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No goal fest against Bolton this time!


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by John

We have grown accustomed in recent years to scoring a glut of goals when Bolton are our visitors. But despite an early goal history did not repeat itself yesterday and we dropped our first home points of this season.

There was to be no late goal for us to take all 3 points yesterday and it seems that it is our opponents rather than us that are prone to staging last minute grandstand finishes. But, to be honest Bolton had a couple of decent penalty shouts, had the chances to win the game themselves and but for Brad might well have come away with all three points.

So Kevin Davies chose us to score his hundredth league goal against. Is it just me or does he not seem to score most of his goals against us? Davies was once again a major problem for our central defence and under Coyle Bolton have become a better unit that plays a bit more football albeit one that retains a hard uncompromising edge.

It was nice to see Ashley Young celebrating his early goal with our caretaker manager but there were to be no celebrations at the end of this game. One goal is rarely enough for us to win a game and that among other pressing things will be for our new management team to work on from next week onwards. It will be a tough job.

My player ratings from Kevin MacDonald’s seventh and last game as our caretaker manager are:

Brad Freidel – 8 – MOTM – Did well to push a goal bound Petrov shot out for a corner on 62 minutes, managed to get everything behind an Elmander shot from inside the box 8 minutes later, did very well to make a one handed save from an 84th minute Taylor free kick and then kept out another on target shot moments later. But for Brad’s second half heroics the game would have been lost.

Luke Young – 8 – A very solid performance. Two great blocks on 31 and 73 minutes got in the way of solid goal bound shots.

James Collins – 6 – His best contribution by some distance yesterday was the part he played in rolling their defensive wall to create the space for Ashley’s 13th minute free kick.

Richard Dunne – 6 – Replaced by Carlos at half time because of a knock? Richard was perhaps lucky not to have conceded a penalty on 36 minutes when Elmander’s pace had took him past him and he went under his challenge. He also had a ball he played out of defence intercepted and Davies’ resultant shot flashed wide of the post with Brad beaten.

Stephen Warnock - 6 – Back to something nearer his best yesterday. Hit a good cross into the box on 58 minutes that his fellow full back Young got on the end of but which was blocked by a defender. But, he like Dunne was perhaps lucky when Chung-Yong went over the leg he had stuck out inside the box and again their penalty claims were turned down.

Stewart Downing – 7 – That goal at Stoke proved a welcome tonic and he produced a much improved overall performance yesterday. Petrov touched a free kick for him on 18 minutes, their defensive wall melted and his shot went just a couple of feet wide of the post. He also hit a decent shot on the edge of the box on 58 minutes that Bogdan fumbled before claiming the rebound with Gabby running in.

Stephen Ireland – 6 – Took a long time to get into the game and when he was beginning to show signs of doing so found himself the one making room for Big John’s second half introduction. Looked better after Petrov took over the deeper role that he started with but he needs to take a leaf out of Reo’s book and remember to cover and get in the face of opponents when the opposition have the ball. Unlucky on 52 minutes when his shot from the edge of the box hit the stanchion behind the goal rather than the corner of the net that he had been aiming for

Stiliyan Petrov - 6 – Faded in the second half which is something that he has a tendency to be accused of doing, this time it may have been attributable to a knock he had taken.

Ashley Young – 7 – Hit a splendid free kick to provide our one and only goal on 13 minutes. Collins and Dunne placed themselves in the Bolton wall which parted like the Red Sea and Ashley hit his free kick into the space these two had left behind them finding the corner of the net and giving their keeper no chance.

Marc Albrighton – 7 – Ever so lively in the first half but unlike the Duracell bunny he was not unsurprisingly unable to maintain the same level in the second half when he was also presented with less of the ball. The ball fell to him on 6 minutes when he challenged near the edge of the box and his shot was just wide of the post. His promise is clear for all to see but it might at the moment prove more effective occasionally (particularly away from home) in say a last half hour when he could come on to exploit tired defences.

Gabriel Agbonlahor – 6 – Lacked any protection from Zat from our referee but really should have done better against this Villa old boy yesterday by exploiting the clear pace advantage he has over him. Had a 63rd minute effort deflected wide by a defender but spent a little too much time thinking of or bemoaning decisions that were going against him rather than in looking at doing things that would prove more of a threat to their defence.

Substitutes:

Carlos Cuellar – 6 – Replaced Dunne for the second half and had a decent game in what is his favoured central role.

John Carew – 6 – Replaced Ireland on 73 minutes and had the shirt ripped off his back moments later I would have liked to have seen him introduced sooner as we looked more of a threat with him to aim at and with Gabby having a partner for Zat to turn his attentions towards.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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