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Can we play you every week?


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by John

OK it does seem that we already do as we have now played them 9 times in the last 18 months. But, Blackburn are very welcome visitors and this 4–1 home league win follows our two earlier 3-1 wins against them in cup competitions at Villa Park this season!

Blackburn came for the point and by their manager’s own admission set out their stall to keep a clean sheet. For 45 minutes things went much as they had planned but in the second half they conceded 4 goals in a game they had never really looked like making their fourth successive league win against us and they left the field a well beaten team and one that is now sitting below us in the league table.

This really was a game of two halves with no goals in the first and five in the second. We stated and finished the first half pretty well but the rest of the first half was soporific at best. Blackburn attempted to stifle and smoother a team that had already scored six goals against them in 2 games at Villa Park this season and one that now has ten goals to show against them at home this season.

So we have turned one of the winnable home games we had left into three points. We have now put 5 points between us and the bottom three and six points behind sixth placed Liverpool who currently hold the league position that we have made our own in the past three years. Seven more points will give us the 40 points that would allow us to begin looking above us rather than behind us and the sooner we get those points the better. Would it be unrealistic to hope we could reach that 40 point target by the second week in April and then possibly look to get the results that could make our last game against Liverpool a sixth place and European qualification decider? That would be a nice finish to what has been a disappointing season for us up to now as would a result on Wednesday that would give us hope of a visit or two to Wembley. But, the realistic focus is on getting those 7 points we need. Anything else would be an unlikely and most unexpected bonus.

My player ratings from a game that has lifted us up to the giddy heights of twelfth are:

Brad Friedel – 6 – A quiet day at the office for Brad against a side that had limited offensive ambitions until we opened the scoring. Brad stood no chance with their late consolation goal when a speculative long range shot took a wicked deflection off Dunne that took the ball over him and into the net for Kalinic’s 5th goal in his last 4 Villa Park appearances. Brad did well to prevent Blackburn taking the lead at the start of the first half when he stopped Jones’ goal bound shot with his legs.

Kyle Walker - 8 – Outstanding when coming forward and he links very well with Downing using his pace well at the back as well to nullify threats. We need to pull out all of the stops to make this loan deal a permanent one. Hit a decent shot from outside of the box that was blocked by Robinson.

Richard Dunne – 7 – Took the responsibility as our senior central defender alongside Ciaran and eased the talented youngster through the game on his move across to the centre of our defence. Had only one real moment of concern when he was caught in possession early in the second half and Freidel spared his blushes.

Ciaran Clark –7 – Solid alongside Dunne yesterday and it is nice to see a young defender who is so at ease on the ball. But, he showed a couple of times that he has work to do on appreciating when it is safe to play the ball out and when it needs to be cleared with the minimum of fuss as was demonstrated when he was caught in possession by Kalinic late in the game and the resultant shot flashed just past Freidel and the post for what would have been their and his second.

Nathan Baker – 6 – Having been sent off on his Villa Park debut against the same opponents Nathan was equally unfortunate on his return to the first team following the resultant suspension to leave the field after just 36 minutes yesterday due to injury.

Marc Albrighton – 6 – Marc was quieter than he usually is for much of this game although he did look better in the last half hour and it was his good low 62nd minute cross following a fourth successive corner that was turned in for the decisive second by Hanley who claimed an own goal. Marc had hit a good cross 4 minutes earlier that Bent was very near to reaching and turning in at the near post. He hit a shot on 70 minutes from about 30 yards when he might have done better to feed one of the players in front of him but you have to buy a ticket to win a raffle.

Ashley Young - 9 – MOTM – Ash was on fire yesterday! He caught Nelson in possession inside the box and was wrestled to the ground slotting home the penalty himself by sending Robinson the wrong way for our 49th minute opening goal. He then added his second goal of the day and his seventh in all against Blackburn on 82 minutes when he fed Downing who returned the complement to find him on the edge of the box where he hit a sweet finish to restore our 3 goal advantage. Hit a fierce cross come shot on 71 minutes that flashed a couple of feet away from Bent and produced a level of performance that for me is the best one he has produced when not playing wide and which shows why we need to pull out all of the stops to prevent him following Barry and Milner in leaving the club in what is fast becoming the annual summer transfer window star player exodus.

Nigel Reo Coker – 8 – Picked up everything in the midfield and allowed others around him the freedom to play. Worked hard, controlled and bossed the midfield and we really need to be talking to him about another contract before someone else does.

Robert Pirès – 7 – Surprisingly given a starting place no doubt due to the good impression he made when playing against the same opposition in the FA Cup just a month ago. As we all know he lacks the pace he had ten or even five years ago and he showed it more than once early on when his contribution had yet to reach the level it later became when he increasingly showed what an effective player he can still be and was often pulling the strings that ultimately led to our opponents being overwhelmed. Fed by Downing on 29 minutes and hit his shot past the post having earlier lifted an effort from a similar position over the bar. Had a well hit shot pushed away by the keeper on 40 minutes and hit another 4 minutes later that Robinson blocked before just managing to beat Bent to the loose bouncing ball. Robert looked to be enjoying himself yesterday.

Stewart Downing – 8 – Both he and Ash were too hot for Blackburn to hold yesterday. Scored a brilliant third goal on 64 minutes when Ash was fouled on the half way line and the referee played a good advantage when he picked up the ball just inside their half ran on, cut inside the box and picked his spot, stroking the ball with the inside of his foot past Robinson and into the corner of the net.

Darren Bent – 6 – Nearly got on the end of a couple of things yesterday and it will be a rare occurrence for him to be goalless on a day that we hit four. Found on the edge of the box by Ash on 10 minutes and had his on target shot saved by Robinson and failed to get a shot on goal after Pirès had found him inside the box and an opening goal had looked a real possibility.

Substitutes:

Fabian Delph – 7 – Replaced Nathan on 36 minutes when our lack of a defender on the bench might have been exposed by a more adventurous outfit. But, Fab was rarely called upon to defend and looked very good when coming forward.

Stiliyan Petrov – 6 - Replaced Pirès on 76 minutes and his introduction freed others to push further forward.

Emile Heskey – Replaced Bent on 83 minutes. Not on long enough to earn a rating but he might have added a fifth when he turned a Downing cross inches wide of the near post on 87 minutes.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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A fine performance and fully deserved against woefull opposition on the day.

Pires had a great game i.m.o. He was full of energy and displayed the excellent footballing brain he has. He deserved to stay on for the full 90 i.m.o and if he can continue that sort of performance he will be a very valuable member to the villa.

I didn't think it was right to see bent chasing the ball on the wing which happened several times, he needs the ball fed to him in the centre. Gabby not playing was probably the cause of this.

I think we could all see that it was pretty obvious in the first half that we were trying to walk the ball into the back of the net. Which is what we have been trying to do all season. Robinson was tested 3 times in 3 minutes just before half time when our players finally decided to start striking it.

(lesson learned, hit the **** thing, you never know who it may bounce off and in)

Great atmosphere in the Holte !!

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Keith Andrews committed the foul on Ash didn't he?

Yes he did theunderstudy and thanks. Nelsen's first card was for for the foul on Ash in the lead up to our third.

He deserved to stay on for the full 90 i.m.o

Good points RotaxMax125. But, I would suggest that Pirès may have been happy enough to come off when he did (he is no spring chicken after all) and the job was done by then. :winkold:

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