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Fulham fail to match their heroes of 1966!


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It has been 45 years since a Fulham team won a top flight league game at Villa Park. But, although that run remains unbroken after yesterday they did come back twice to take a point that keeps them above us and us just five points clear of each of the clubs who currently hold the three relegation places at the foot of the table.

We had a much better first half than second. We played some lovely flowing football against a Fulham side which like us have through recent results put some points between themselves and the main relegation candidates. But, the second half was a different story and we always looked like needing a two goal cushion that never really looked like coming on a day when not everyone on our side was quite at the races. They came back twice from a goal down to peg us back and they looked the more likely winners at the end.

Three points would have put us mid table and just 3 wins from relative safety. We now need to go to Blackpool, show their manager that we are a big team after all and by doing so claim back the two points we dropped yesterday because two goals at home really should have been enough to have secured us a win had our defence not been so fragile. Still at least unlike others yesterday we did not lose a 4 goal lead or lose a long unbeaten run to the bottom team in our division!

By the way, players get booked for celebrating a goal in front of their own fans but yesterday we had an example of a player goading opposition fans by running in front of them after equalising and then gesticulating in their direction after celebrating in the corner with the away fans that had made the trip. But, what else would we expect from ex-Nose Johnson who has done this at Villa Park before and seems to feel he is immune from punishment? Let’s hope he gets a bit of retrospective justice but I doubt that he will.

My player ratings from a game that we would have seen us go twelfth in the league and over 30 points had we won are:

Brad Friedel – 5 – A Brad day at the office for the oldest ever Aston Villa player. Brad will have been disappointed not to have pushed Sidwell’s 52nd minute shot away from the goal mouth rather than back into the middle where Johnson’s reaction was quicker than Dunne’s as he stooped to head the ball downwards which then bounced over Brad and into the net despite Dunne’s attempts to reach it. He then came off his line to try to claim the ball from a 78th minute corner but got nowhere near it as Dempsey rose all too easily between Collins and Dunne to head a second equaliser into the corner of an unguarded net and to once again expose our defensive fallibilities from corners. Brad did stop a 17th minute Sidwell shot that appeared to move in the wind or did it hit him? But, he did do very well to block an 88th minute Johnson effort with his legs that had “late winner” written all over it.

Kyle Walker - 8 – A place in the England squad and a goal that deserved to win any match. Kyle was at his best yesterday, he linked well with Downing, showed good pace when moving forward and unlike his defensive colleagues gave no cause for defensive anxiety. Ran from just inside his own half past Sidwell before hitting a screamer from at least 30 yards that found its way into the corner of the net for what should have been our winner.

Richard Dunne – 5 – His lack of pace is an ongoing concern this season and he needs to see whether he can step up a gear again to give us the level of performance that he produced so consistently last season.

James Collins – 5 – This was strikingly different from his man of the match against Manchester City. Neither he nor Dunne looked at all confident or accomplished in the centre of our defence.

Ciaran Clark - 6 – A couple of lapses of concentration one of which led to possession being lost and not regained prior to their first equaliser. Should have been on target with an unchallenged header on 53 minutes that he miscued from a good Downing cross. But, our soon to be Irish international is doing a job that does not come naturally to him.

Stewart Downing – 8 – The best of our forward players by some way today. Some very good runs and some very decent crosses as demonstrated with a great cross with the outside of his foot that just eluded Bent’s head but not Pantsil’s who applied a splendid finish to put us ahead on 13 minutes and to claim his third own goal of the season.

Stiliyan Petrov – 5 – Did not make much of an impression on this one and looked weary in the last half an hour again. Might just have had a cunning plan on 72 minutes though when he fed the ball back to Walker who then went on the run that led to our second goal rather than pump it forward as he was being invited to by us!

Jean Makoun – 9 – MOTM – Rarely put a pass astray or was caught in possession. He shows foresight and has the ability that only highest quality players have of instinctively seeming to know what he will do with the ball before he actually gets it. Nice one touch football and an eye for a pass as shown when he fed Downing for our opener. Our man of the match by a county mile!

Ashley Young - 6 – Quiet today and looked better when wide as for me he always does.

Gabby Agbonlahor – 5 – He really looks out of place out wide and unhappy to be there. Hit a decent ball through to Bent that was just too long for him on 39 minutes and then found Ash well on the edge of the box whose effort went wide under challenge on 57 minutes. His one shot on target was not caught right and was easily gathered by their keeper.

Darren Bent – 6 – Inches away from scoring an opener on 6 minutes when Downing went on a good run and hit a shot from the edge of the box that Schwarzer was only able to push out for Darren to pounce and put into the net but to be adjudged very marginally offside. Lacked service and what he had proved often just beyond his reach such as on 69 minutes when a decent Downing ball in just passed out of his reach. Screwed a shot wide at the start of the second half that he might have done better to have taken a touch on rather than to hit it first time.

Substitutes:

Marc Albrighton – Unlucky not to have started for me replaced Petrov on 83 minutes and did not have enough time to make a real impression or to earn a rating.

Emile Heskey – Replaced Gabby on 86 minutes. It would have been nice to see how he might have gone playing alongside Bent today but he was on too late to demonstrate that or to rate.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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