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Stalemate! Villa 0-0 Wolves


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By John Lewis

Our first goalless draw against Wolves since 1975 left them temporarily on top of the table rather than us on a day that many of our fans chose to stay away and leave gapping spaces around the ground for a local derby between two teams that had started the day in the top 4.

We had the better of this game and if anyone looked like winning it was us. Wolves were clearly happy with a point and showed very little interest in taking the game to us. But, we really made it all too easy for them and it has to be said that our summer transfer dealings have seen what was once a chasm between our local neighbours close alarmingly as Wolves and Albion have strengthened since last season and we have done the opposite.

In the first half we created very little, our performance was below par and the game as a whole was not much of a spectacle for those of us who did go to see it. But, we noticeably upped our tempo, showed more energy and posed serious threats up front in the second half after what I’m sure was some mild half time encouragement from Big Eck and created chances that might have won us the game on another day. But, it was to be a story of half chances and what almost was as no opportunity was taken and we dropped two home points, although this draw was an improvement on last season’s abject home defeat.

Yesterday’s attendance of 30,776 will set alarm bells ringing in the board room. Some will have stayed away because they have a problem with the managerial appointment we have made. Others will have stayed away due to what seems to have been a lack of ambition and a lowering of expectations at Villa Park which have left supporters dispirited. Others may have stayed away because the likes of England internationals Young and Downing who had attracted fans to come and watch games at Villa Park to see them last season have now departed.

Other absent fans will point to an expectation that our manager will play negative football as he did at his former club. Having Bent isolated up front does little to counter that argument and yesterday’s game was no edge of your seat affair. But, Big Eck has to work with the tools he is given and to make the best of what he has got. He has not been backed financially at Villa Park and the squad he is now working with is weaker that the one that had us looking over our shoulder at the relegation trap door up until the last two games of last season. If he achieves a top 10 finish this season he will have done exceedingly well. If he does that by playing entertaining football along the way he will have done even better, if not worked a minor miracle. But, for me now is not the time to look at him as being the major problem. He has had his hands tied behind his back by the financial squeeze that is being applied at Villa Park and we have managed 5 points out of 9 and are unbeaten although the sides we have faced admittedly will not be the strongest three teams we will come up against this season.

My player ratings from a game that continued Big Eck’s unbeaten start as Villa manager and has left us 35 points from our initial 40 point safety target are:

Shay Given – 6 – Solid but surprisingly very rarely tested and Hunt wasted their best opportunity after 20 minutes when he headed a good Ward cross to the far post straight at a relieved Shay.

Chris Herd - 7 – Took his opportunity to suggest to the boss that we might just have a possible replacement for Luke Young already at the club rather than at Tottenham. Chris produced a good solid and enthusiastic performance that might yet see us leave the Young fee to rest in the club’s account as we have other recent profits from player sales. Had a good powerful header from a nice Gabby cross on 59 minutes tipped over the bar by Hennessey but his performance might have had a different complexion to it had a rash challenge on the edge of the box on Ward with 2 minutes of normal time remaining been punished by a late penalty award.

James Collins – 6 – Solid again and formed a strong central barrier alongside Dunne.

Richard Dunne – 7 – MOTM - Commanding throughout the game, always first to the ball and very strong in the air. Also had a 59th minute header headed away from goal by Doyle. He seems near to be getting back to his best and I for one had doubted we would see this level of performance from him again. Richard will have impressed the watching Ireland manager and our own manager with this whole hearted performance. For me just edged out Chris Herd and Gabby to claim man of the match.

Stephen Warnock - 6 – Looks to have settled back into the side better than could have reasonably been anticipated.

Gabby Agbonlahor – 7 – Another very good display. A good run from near the half way line into the box and past an outpaced Johnson was foiled when Hennessey got an outstretched arm to his shot on 50 minutes. Won the ball inside the box 8 minutes later and his cross went just beyond Bent. Worked what would have been a great one two with Bent when he found him well out wide on 80 minutes and Bent hit a good first time cross that Hennessey dived to push away with Gabby just behind him and waiting to pounce on the end of his run into the box.

Fabian Delph – 6 – Not as impressive as he had been against Blackburn but he did his bit and needs to as does his midfield colleagues in order to continue to keep Ireland, Bannan and Makoun out of the starting line up.

Stiliyan Petrov – 6 – Found in space on 8 minutes and hit a poor shot wide of the post when he might have considered putting Bent in instead. Beat the offside trap on 34 minutes when Warnock hit a great ball to put him clear and he then hit a ball across towards Heskey that was intercepted by Hennessey when a ball towards N’Zogbia who was coming in behind Heskey might have been the better option as the keeper would have not had the opportunity to have reached that first.

Charles N’Zogbia – 6 – Still not showing as much as we are looking for and his truncated pre-season will not excuse this level of performance indefinitely as he has big boots to fill. Did have a good run into the box 13 minutes prior to his substitution when Petrov found him but his cross was collected by the keeper with no Villa player having made a move for it. Found himself in yards of space inside the box from a corner on 70 minutes but disappointedly screwed his shot 3 yards wide of the post.

Emile Heskey - 6 – Held the ball up well for others and was inches away from turning a good Gabby cross into the net that flashed just wide of the post on 25 minutes.

Darren Bent – 6 – Isolated up front and starved of the service he needs to score goals and the service providers that were big reason in his deciding to join us last season. One half chance on 87 minutes when he got up to get his head to a nice Bannan cross but the header floated onto the netting behind the goal with the keeper for once beaten. He will soon become very discouraged by this continued lack of service and far from splendid isolation.

Substitutes:

Barry Bannan – 6 – Replaced N’Zogbia on 74 minutes. He looked lively and again made a strong claim for a starting place as he had done on Tuesday night as well.

Marc Albrighton – Replaced Delph on 84 minutes and was not on long enough to earn a rating.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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Great report John. Thanks for that. I wasn't at the game, and didn't even get to see it on Sky as my missus dragged me round chester zoo!

Only saw the few minutes on MoTD, so this report helps me get a view on the game.

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This report misses the key overview on the formation for me and the players playing in the wrong positions.

- Delph wasn't as strong as previous games BUT he was being asked to be the main holding CM'er. This is not his game IMO. He needs a strong player alongside him that allows him to concentrate on running the game. We do not currently have that player unless maybe Clark or Herd were given a chance?

- Petrov looked better with more freedom BUT he is still not particularly energetic and there are better players at playing this role - Bannan and Makoun (before he left) would have been IMO.

- Heskey worked his little socks off for the first 60 minutes BUT he is not an attacking CM'er and does not fit into the 4-2-3-1.

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