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On Your Way - Stoke City Away Report


blandy
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To be honest with you, 0-0 is pretty much all that there is to be said about this game, so if you're pressed for time, look away now.

The day started bright and sunny, on my walk to the station, but by the time I was on the train the clouds had taken away the thoughts of spring, and the wind had reminded me of the long cold winter.

Still, the journey went very smoothly indeed, one of those days where despite some of the decrepit trains still in use, the connections were all just right and I arrived in blustery Stoke with plenty of time on my hands. Deciding to take the advice of my beer guide, I headed for a pub in Newcastle. The beer was excellent, and the Stokies friendly enough. So much so that they let me on their bus from the pub to the game, once again giving me more time than I'd expected. After the obligatory fanzine purchase and a quick chat I entered the Britannia, reminded of last year's epic encounter.

Truth be told no part of the game lived up to that day, this time around. The strong wind, cold, and worn pitch saw to that, as did some fairly lamentable refereeing at times. The ref was undoubtedly a "homer" in my view. Still, that's what you get when you go to Stoke - the reputation of both their support and their spirited football sees to that.

Anyway, with Villa keeping the same team, again, as last week, and with Gabby only fit enough to sit on the bench it was a fair bet that the game would be played via set pieces, throws and all stop start.

What little there was to pick from a pretty unentertaining game was in the form of excellent defending by both sides, the cool of Stillian Petrov in midfield and, er, um, the green sawdust sprinkled about the concourses. Had they been warm, or had they actually not run out of food and drink, then I would have awarded the facilities "Man of the Match", but they simply were not able to raise their concretey standards above the level of the football outside. Plenty of solidity, but nothing to lift the spirits at all.

Moments of note on the pitch included a splendid tackle by James Collins, another by Dunne and superb blocks by Dunne and Warnock. Even Delilah seemed to put in only a token appearance, both sets of fans pretty much numbed by the lack of flair and the chill wind.

Things perked up for Villa when Gabby replaced John Carew, although most would have preferred Gab to come on for Emille, judging by the noise of disgruntlement from the 2900 of us in the away end.

That's pretty much all there is to say about the game. I guess a point is both about right given the way we played, and par for the course in terms of a chase for higher league placing.

Some marks

Brad Friedel - 7

Carlos - 7

JC - 7

Dunney - 7

Stephen Warnock - 6

The defence was solid and dealt with all the Delap missiles competently

Ashley Young - 6

Stan - 7.5 MotM

James Milner - 6

Stuart Downing - 5

Other than Stan, no one really managed to put their foot on the ball and make much happen.

Emille - 6

Big John - 6 (Gabby 7)

Not a memorable day for anyone, but there's plenty of those to come, I hope

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I thought Milner came so close to getting the points with that free kick near the close but a draw was a fair result. I thought we might have concentrated a little too much on their threat from throw in's at the expense of our own game but Stoke is a hard place to come away with the points from and I trust they will prove that when Spurs pay them a visit. There were players out there who looked like they need to sit out a game but this is a luxury we can't afford with each game meaning so much to our season now.

By the way, did anyone else think before Saturday that the use of towels for throw in's had been knocked on the head?

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There were players out there who looked like they need to sit out a game but this is a luxury we can't afford with each game meaning so much to our season now.

MON's lack of rotation FTL. :(

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