the first 5 minutes or so Blackburn came at us with their typical "pile it in" approach. David Dunn had a shot just wide and various corners and crosses were piled in to put Guzan under pressure We coped, but it wasn't pretty and it wasn't comfortable.

Soon though the exchanges of hopeful balls punted and bunted hither and thither settled down, and Villa began to pass the ball more accurately - Petrov and Milner getting a grip in the centre and starting to play it in to Emille, or pass out wide for Ashley Young and Stewart Downing to run at their full backs.

Stan played a cracking pass to Heskey, unmarked in the area, but he turned the wrong way and the chance was gone. Ashley Young lashed a shot well over the bar and Villa had a spell of concerted pressure, forcing corners, having shots blocked and saved. It seemed likely that we would score, but when we did the goal didn't come as a result of the onslaught, but from a break away from our own area. Guzan rolling the ball out to the feet of Milner who just charged at the Blackburn half of the pitch, taking the ball to the edge of their box, rolling a neat pass out to Downing on the right, and running onto the return low cross to score excellently past Robinson.

Confidence lifted, Villa could and should have had more goals, perhaps. Blackburn got even worse. Gabby was booked for diving in the box, but various text messages from people watching at home, or in the pub said that it was a "definite pen" and the ref, Clattenburg, had got it wrong. There didn't seem to be much by the way of protest from Villa, though - or maybe the players are well disciplined in not dissenting.

Just as I was about to make my way down towards the shelter of the concourse for a bit of a warm up at half time, Villa looked to have scored again, but the "goal" was disallowed - I'm not sure if it didn't go in the net, or there was a foul, or what. Text messages said a Blackburn player hand-balled in the area, but the ref thought a Villa player had committed the offence. Personally I felt that Villa were unlucky not to have been more goals ahead even allowing for refereeing mistakes.

The second half was different - Blackburn actually tried, for a start and had more of the game than in the first. Presumably Big-boned Sam had thrown his bluetooth earpiece thingy, his chuddy and some choice cuts of Galootian swearing at his players at half time. Chastened his team upped their efforts, started passing to each other a bit more and from a corner at the far end one of them headed against the post. Not so long later an excellent Rovers move saw their forward lash the ball first time against the same post from 20 yards. That it didn't go in possibly spurred Villa to get a grip again, Sidwell was brought on for Heskey, who had done well and perhaps it disheartened Blackburn, too, because we started to get chances again, and control the ball a bit more like we had in the first half. Ashley Young tormented their left back on several occasions, without a goal resulting. He also got clean through, but shot wide. Gabby had a header from a corner very well saved by Robinson. Right at the end, Blackburn almost scored from a header at a corner, but their late flurry came to nought.

At the end of the game there was no celebration from the players, MO'N acknowledged the fans, but no tempting of fate. Quite right too. The result was just about fair, I guess, but one goal is not enough to guarantee anything. No one is bulletproof.

Some marks

Brad Guzan - 6 - Not called on to do any heroics, but was solid.

Carlos Cuéllar - 6 Right back is not his best position, presumably he played to counter Blackburn's height, as Luke Young was on the bench.

Steven Warnock - 6 - Solid and reliable

James Collins - 7 - The two centre-backs repelled the vast majority of Blackburn's pressure

Richard Dunne - 7

Ashley Young - 7 - lively all night, might have scored.

James Milner - 8 - MoTM - Excellent yet again.

Stan Petrov - 7 - More good work from Stan. Used the ball well all night.

Stewart Downing - 7 - He looks completely fit and at home, now.

Emille Heskey - 7 - Held the ball up really well (sub Steve Sidwell - 6 - bolstered the midfield when we were under pressure )

Gabby - 7 - Booked, but apparently harshly so, always a threat.

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Nice :clap: Thanks for that. Always like hearing the peripheral stuff too; getting to the match and the surrounds :thumb: I agree on why Cuéllar was chosen over Young. Blackburn are a big team. I thought we should have been 3 up at half time and it was Kalinic who hit the post twice for them. He looks a proper player. Definitely nothing settled yet though.

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or maybe the players are well disciplined in not dissenting

I've thought this before now. It's unusual (although not unheard of) to see a Villa player attacking the ref for a dodgy decision... certainly a lot less than other teams surrounding us.

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