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We almost won and can win with our kids!


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By John

A point is as good as it has been for us against yesterday’s opponents since 1985 when goals from Taylor, Draper and Yorke gave us our last home league win against them. Their then bunch of kids would go on to dominate English football after that 3 – 1 defeat but our own kids ran Fergie’s current team very, very close yesterday!

Not many of us would have refused a point if it had been offered before yesterday’s game. But at the end of a splendid second half of football we left the ground disappointed that this was all we had to show for all that effort and from all of those good second half chances. I think that shows the progress we have made so far this season and this particularly applies to our young guns who are really going for it.

Not for the first time this season a late goal did for us and in this case it was two late goals and it is not the first time that yesterday’s opponents have come back from being behind to draw or win games against us. But, this time I had dared to believe that our two goal lead would be too much for them as they looked shell shocked by the way we had opened them up in the second half.

The first half gave little indication of what the second half had in store for us and we hit a lot of wayward passes in the first 20 minutes. Both teams cancelled each other out and there was a lack of action in both penalty areas. But, the second half was so different and on 66 minutes we had a ten minute purple patch during which we were denied by the woodwork twice and scored two fine goals.

Not for the first time Manchester United were lucky still to have eleven players on the pitch at the end of a game against us. Firstly on 50 minutes when Nani who had gone off for treatment moments earlier following a challenge with Warnock then clearly elbowed the same player at the earliest opportunity in front of a linesman and was very fortunate to see yellow rather than red as he had against us last season at Villa Park. Then secondly Brown was fortunate that Ferdinand was also nearby when he brought down Ashley for a penalty on 70 minutes and was adjudged not to have been the last man due to Ferdinand’s presence. Then thirdly after Ash had been booked for celebrating his penalty conversion and Vidic had been booked for his protests against that decision when Vidic escaped a second yellow and a red against us for a second time this year when he ran towards and ended up in the midst of his own supporters in much the same way as had Ash to earn his booking when celebrating their second.

So Houllier’s solid record against Manchester United persists as does our unbeaten home record this season, their ability to get something from nothing against us at Villa Park and their unbeaten record in the first 13 games of this season. But, the fact that we outplayed them for the majority of the second half, stopped them from having a scoring opportunity for all but the last 10 minutes of normal time, came so close to being the first team to beat them this season and that they left with a point knowing they had got out of jail against our injury hit team shows that we are getting better with each game and that our kids are alright and could just form the nucleus of a trophy winning future Villa team.

My player ratings from a game that kept us in the top half are:

Brad Friedel – 6 – Again beaten twice on what was otherwise a game that he did not have that much to do. But Brad had little chance with either goal. Their first on 80 minutes was a fine shot by that thorn in our side Macheda which found the one available gap and gave them belief were previously there was none and then 4 minutes later Vidic unmarked at the far post headed back across goal and just inches wide of Brad’s outstretched hand to get their equaliser. On 91 minutes Brad blocked a shot from substitute Obertan to prevent the daylight robbery a third goal would have produced.

Luke Young - 7 – Very good coming forward and very solid at the back.

Richard Dunne – 6 – Lucky when his poor first touch on 24 minutes almost left Park clear but it was tidied up by Warnock to spare his blushes.

James Collins – 6 – Unlucky on 66 minutes when his solid header from a good Downing cross rattled the bar.

Stephen Warnock - 7 – Like Luke was solid in defence and linked very well with our forward players.

Stewart Downing – 8 – MOTM – A big threat throughout and his crosses were deadly. Hit an on target shot from the edge of the box on 42 minutes which was deflected wide. Went very close to giving us a third on 81 minutes when he cut inside the box and unleashed a rising shot that beat the keeper and rose just inches over the bar. Looks a steal at £12m!

Marc Albrighton – 8 – Hit a shot just wide from a tight angle on 49 minutes and then was found by a great cross from Downing on 53 minutes but placed his header just wide of the far post. But, he got the goal he deserved on 75 minutes when Ash ran from within his own half then found Downing whose inviting cross was hit home by Marc. Three minutes later he did his bit in his own penalty area as well heading a Ferdinand effort off the line.

Jonathan Hogg – 6 – A solid home league debut and he was not overawed by the occasion. Worked hard and will improve with more first team opportunities to play more games.

Barry Bannan – 7 – Once again worked tirelessly and threaded some nice passes to leave Manchester United defenders flat footed. An example that stands out was on 14 minutes when Barry placed a superb ball into the box for Downing but the ball was forced out for a corner.

Ashley Young – 7 – Hit a shot on the half hour after Gabby headed the ball onto him and Van der Sar saved near the foot of his post. Ash played a great ball through for Gabby to run onto on 70 minutes, he beat Vidic for pace and would have found Ash running into the box had he not been brought down by Brown for the penalty that he showed real nerve to convert by sending Van der Sar the wrong way.

Gabby Agbonlahor – 7 – Looking good on his return to first team action and his pace was a threat to their defence until he was replaced on 77 minutes when we then led 2-0. Hit the post on 67 minutes. He started that move by finding Ash whose effort was blocked and he then hit the foot of the post before Downing collected the rebound and hit a shot into the side netting.


Nathan Delfouneso – 6 - Replaced Gabby on 77 minutes made no significant impact and was not on long enough for a rating.

Eric Lichaj – Again appeared as a late replacement this time for Albrighton to play the last minute and 5 minutes of “Fergie Time”.

Chris Herd – Replaced Hogg during injury time.

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Good assessment as usual, John. Thanks. I see you thought that Hogg had a solid debut - I thought so too, but I've heard others say he looked out of his depth. He certainly didn't stand out as a weak link to me. I was most impressed with the performance of our young and inexperienced midfield...and, of course, with the total commitment and battling performance of the whole team. Well done lads, even though the result in the end was disappointing.

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