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We Are Top of the League!


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OPosted by: John

Catch us if you can Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City! It may just be for a fleeting moment, but can anyone honestly say they have not enjoyed more than a couple of long lingering looks at the league table as it now stands?

So Rovers once again return from Villa Park empty handed. They are welcome and very regular visitors and we could not have asked for a better first home fixture than this for Big Eck who said walking down the track yesterday “was a proud moment for myself and my family”. At times we looked very good yesterday but we will face stiffer opposition which will include Wolves next weekend and last season started with an emphatic win against a relegation doomed side and it could be that history will repeat itself.

Four points from 6 represents a good start to a season that has begun with fans having lowered their expectation levels on the back of the lack of inward transfer activity during this transfer window. We have replaced Friedel with Given and Ashley Young with N’Zogbia. But we have pocketed the rest of the incoming transfer money and start this season hoping to compensate for the loss of Reo Coker and Downing with players who were already at the club but were either considered persona non grata or too young to be flung into the fray long term. It is a high risk policy and it puts financial prudence ahead of progress on the pitch not for the first time in the history of our football club. It may make sound business sense but football success for fans is not measured by how far we reduce our wage bill it is measured by cups and league titles.

Our midweek game will give the young guns an opportunity to show that they are ready for first team action. Next weekend’s game will give us an opportunity to perform a lot better than we did last season against a now strengthened Wolves team. A passage to the next round and 3 more points would be very acceptable and the sooner we get our points on the board the better.

My player ratings from a game that has left us top of the pile but possibly more realistically within 36 points of our first target for this season of 40 points and safety are:

Shay Given – 6 – Solid but it is worrying that as at Fulham last week he had to pass on his goal kicking duties towards the end of the game and he might present a fitness concern as the season continues.

Luke Young - 6 – Took a knock early on which he tried to run off but it ultimately led to his half time substitution. If he is out for next week it will represent an early test of our squad strength or lack of it.

James Collins – 6 – Solid enough but will face tougher tests.

Richard Dunne – 7 – Looked more solid than on several occasions last season and I suspect Big Eck has been doing a lot of work with our central defence.

Stephen Warnock - 7 – Looked nearer the player he had been for us when he gained England recognition than the player who had drifted out of our first team with barely a whimper last season.

Gabby Agbonlahor – 8 – MOTM – A tremendous first half and a 12th minute goal that was worth the admission price on its own. He was fed by Bent went outside Salgado before checking back and then curling a superb right foot shot around Robinson and into the net for his 50th Premier League goal. Nine minutes later N’Zogbia moved forward from inside his own half and found Heskey on the half way line who in turn found Gabby who tried to curl another shot past Robinson (this time from outside of the box) but the keeper stretched to reach this one. He looked really up for it yesterday.

Fabian Delph – 8 – Very, very encouraging. This is a season that will give him the opportunity to become a first team regular and on yesterday’s display he seems intent on taking that opportunity with both hands if he is able to stay injury free.

Stiliyan Petrov – 7 – Kept our midfield solid.

Charles N’Zogbia – 6 – One terrific late run but he was quiet for much of this game. He is still settling into his new team and will get better with more games and did look better as the game wore on. Charles did not make the sort of Villa Park impression yesterday that he had done so often when starting the game from the away dressing room but he is a player who is too good to not shine in time.

Emile Heskey - 7 – Looked pretty good and at the moment he is too valuable for us to consider letting go for peanuts. Hit the back of the net from the edge of the box with a 25th minute shot that went under Robinson’s dive after Gabby had used his strength on the edge of the box to hold off Salgado before setting him up. He was then presented with an opportunity by Bent on 34 minutes but a poor first touch inside the box let him down.

Darren Bent – 7 – Did what it says on the tin namely he scored and that is what he is there to do. Petrov hit a speculative long range shot on 67 minutes that Hanley blocked on the edge of the box only for the ball to fall to Darren who took a couple of touches before drilling the ball past Robinson to give us our third and restore our two goal cushion.


Marc Albrighton – 5 – Replaced Gabby at half time but looked some way off his exhilarating early season form of last year at the beginning of what is an important season for him and for us as we are rather relying on him filling the vacant wing berth with some aplomb. Did hit a shot from the edge of the box that skimmed the surface and went just inches wide of the post on 63 minutes but was otherwise quiet.

Ciaran Clark – 6 - Replaced the injured Young on 56 minutes and gave a steady performance on the left as did Warnock who was switched to the right for the last third of the game.

Barry Bannan – 6 - Replaced Emile on 66 minutes and slotted in well to our midfield. Fed by N’Zogbia on the edge of the box on 72 minutes but his shot went harmlessly over the bar.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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Excellent stuff there, still have the League Table from the last time we were top ( Christmas 2000?). Doesn`t really say much afte two games though, does it? Glad we were able to take the game to them, although it really is one of the weaker sides we will meet through the season. Still dead chuffed though....

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Doesn`t really say much after two games though, does it?

No, it was just a fleeting moment but it brought back some very nice memories and the points make the Wolves game a top of the table clash now rather than a relegation 6 pointer Overdubber. :lol:

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