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180 minutes from a return to Wembley!


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by John

This was our fifth successive win over this season and last in cup games against Blackburn. How they must loathe being drawn against us and how we enjoy sending them crashing out of cup competitions!

At the start of the Second World War we and our opponents of yesterday jointly held the record of the most FA Cup wins with six each. Since then we have added one more to make it seven and thirteen between us but it has been 53 years of FA Cup hurt for us since then so let’s make it eight wins this year!

When I got to the ground and heard the team I had concerns that Gerard was resting too many players for us to be able to continue our winning run that now stands at three games. But, Blackburn did not cause us quite the sort of problems we might have anticipated even when we went down to ten men and the boys that came into the side did not let us down. Like our game against Manchester City we were pegged into our own half for much of the last 30 minutes but this time we had a two goal cushion and although a goal had looked like coming and would have had it not been for a terrific injury time goal line clearance from Clark pulling two goals back had always looked beyond them and became increasingly unlikely as each minute ticked by.

Sometimes the magic of the FA Cup sees the cup in the hands of a team in a season during which they have pulled up very few trees up until the FA Cup campaign comes along. Our improvement in form may just be coming at the right time to bring an end to those 53 years without an FA Cup win. Four more wins in this competition is all we now need along with the luck of the draw which it would be nice if it started today with a home draw against lets say Crawley, Orient or Brighton.

My player ratings from a game that has left us realistically in with a chance of a third Wembley visit in two seasons are:

Brad Friedel – 7 – Kalinic almost skewed an open goal into Brad’s clutches on 11 minutes but our keeper was not quite able to keep it on the right side of the goal line to prevent their equaliser. A good solid all round display.

Kyle Walker - 6 – Good going forward had a couple of less convincing moments at the back.

Carlos Cuellar – 7 – Did very well alongside Ciaran in what looks a good central defensive pairing.

Ciaran Clark – 8 – MOTM – Had a header from a well placed Pirez corner cleared off the line but then pounced on the resultant equally good corner from Bannan to head home our first on 11 minutes. Did very well to keep out a ball which had been headed back across the goal into what was an otherwise unguarded goal mouth in injury time. Rock solid at the back and a threat up front yesterday.

Nathan Baker – 6 – Unlucky to receive a straight red for an over exuberant challenge which probably looked worse than it was on 62 minutes but Hoilett’s writhing and the reaction of the nearby bench was enough to prompt the referee to decide on the strongest possible punishment. Headed a Pirez corner wide on 48 minutes that he should really have got on target and had earlier hit a great cross that led to our third. A pity his promising home debut was marred by one rash challenge but his time will come and he has the promise to make a central defensive place his own over the coming years.

Nathan Delfouneso – 7 – Gabby hit a nice cross that found Nathan who turned and hit a shot just over on 13 minutes. He then went on to climb well to connect with a great Baker cross that he headed down and past Robinson for a vital third just before the break to deflate our opponents on 42 minutes.

Barry Bannan - 8 – Tremendous in the first half when he ran our midfield and was so comfortable on the ball. Not quite as prominent in the second half as Blackburn were forced to try to counter him by putting a man on him but he will be pressing for a first team start on this sort of form. Hit a decent shot from the edge of the box just over on 24 minutes.

Nigel Reo Coker – 7 – Held things together very well as our midfield enforcer and we need to be doing something to try and retain his services after this season.

Robert Pirez – 7 – A nice cameo performance from our midfield veteran. He might not have the pace of old but he can still find a man more often than not, takes a very good corner and if he finds himself in the right place at the right time can still finish with the aplomb that he used to on a more regular basis in bygone days. Robert proved the latter on 35 minutes with a sweet finish for our second goal hitting home a deflected ball on the bounce that he did well to keep down and put past the keeper to give us back the lead. Four minutes later he was on hand at the other end of the pitch to keep our lead intact by clearing off his own goal line.

Gabby Agbonlahor – 6 – Stuck to the line at times when he might have come inside in search of the ball but is no doubt under orders to stay wide needs to anticipate rather than to react to opportunities to make runs but his place is undoubtedly in the middle as he is no winger. Replaced at half time.

Emile Heskey – 6 – Did not hold the ball up as well as I had anticipated he might in the second half and was not up to the level he had been producing before his suspension.

Substitutes:

Stewart Downing – 6 – Replaced Gabby for the start of the second half. A good run and a fierce shot on 80 minutes forced a good save from Robinson.

James Collins – 6 - Replaced Pirez on 68 minutes as GH looked to stiffen our defence following the loss of Baker. Missed an early tackle but then got back to redeem himself by winning the ball back well.

Marc Albrighton – 6 - Replaced Delfouneso on 72 minutes.

Up for the Cup Villa!

John Lewis

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I am curious to hear what one might think of that 5th round draw

Not a lot aztattooedsean. It has given us a massive mountain to climb and could not have been worse in my opinion. I see Manchester United & Arsenal got two the clubs I was after for us. But, I think it will be a little closer up there than the league game was. :winkold:

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What really excites me about this is that we can now completely change our front 6 for the next game if we wanted to and field as strong a side, and that is excluding Bradley, Delph and Gardner. We really are starting to get some attacking options in place now. Also rested the two main CBs.

Even Utd and Arsenal couldn't manage this at the weekend as they were both forced to bring on their bigger guns to secure the win.

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