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Are we still hungry like the Wolves?


John
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Was this a sign that we had gone one time too many to the well or can we put these two dropped points behind us and go on the sort of run between now and the end of the season that will give us the 19 points from 27 that I think may give us fourth spot? We showed spirit by once again coming back from behind and we will need to show the same never say die attitude in our next home game and in the 8 that follow!

The meanest defence in the league came up against the most goal shy attack yesterday. A team that are playing for a Champions League position that a fourth from top finish to the season will give came up against one whose aim is to finish the season fourth from bottom and to therefore secure another season in the league they are already in. A team that have gone 30 years since they beat the other side (who have not lost in the league in 2010) go a goal down in 16 minutes. There can only be one result…

Sadly this game once again proved that there are lies, dammed lies and statistics. A game we really needed to win to maintain the pressure on Spurs, Manchester City and Liverpool in the race for fourth spot ended up one that we were thankful to have drawn. Local derbies are great levellers but this one was a bit too level for me.

We started like a steam train that was going to roll over those wolves that were lying in front of our train line. We pressed forward and once Carew had added to his recent goal glut on 16 minutes it seemed we just needed to keep our foot on the pedal to run out clear winners. But, two goals in fifteen minutes put an end to our misplaced confidence and to the flair we had shown up until then. Wolves began to believe and we began to doubt. We might be expected to win say 9 out of 10 home games against them at Villa Park. But, this was the one we didn’t and they are a workmanlike team who have some spirit and who have cost us 4 points out of 6 this season.

Both goals had more than a share of luck about them but they showed failings in our defence that have rarely been exposed before. Oh and how we missed Gabby’s pace up front when we went in search of goals that would square and then win us this game. The lumbering Wolverhampton defence were always going to find it a lot easier to deal with the threat of the towering Heskey and Carew combination than with the pace of the likes of Gabby or dare I suggest if only for say the last half an hour Delfouneso running into spaces and at them.

But, we still remain unbeaten in the league this year, we did have the spirit and attitude to not let this game just ebb away from us in the second half and we did find a goal from somewhere when one looked increasingly unlikely to come along. The trick will now be to win our next home game and to close the gap between Spurs and ourselves to 2 points. Anything less after this result might just not be good enough.

My player ratings from a game that left us needing a win on Wednesday if we are to maintain pressure on those who currently stand above us in the race for fourth place are:

Brad Freidel – 6 – Picked the ball out of the net twice but was wrong footed for their first, stood no chance with their fortunate second and had little to do during the rest of the game.

Carlos Cuellar – 4 – This was a nightmare of a game for him. Against Wolves we needed wide support for when we moved forward on his side of the field but Carlos cannot be expected to become a raiding overlapping full back overnight and quite frankly does not possess the skills that role demands. He is good cover for the right back position in an emergency but that is not currently the case because we have a very good full back sitting on the bench who we have been missing in recent games. Carlos is a central defender and a very decent one at that. He would have been unlucky to have lost his place in the side when Collins returned from injury as he was in a rich vein of form. But, Luke Young is unlucky still to be warming the bench as well! Carlos does not have the ability that Luke Young has to handle speedy players who run at him or to push forward and pose a threat by taking opponents on and delivering good crosses. His confidence is draining away with each game he plays in this position following on from the Cup Final to the extent that he even looked less than solid when pushed into the centre of the defence when Dunne left the field. This is a weakness in the team that we now need to address.

James Collins – 6 – We did not attack incoming balls as a central defensive unit in the way we have been doing and James like Richard Dunne found the pace and running of Doyle hard to cope with. Not his best day at the office.

Richard Dunne – 6 – Replaced on 72 minutes with a knock with no doubt one eye on having our talisman available for the Sunderland game in midweek and another on providing us with more attacking options on the right yesterday by moving Albrighton in and switching Carlos to the centre. Not far off on 50 minutes when he headed a Young corner just over but otherwise see above.

Stephen Warnock - 6 – Steady enough at the back and decent when moving forward in support but he could have cost us the game on 87 minutes when Freidel had to be quick and strong to beat Doyle to a half hit back pass.

Stewart Downing – 5 – Looked tired, a little short of confidence on the ball and he can do a lot better than this. Should have equalized on 40 minutes when he was found unmarked on the far post by a Young cross only to head the ball into the ground which then bounced over both bar and keeper.

James Milner – 7 – Not quite at his best and is another who looks like he needs a game off but one who we can’t afford to rest. So unlucky on 38 minutes when he did well to get to the ball before Jones who would have otherwise no doubt have scored himself but James’ interception then trickled past both Dunne and Freidel to leave us a goal down. Kept on working throughout although with James that is a “gimmee”.

Stiliyan Petrov - 7 – Worked very hard and held things together pretty well when we were struggling. Another who could use a break but can’t have one until the summer!

Ashley Young – 8 – MOTM – Outstanding and a constant worry for the Wolves defence with his pace, trickery and this time with some much, much better delivery.

John Carew – 8 – Another two goals from Big John. Turned and hit a shot across the face of the goal on 3 minutes that went just wide and that Warnock was only inches from getting a foot to at the far post. Took a step back to connect with a terrific Young cross and give us the lead on 16 minutes before getting a head to a Milner cross on 58 minutes that Hahnemann was well positioned to save and then hit our second on 82 minutes. That equalizer followed Carew nodding the ball onto Heskey who then showed his strength when under pressure inside of the box before turning the ball back to Sidwell whose shot was touched past the keeper by the predatory Carew to earn us a point.

Emile Heskey – 6 – Started well working in tandem with Big John and showed some strength and worked the ball well to others at times yesterday. Might have made more of a challenge as the only Villa player on hand when the ball was played high into our box for their second that ended up in the back of the net after Zubar screwed the ball into Craddock’s path for their second soft goal of the day. But, battled well with two defenders to try to reach a good Young cross on 69 minutes that led to the ball eventually being scrambled clear near the goal line and played a role in the lead up to our equalizer.

Substitutes:

Marc Albrighton – 6 – Replaced Dunne on 72 minutes but made no really significant impression on proceedings in the time available to him.

Steve Sidwell – Replaced Downing on 77 minutes. Not on long enough to earn a rating but did have a hand in our equalizer.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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John, I don't agree Carlos had a nightmare at all. Certainly Many people, myself included, were disappointed Luke Young didn't play RB. I felt he was scapegoated a bit, because of his limitations on the ball. He didn't have a great game, but 4/10 - I don't agree at all.

I thought a number of the players were short of fizz - Warnock, Milner, Downing, Dunne to name just 4.

I'd have liked Albrighton to have started instead of Downing, Delfouneso perhaps to have started or come on for Heskey, Luke Young to have started and maybe have rested Dunne.

On the plus side Ashley Young was excellent, but we didn't get him enough of the ball, Carew played well again, and Heskey first half was very good.

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I'd have liked Albrighton to have started instead of Downing, Delfouneso perhaps to have started or come on for Heskey, Luke Young to have started and maybe have rested Dunne

Sounds good to me we could have played Carlos in the centre alongside Collins or Curtis if Dunne had been given a rest and Delph might come in for Petrov for a game when fit. But, I think 1 or 2 changes in even yesterday's game would be as far as we could safely go with so much hanging on each result. No doubt had Martin made the number of changes we might have gone for and the result had been the same his "rotation" of the team would have led to criticism as now may his lack of rotation.

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This is a weakness in the team that we now need to address.

Its needed to be addressed for a long time now. L. Young sitting on the bench while a central defender is shoe horned into playing right back is madness. If MON can't see that then you have to have to start having doubts about him...

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If MON can't see that then you have to have to start having doubts about him...

I can see where you are coming from 89 and I think most of us would prefer to see Carlos playing for a place in the centre of our defence and Luke back in the right back role but I'm not doubting Martin on this alone. He has got us to Wembley twice this season and in with a chance of the Champions League so although I would do things differently on the Carlos or Luke at right back situation I don't see that as a reason to doubt him although this is one of the few decisions he has made that I and the majority of us I think do question.

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