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Much-changed Blackpool rocked by late winner!


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by John Lewis

This was our first Villa Park game in the top flight against last night’s seaside opposition since those flower power days of 1967. The result was one of history repeating itself with Villa again emerging victorious by 3-2 !

Goals from Chatterley and Stobart (2) won us the game back in 1967 as we completed a double against the Tangerines. But that was a rare four points in a season during which we only secured another 25 points in all to finish that season with only Blackpool behind us. So that’s some history we do not want to repeat and goals from Downing, Delfouneso and Collins on this occasion left us with space between ourselves and bottom dwellers like Small Heath that was missing up until those 3 points were secured.

This was a vital win and one gained against a team that showed 10 changes from their starting line up of last weekend. Ian Holloway will of course deny it because to do otherwise would attract the sort of fine that Wolves were hit with last season for making wholesale changes at Old Trafford but these changes suggest that their priority was this weekend’s game against West Ham rather than last night’s game against us. For me Holloway deserves a Christmas hamper from Villa Park rather than a fine because this could have been an even tougher game for us than it was had they brought their first team and few of us would have seen last night’s game as a forgone conclusion as we made our way to Villa Park to see our injury ravaged team take on Blackpool whose season to date has been a Tangerine Dream.

But, although Blackpool score freely they also leak goals at the back and that was again the case last night. They started and ended brightly and their three substitutions brought a change of impetus near the end that left us counting the minutes down in fear of yet another late equaliser this season but for once the late, final and deciding goal was our own and a vital three points were secured. These points see us back in the top half and five points clear of the bottom three. We also stand level on points with Spurs and once again the highest placed Midlands club.

My player ratings from a game that both sides created enough goal scoring opportunities for the game to have ended 6-4 rather than 3-2 are:

Brad Friedel – 6 – Beaten twice on what was otherwise a night that he did not have that much to do but he had little to no chance with either goal.

Luke Young - 7 – Particularly good coming forward, linked well with our wide men and on another evening might have added to our goal tally. His first half shot from a tight angle flashed over the bar after Nathan had touched a ball into the box from Young into his path and on 62 minutes a ball was deflected into his path that he diverted towards the goal but which was swallowed up by the keeper who would have been in trouble had it been a couple of feet either side of him.

Richard Dunne – 6 – Like Collins needed to make his presence more felt in the lead up to their second and found ex-Villa striker Harewood presented a challenge. Our captain skimmed the top of the bar on 53 minutes with a header from a Downing corner.

James Collins – 6 – A game of positives and negatives. Scored our late winner on 88 minutes with a solid header from a Downing cross to make amends for his earlier role in both of Blackpool goals. James did not stay tight on Harewood on the stroke of half time and Phillips’ clever back heel left Marlon clear with just Brad to beat which he did. Then on 86 minutes needed to make a stronger challenge on the edge of the box on ex-Nose Campbell before he unluckily was the one to deflect his shot over Brad for what then seemed a goal that might cost us two points we could ill afford to drop. Had a good header from a Downing corner cleared off the line on 46 minutes.

Stephen Warnock - 6 – Had a couple of problems in managing Phillips but solid enough.

Stewart Downing – 8 – MOTM - Good crosses last night and his well placed corners led to some real headaches for a shaky Blackpool defence. Pushed the ball wide to Ashley on 28 minutes who returned it to him, he looked to hit a left foot shot then turned it onto his right and his shot from the edge of the box was deflected past their keeper for our opener.

Ciaran Clark – 6 – Filled in well again and did all that could be expected of him in front of the back four last night. Ciaran was unlucky to be booked for leading with the elbow following the referee having been unduly influenced by Blackpool players protesting that the clash was something other than accidental.

Barry Bannan – 7 – A battling midfield display laced with some creative passes last night that were reminiscent of the probing, thoughtful balls that Gordon Cowans so often produced for us.

Marc Albrighton – 7 – Busy as he always is and made a couple of decent crosses and runs. Should have earned a penalty for us on 61 minutes when he was brought down on the edge of the box when running at a defender but should have done better on 80 minutes when Downing found him in space with another good cross but he blasted the ball wide when a match winning goal looked on.

Ashley Young – 7 – Worked tirelessly once again and hit a good shot from the edge of the box which keeper Kingson just about kept out on 46 minutes. Hit an inviting cross after Bannan had cleverly found him on 58 minutes that just needed a touch from Delfouneso as it flashed across the face of the goal.

Nathan Delfouneso– 7 – Did well enough as our lone striker. Drifted wide a few times when his presence was more needed inside the box but should have ended the game with two goals to his name rather than one. Nathan stretched to try and get something onto a nice Downing cross on 12 minutes. Collins hit a good ball from inside his own half that Ashley did very well to reach and hit a good first time cross that Nathan rose above a static defender to head home only to have his goal ruled out on the basis that his challenge was an unfair one quite wrongly. His goal came on 59 minutes when Ashley hit a great ball that split the Blackpool defence and found him in oceans of space, Nathan then ran on and finished well. Replaced by Gabby with half an hour to be played and when he was at his most effective of the night but no doubt brought off as he will have a big role to play in our next game.


Gabriel Agbonlahor – 6 - Replaced Nathan on 63 minutes and looked very lively particularly initially after what had been a longer than anticipated absence. His pace and goals have been much missed.

Stephen Ireland – Replaced Marc on 81 minutes and so was not on long enough to rate or to blow away the signs of ring rust he again displayed in the brief time he was allowed. He needs a run of games to hopefully show he can again become the player he once was. I would have thought he would have been favourite to have started a home game such as this one but even with our current injury list he found young guns selected in preference to him.

Eric Lichaj – Replaced Bannan to play the last minute of injury time.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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Amazing that we played SIX academy graduates, and had 9 altogether in the squad!

Agreed our young talent are getting a real shot at the moment due to injury and our lack of transfer activity in the summer. They are responding very well to the challenge and long may their current performance levels continue.

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