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Bulls defeated but not slaughtered!


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by John

Two goals in the last 10 minutes gave us a win that looks more comfortable than it actually was and sees Big Eck retain his unbeaten record as our manager.

We now have two wins from our only two meetings with Hereford. It was not quite the thrashing we gave them 39 years ago in the same competition when goals from Rioch, Vowden, Graydon and Evans gave us a 4 – 1 win and there were also 11,000 more fans at Villa Park back then. But it was a win and it gives us a place in the draw for the next round.

The eight changes from our starting line up against Blackburn presented opportunities for players both young and less young to show our new manager that they do merit consideration for a first team place. A couple of players took that opportunity but it was not very pretty for 80 minutes was it?

So we progress to the next round as had been expected and Hereford posed little real threat to our place in a cup competition that only Liverpool has won more often than us. They did work hard throughout as was expected of them but they lacked the ability to go with their commitment that might have made us pay for what was for much of the game a lack lustre display and up until near the end had been a toothless one.

The longer the game wore on without us getting the goal that would inevitably kill the game off as a contest the more likely an improbable defeat from a rare attack became. But two late goals settled it and I guess had we got an opening goal earlier our opponents’ resistance might have been broken more than twice. Hereford fans will have left Villa Park happy with their team’s display and with their night out. We left relieved the game had ended with the right result without the need for extra time or even penalties.

But, I also wondered why we had started with just one striker at home against Hereford and why we felt the need to push all 11 men back into our own box to defend a second half corner. We failed to get enough players forward to support Bent last night and so created few openings. They looked unlikely to open the scoring themselves and the height of their ambition seemed reasonably enough to be denying us a goal or too many. But for 80 minutes that had been much easier for them to do than they had thought likely and by the last quarter they had even begun to believe the impossible might just be possible.

My player ratings from a game that left many of us relieved to have avoided another 30 minutes of it were:

Brad Guzan – 6 – Never seriously tested.

Chris Herd- 6 – Like the rest of our defenders was not really put under any real pressure but he looked decent enough throughout. Chris headed a ball from Bannan just wide on 3 minutes.

Eric Lichaj – 7 – Scored our opening goal on 80 minutes hitting the ball into the roof of the net from close range and gave a good display at the back and when pushing forward. Also hit a good shot from outside the box on 53 minutes that forced a good save by Cornell.

Richard Dunne – 7 – Unsurprisingly he rarely appeared troubled by the attack he faced. Hit a loose ball from close range on 76 minutes that was cleared off the line.

Ciaran Clark - 8 – Had a good header from an Albrighton cross tipped over by Cornell on 22 minutes. Our Irish international looked steady and very composed throughout although he will face opponents that will pose more significant danger to him over the course of this season. Is the time now for him to be starting games on a regular basis as was the case with Gary Cahill prior to his leaving due to the lack of first team action?

Marc Albrighton – 6 – Improved as did we towards the end of the game but needs to up a gear or two in order to fulfil his undoubted potential. Hit a good shot from the edge of the box on 85 minutes that Cornell did well to smother and then hit a good cross 2 minutes later that was deflected just wide by a defender.

Jean Makoun – 7 – Showed last night that he could play effectively enough in the deep midfield role that our captain currently fills. Some nice touches and probing passes that show he should not be let go lightly.

Stephen Ireland – 8 – MOTM - An encouraging game in which he kept involved and produced some very nice touches as well as showed us signs of the danger he can cause when making forward runs as he so often did when at Mercenary City. Fed inside the box by Bannan to be presented with a scoring opportunity on 35 minutes but his effort hit the keeper rather than the back of the net. A good run and a one-two created the opportunity for a header on goal from him that drifted just wide of the post on the hour.

Barry Bannan – 8 – Worked hard throughout in the centre of our midfield and linked well with others he is a player who will be pressing more established players for a starting spot from now on.

Charles N’Zogbia – 6 – I had thought Charles would have enjoyed this opportunity to work towards shaking off his lack of a full pre-season and to run at defenders who would have been unfamiliar with the task of keeping players of his quality quiet. But quiet he was for much of this game and although he showed occasional nice touches he is clearly still settling into his new team and has yet to look like making the sort of big contribution in games that we anticipated seeing from him and that we got so often from the wide men who have departed in the summer window.

Darren Bent – 6 – Isolated for much of the game. What service he got (or should I say almost got) was in the form of balls played over and behind central defenders rather than crosses from wide men. Starved of service so we were starved of goals. Headed a cross back towards goal on 42 minutes but it lacked power and was swallowed by Cornell on his goal line.


Nathan Delfouneso – 6 – Replaced Makoun on 59 minutes and was in the right place at the right time to stroke in our second from close range on 88 minutes. It would have been hard to miss but you have to get in the position to take these chances and Nathan does score goals. He now needs to work on his general contribution and to avoid the sort of displays that led to him being a bench warmer at Burnley last season. This is a big season which will do much to determine the sort of career in football he has and it is an opportunity he needs to grab with both hands.

Andreas Weimann – 6 – Nice to see him back after that injury. Andreas looked a handful when he came on for Bent on 72 minutes and looks a strong runner and someone who is determined to give it a real go. Went on a good run and rounded it off with a shot that the keeper pushed onto the bar

Habib Beye – Replaced Herd on 88 minutes for a rare appearance in our shirt. One decent move forward but not on long enough to earn a rating although he was on long enough to set up our second.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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I find it odd how often people comment on only starting with one striker as if to imply this is negative.

It is a different style of football but the 4-2-3-1 can be just as attacking as the 4-4-2 and even more so in certain circumstances - just look at Barca!

A 4-4-2 with a solid bank of four midfielders and a second striker that is asked to drop can be very defensive. A 4-2-3-1 with two solid holding midfielders and three attack minded players in the three behind the striker can be really attack minded. It all tends to revolve around the second striker/attacking CM'er.

Whilst there is only one out and out striker listed above, the Zog, Albie and SI are all attack minded players.

I personally much prefer this system and think it works better for our CM'ers - as there isn't really a suitable two in there - and our strikers - certainly Bent and Gabby when he plays up top - who play better in the lone striker role.

However, we really need SI to find his feet if this is going to work for us.

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I find it odd how often people comment on only starting with one striker as if to imply this is negative.

I take your well made point BB but this was Hereford at home and I think if we had started with 2 strikers we may have not taken 80 minutes to score our first. It also did not seem to me that we pushed our midfield players up as much as we might have done in the first half to make this one striker option work.

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