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Too Soon For Flowers - Bolton Away Report


blandy
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Not a classic game, not even a good game.

But that doesn't matter, and in my estimation it didn't matter to any of the Villans present. What mattered was that we won.

In a lifetime of strange weeks, this has been one of the strangest.

Obviously the previous one had contained an almighty gubbing, but what followed that had been quite extraordinary. A bit of a media storm regarding the future of the manager which had all apparently been started off by a poster on the messageboard saying his mate had told him MO'N had resigned, though he didn't believe it himself. It was an insight into the way the media works, and how the Club responds. First the media - they trawl the internet, using news now, for "stories" about Villa. If something pops up on their computer they publish it. Then they may get round to sort of checking whether it's actually true or not. Then the story becomes not the original thing they published, or broadcast, that they got off the internet, but the Club's reaction to the story. And all the while fans have their hopes and fears played with, Managers feel undermined and media officers run round trying to put the genie back in the bottle, or at least trying to understand where the genie came from and why, before trying to work out how they can stop the next one emerging.

Still, enough about nothing. It's football that matters.

A nice short train ride to the Reebok, a stroll to the pub and then some fine "Flat Cap" while watching Chelsea beat Manchester United in between talking about over-reaction, what team should he pick and what would the score be.

As it happened, the team selection was spot on for the game. James Milner got to have a rest on the bench, Ditto Luke Young. Carlos Cuellar was back in at Right Back, Fabian Delph into the centre and both Big John and Gabby were over their aches and pains up front. Downing was in for Sidwell.

After about 10 minutes of play, Villa pressing for a goal, we got one, and it was a beauty. Some decent interplay and close passing, and Ashley Young, who is right on form just now, cut inside on the left wing and curled a peach of a shot, right footed, into the top corner.

Bolton then had a spell of pressure, and Friedel saved well from a powerful shot, down by his near post, below me. That was pretty much his only real save of the afternoon, and to be fair, Jaskaleinen didn't have many to make either.

It was clear that Bolton, at the back, were terrified of the pace of Gabby and the trickery of Ashley Young, and this perhaps prevented their full backs and big centre halves from venturing up the pitch. They're a work in progress - not yet rid, completely of the "style" of Megson and Allardyce, and not yet fully adapted to the more pleasing play that Owen Coyle used at Burnley.

As for Villa, there was no sign of the fatigue that's been recently apparent and there was evidence of the defence regaining it's normal parsimony. James Collins and Richard Dunne headed everything away, Carlos sniffed out trouble and stopped it, and Stephen Warnock looked like he'd been fitted with new Duracells, working prodigiously up and down the left.

The game only really sparked into life near the end. Heskey, on for Carew was knocked flat, challenging for a header. The game stopped for a he'd injury. Eventually he woke up and was shown to the sideline. A drop ball. There was no "you give it to them" from the ref, like there sometimes is. Instead it was a genuine challenge between 2 players. Villa won it, the ball squirming through to Gabby, who promptly advanced on goal, but missed, his shot going 2 feet wide of the post. Bolton players and fans got the hump. They presumably felt that they should have been given the ball.

Bolton pressed for the equaliser, but at no stage did they look like getting it.

Villa broke a number of times, but as the game came towards the end, the breaks were towards the corner flag, rather than goal. From the last of them Downing ran the ball out wide, the ref blew and then tiny Jack Wilshire (8 1/2 ) wobbled his lip, stamped his little feet and pushed at Downing once the whistle had gone. He wanted to be allowed out to play some more, and it wasn't fair, he didn't want to go in for his tea. Downing didn't like being pushed by a smaller boy, and pushed him back. Then all the other children ran in, shouting "fight, fight, fight", but like other playgrounds, there wasn't actually a fight at all. The ref waved his magic yellow card at Downing and little Jack, and made them all go inside.

Fun over, the happy Villans trooped off to their cars, coaches and trains singing about Wembley. Then it started to rain. It still doesn't feel quite like Spring yet.

Some marks

Brad - 7. Very solid.

Carlos - 5 - defended soundly, not much going forwards.

James Collins - 5 - defended soundly, some iffy distribution, and one wild free kick.

Richard Dunne - also defended well - 6

Stephen Warnock - 6 - worked very hard, and played well.

Ashley Young - 7 - A wonderful goal and a constant threat. Fell over a bit too easily at times. I thought he'd stopped doing that.

Fabian Delph - 6 - Bright, and fitted in well with Stan. Improved since the start of the season. (Replaced by Sidwell, 5)

Stan - 6 and steady

Downing - 5 - Some good crosses.

Carew - 5 - Not massively involved. (Emile - 5)

Gabby - 6 - played well, held the ball up and should really have scored when clean through. Looked much fitter than last week, which is a good sign.

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Re the ratings, Lex - the way I try and do it is that 5 to 6 is "normal" - didn't let us down, didn't excel, with the 6 being for greater workrate or involvement.

7 would indicate that I thought the player did very well, perhaps making or scoring goals, or defensive excellence, or creating plenty of chances.

An 8 would be played at the top of his form throughout and had a major effect on the game all through.

So the way I saw it was the game was average, there weren't a lot of chances, or a lot of outstanding play. I thought Ash deserved a 7 for his goal, Brad for being really solid in goal and a few got 6s because of their endeavours, but the rest were "standard".

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Interesting how we all see things a little differently.

Whilst I take the point about there being few clear cut chances (Gabby's excepted), I found this a hugely entertaining game of football where we occasionally played some really expansive football and constantly hit them on the break with a strong defence (again!) in support.

Our passing was much better than it often is and I was really encouraged by Delph's early match performance.

I thought this game showed just a hint of the potential this team really has. The worry continues to be an inabilty to take those few half chances and lack of being be able to 'put a team away'.

A mention for the fans too. After I'd made a rare venture onto the forum last week and urged people to get behind the team and particularly the manager; the fans were magnificent. The team will never have had a more vocal and supportive welcome when arriving outside the Reebok and MON and the boys were given constant vocal support (clearly audible later on the TV coverage) throughout the game.

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