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Soaring throstles brought back down to earth!


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by John

So it remains 31 years since West Bromwich Albion has left Villa Park with all of the points and long may their grim run continue!

Changes were needed after a run of four successive defeats and they had the desired effect. Carlos Cuellar at last got a game at the centre of our defence which has been leaking goals for too long now for either Dunne or Collins to have still felt their starting place was secure and we welcomed back Emile Heskey who led our attack with great vigour and then added a winner to boot!

We started quietly and Albion looked a more than decent side but we have developed the knack of late of making most sides look more than decent against us particularly when we are away from home. The Baggies are under their promising young boss Di Matteo looking a much better team than they have for a quarter of a century and this was not a game that many of us went to with any undue confidence. But, despite coming to Villa Park on the back of two good wins WBA know it is not a happy hunting ground for them and after a bright start during which the woodwork had denied them our 25th minute goal knocked the stuffing out of them and we had the better of things after that with Ash, Downing and Albrighton all performing well and when that happens we can be a potent force up front.

We started the game fifth from bottom and only two points clear of the bottom three. We ended it four points clear of the relegation places and just outside of the bottom six. So this really was a must win game for us as is the next game at Wigan where a win might just move us back into the top half of the table and take us above WBA as did our win yesterday above Small Heath (for a minimum of a day). These two teams have for them had a good start to the season but in comparison our own has had all the appearances of being a harbinger of impending doom. But, their expectation levels start well below our own and for us the bottom half of the table is somewhere we have grown accustomed to looking down on from a top six berth. Two games and six points can make a big difference to our season as can a decent transfer window and the return of more players that we have had to do without for far too long. Let us hope that by next weekend we can start looking again at sixth as our realistic target rather than sixteenth.

My player ratings from a game that we got the first three of those much needed six points from are:

Brad Friedel – 6 – A quiet game which will have been a relief for him.

Eric Lichaj - 6 – Beaten a couple of times by Thomas but a solid and encouraging full league debut from our US international.

Carlos Cuellar – 7 – A welcome and too delayed return to the centre of our defence. Looked good and gave us some much missed central solidity.

James Collins – 6 – A better performance than of late and did well to get a block in on 88 minutes to an on target effort unfortunately they scored from the resultant corner when Scharner rose above our defence and powered a header in.

Stephen Warnock - 6 – Had early problems when Albion ran at him and it was him and then Collins who were left in Tchoyi’s wake when he rattled the bar when WBA were in the ascendancy. At his best when moving forward yesterday and is not currently the player he was this time last season.

Marc Albrighton – 7 – Played a big part in the win setting up both goals. On 25 minutes he claimed the ball from a defender went on to beat another and played a great cross into the box that skimmed off Ashley’s head at the near post and was then forced home by Downing at the far post. Also hit a great cross to give Emile a much deserved goal.

Barry Bannan – 6 – Quiet today and did not make his usual impressive impression on the game. Replaced after 73 minutes.

Jonathan Hogg – 6 – Seems to be settling better into the first team action with each game.

Stewart Downing – 7 – Once again in the right place at the right time on 25 minutes to score our first this was a much improved performance on his last two outings. Hit a great cross on 54 minutes that Albrighton placed 3 – 4 feet wide.

Ashley Young – 7 – MOTM – A captain’s display and I particularly appreciated how he turned to those behind him and demonstrated that their concentration was required as we lined up for the re-start after Albion had pulled a late goal back. Took advantage of a Scharner error on 64 minutes and hit a great cross that only needed a touch on it but Heskey was about a yard off it. Worked very hard, was a constant threat to their defence and is a player we must pull out all of the stops to hold onto.

Emile Heskey – 7 – Won balls in the air for fun and put himself about to good effect added what turned out to be our winner on 80 minutes. Albrighton collected a Downing cross on the edge of the box and fired over a great cross that the diving Collins sold a decoy to the Albion defender whose lack of an intervention led to the ball meeting the grateful Emile at the far post for our second.


Nigel Reo Coker – 6 - Replaced Bannan on 73 minutes. Has been much missed and will hopefully OK to start at Wigan to provide some steel and experience to our midfield. Came off the line when otherwise he may have been on hand to stop their late goal.

Nathan Delfouneso – Replaced Emile on 84 minutes not on long enough to earn a rating.

Chris Herd – Another late, late introduction into a game this time during the 4 minutes of injury time when he replaced Albrighton.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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I think Hogg was excellent yesterday. I was impressed too with Warnock's mental strength, as he started off very poorly, but managed to lift his performance - not easy.

Barry Bannan was very quiet, and like pretty much everyone else I was chuffed to see Carlos back in the centre.

I agree, too about the Tescos - they looked a pretty decent side, and play good football.

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Fair summary. I would reduce Bannan's score as I thought he was poor and struggled to get in to the game. We need more of a physical presence in there when we play a good team with 3 in the CM. For me, this means a stronger pairing or a three if Barry is going to play. Like Blandy, I would also have scored Hogg higher as I thought he was excellent yesterday in that understated DCM role - Stan with legs for me.

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For me:

Big Brad - 6 - did wha the had to

Yeehii - 7 - thought he settled well against a difficult opponent and looked solid

CC and JC - 7 - looked pretty sound and Collins getting in the blocks again

Knocker - 6 - looks low on confidence but improved as the defence looked more solid

Downing - 7 - getting to be Mr.Reliable

Hoggy - 9 - My MOTM got about the pitch and got stuck into everone and never gave up. Chased harried and then played some good balls. A bright prospect.

BB - 6 - didn't look on the pace but like most kids will be in and out over a season which is why they need protection from the management team

Ash - 8 - did the running and seemed to stop some of his whinging and play acting

Albrighton - 8+ - excellent wing play and constant thorn in their side

Lancelot - 7 - did what he does well, held up play, laid off good balls and nice flick ons. The usual lack of finishing I'm afraid. He didn't really know anything about his goal did he?

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For me, this means a stronger pairing or a three if Barry is going to play

I trust Reo will make us stronger in the middle now he is back barry's boots. I think with hindsight Barry looked like he might have benefited from a game off on Saturday and as Blandy also said he was very quiet for him but we have not really been in a position where we are able to rotate our midfield as suspensions and knocks mean we often have to play whoever is fit. I might be tempted to go Reo, Ciaran and Hoggie for the Wigan game.

He didn't really know anything about his goal did he?

That is what made it so sweet Denis. :winkold: But, he was in the right place at the right time. By the way I like the Lichaj = Yeehii. :lol:

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For me:

Lancelot - 7 - did what he does well, held up play, laid off good balls and nice flick ons. The usual lack of finishing I'm afraid. He didn't really know anything about his goal did he?

I watched a recording of MoTD last night, and think he did just steer it in - it came really quick to him, but he definitely reacted and steered it in. At the game I thought it was an o.g.

He didn't look fully sharp, but we were the better for him playing, IMO, Den.

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