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The joy of six (or the agony & the ecstasy)!


John
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This gave us six successive ding dong derby wins, it kept us still in the chase for a Champions League spot, it stretched the point chasm between the two teams to 17 points and it left the Small Heath manager bemoaning the fact that “the bigger teams get more decisions through the course of the season”.

Bloose lose! The shock waves will surely reverberate throughout the world of football following such a rare event! Their manager claims that “the bigger teams get more decisions through the course of the season”. Tell us something that we don’t know after refereeing decisions in both the Carling Cup Final and the FA Cup Semi-Final went against us in recent weeks that may well have cost us both of those trophies. But, it is nice to now be recognised as one of those “bigger teams” by the team from the dark side of the city and we must remember that for them the game with us is their equivalent of a cup final or semi-final.

McLeish also claimed “credit to the players for their discipline” following our penalty award. What discipline was that then? The minutes that elapsed between the penalty being awarded and taken gave his outfit the opportunity to show the sort of harassment that has gotten Manchester United players like Keane into trouble in the past when directed at officials. The petulance and foul mouthing aimed at the referee and at the end of the game from McLeish and members of his team (Ridgewell for example doing a Wayne Bridge on John Terry by offering his hand to both linesmen but leaving the referee’s offered hand hanging) also must leave them in danger of facing a potential charge. You would have thought that if any club knew how to react to defeat with good grace it would have been them following the years of practice they have had. The referee’s decision remains final. Live with it as we have had to!

I thought the first half ebbed and flowed. Small Heath grew in belief as the first quarter of the game passed with us still goalless and then at the start of the second half they looked the more likely of the two sides to break the deadlock. But, despite what John Terry might claim we do not always fold in the last half an hour and in the last quarter of this game the tide turned and we were again in the ascendancy. Small Heath gave a creditable performance and would really have loved to be the team that ended our Champions League aspirations but it is goals that count and I think they will find that we got one and they did not!

So we have kept this season going into the last 2 league games. We have not folded as we have done in the past during the last couple of months. We have taken two cup defeats in the face and still come back for more. We have more points than we had last season and have had two great cup runs. This is progress and should we beat Manchester City and they beat Spurs and Spurs then go on to drop a point against either Bolton or Burnley we might just find ourselves in the Champions League next season. It remains a long shot. But, the odds are shortening and I’m not about to bet against us.

My player ratings from a game that kept our dream of Champions League football alive with just 2 league games remaining and that gave Gardner the opportunity to wear his new shirt at Villa Park and to swallow the bitter taste of defeat in it that his new team have grown accustomed to over the years are:

Brad Freidel – 8 –MOTM – Off his line well to beat Jerome to the ball on 24 minutes and then pulled off a good save on 31 minutes from a good Gardner shot. Put his face in the way of danger on 48 minutes when he got in the way of a Jerome shot when he was clear inside of the box. Made sure we still had a game to win when the penalty award was made.

Carlos Cuellar – 7 – A good defensive performance.

James Collins – 7 – So near to scoring on 33 minutes when Warnock found Cuellar on the edge of the box and his header found him and his sweet fierce shot was well stopped by Manchester City’s second choice keeper.

Richard Dunne – 7 – Let a ball fed to him from Freidel run past him on 30 minutes but his blushes were saved when Brad kept out Larsson’s shot. Headed onto the roof of the net from a Milner cross on 67 minutes and headed over from another corner 10 minutes later before putting his bandaged head in the way of an on target Fahey shot to keep it out in the last minute of injury time.

Stephen Warnock - 7 – A solid display.

Stewart Downing – 7 – Petrov hit a nice through ball to Stewart that he ran forward with and hit a decent shot from the edge of the box that was a little too near to their keeper and was thus saved easily enough. Cleared a Ridgewell header from a corner off the line on 49 minutes and looked up for this one.

James Milner – 8 – Hit the crucial winner 3 minutes after the penalty was awarded keeping a cool head and hitting the ball straight down the middle and past the diving Hart to put the icing on another solid and impressive performance from the PFA young footballer of the year.

Stiliyan Petrov - 7 – Picked his spot from the edge of the box on 25 minutes after Cuellar fed him but Hart was on hand to keep it out.

Ashley Young – 6 – Kept comparatively quiet having been targeted as the threat we know him to be. Not quite the performance he would have chosen to put before the watching England manager although he kept working.

John Carew – 6 – One of his less effective games last night. Headed a Milner cross well wide on 45 minutes when he should have done better before being replaced by Emile on 69 minutes.

Gabriel Agbonlahor – 7 – He really is a nuisance to our neighbours! His pace always leads to problems for them and he was brought down for our winner. Oh yes he was Alex! Ashley pushed the ball for him to run onto on 80 minutes and he did well to cut inside Johnson who got the faintest of touches to the ball before bringing him down in a heap.

Substitutes:

Emile Heskey –7 - Replaced Big John on 69 minutes and made a difference. Unlucky on 76 minutes when he won the ball in the air played it forward to Gabby and then ran onto a loose ball that took the slightest of deflections off their keeper that took the ball across the face of the goal and just inches wide of the far post.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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some rather generous marks in there John considering many thought us lucky to get the win, performance wise

Yes, I agree the overall performance was not up to our usual level and I had wondered where the vital goal was coming from but I think I still had and have my claret & blue glasses on having seen this team further extend our record number of consecutive wins against our opponents of yesterday to 6. :winkold:

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some rather generous marks in there John considering many thought us lucky to get the win, performance wise.

indeed. thought warnock, dunne, petrov and ashley were all poor. thought downing was better than he has been in the last few weeks. Gabby never has a bad game these days.

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John Carew – 6 – One of his less effective games last night

Bloomin heck, you go to bed early, John! Either that or Big John plays games at night....oh!....and you watch him....Cripes!

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John I think you have been slightly generous on a couple of the scores but the overall sentiment of the article is spot on. I am enjoying the fact that MON is proving Terry's comment to be wrong and reminding the media of it after every game and also that our season has not fallen away like last year despite the gloomy predictions of some soothe sayers.

Separately I thought the behaviour of the Blues players in the aftermath of the penalty award and at full time was appalling and I hope the FA treats them accordingly. What's that old expression? - win with humility lose with grace. Well they certainly did not do the latter and I very much doubt we would have seen the former had they won. Worse still on some forums their fans are positively celebrating their thuggish and obscene behaviour as typified by Carr's gesture to the Villa fans after the final whistle. Fans, players....says it all really

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thought warnock, dunne, petrov and ashley were all poor

I admit Petrov and Warnock were close calls to join Ash and Big John on a 6 rmjb but the head bandaged Dunne willingness to throw himself in the way of the ball to keep out a potential late goal for them earned him a 7 in my opinion.

I thought the behaviour of the Blues players in the aftermath of the penalty award and at full time was appalling and I hope the FA treats them accordingly

Agreed Harry. I heard on Talk Sport that they may face charges and I think they should.

By the way, I have watched that penalty again on the box and note that the Bloose camp claim that as Johnson touched the ball before bringing down Gabby it should not have been a spot kick. Pity he was claiming a goal kick when turning to the ref which can't have helped the official decide to agree with the very reason that they claim it was a bad decision!

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