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Three points from Wigan!


limpid
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Our unbeaten league run now stands at 7 under Big Eck and a return of 11 points from 7 games does not look too shabby on paper.

Well that was a bit better. The win was a vital one and whilst it might not have been quite a six pointer yet it may well turn out to have been one when we look back on it later on in the season. This was our second league win and for me both wins have come against poor sides who may well find themselves struggling to stay in the division as they did last season but with no team like Small Heath there to bail them out on the final day this time.

It was our first home league win against Wigan since they gained promotion and our first win against Matinez since he decided his future was with Wigan rather than with us, which made the win taste even sweeter. We created more opportunities in this game than we have of late and might on another day have doubled our winning margin. But, a win is a win and although Wigan did not offer much of a challenge to us we were quite a bit better than we have been of late at Villa Park.

My player ratings from a game that kept us in the top half and took our points total into double figures are:

Shay Given – 7 – Solid and kept them out with the minimum of fuss when he was tested. A good double stop on 72 minutes when he blocked a Maloney effort before getting a leg to Di Santo’s follow up shot. He then shot a hand out to stop a ball that looked in danger of creeping in at the near post.

Alan Hutton - 5 – Might easily have conceded a penalty with a rash second half challenge after Collins had let Di Santo go past him all too easily on the edge of the area. Alan also seems to find it very difficult to beat his man and even more so to hit a decent cross when moving forwards at the moment. I trust this will improve as he gets more games under his belt.

James Collins – 6 – Needs to maintain a good level of performance to keep Clark warming the bench. His partnership with Dunne is a solid one again although it is Dunne who looks the more solid of the two currently.

Richard Dunne – 8 – Back to his very best. No nonsense solid defending at its best.

Stephen Warnock - 6 – Solid at the back when tested and decent when moving forward as always.

Barry Bannan – 7 – Denied a goal by the keeper who kept out a nice curling shot that was heading for the top corer. Hit some sweet balls forward today to provide some much needed service for our front men.

Fabian Delph – 5 – A clever 22nd minute Given kick had found Ireland wide and in space, he in turn found Bannan in the middle who pushed the ball to Gabby on the edge of the box who then pushed the ball back to Delph on 22 minutes who curled a shot well wide. He lost the ball badly on 42 minutes when he played the ball into no man’s land and he was lucky it did not prove too costly as Di Santo’s shot went narrowly wide and then in the second half he hit an embarrassing pass to nobody for some reason when we were up until then moving forward with some purpose. Some good moments but also some bad ones yesterday. Is he trying a bit too hard to make a big early impression?

Stiliyan Petrov – 7 – Might have had our goal of the season on 67 minutes when he drilled a shot from 30 yards that the keeper managed to get a hand to stop it going into the top corner of the net which it had looked destined for from the moment he had hit it. Kept the midfield solid and he and Bannan ran the show yesterday.

Stephen Ireland – 6 – Played a one two with Bent on 13 minutes but his shot from the edge of the box was deflected for a corner. In space on 31 minutes but his shot was disappointingly off target. Some nice passes and he showed signs of the player he once was a couple of times yesterday before an injury late in the first half eventually led to his hobbling off on 57 minutes.

Gabby Agbonlahor – 9 – MOTM – Made willing runs and was happy to chase the ball down up until his 85th minute with the job done and a standing ovation to be had. He silenced the mutters of discontent that had started to begin when he hit a fine opener on 36 minutes. Bannan had found him with a good early ball and he then cut inside and pulled the trigger to find the net between Al Habsi and the near post. Cut inside again on 46 minutes before hitting a good shot just wide of the post. 8 minutes later he hit a cross come shot from a throw in that almost went over Al Habsi who just got a hand to it to push it onto the woodwork. Three minutes later he went on a splendid run having won the ball back on the half way line to beat two defenders for pace before crossing for the waiting Bent to hit our decisive second.

Darren Bent – 7 – Back headed a nice ball from Bannan to Gabby on 10 minutes but he blasted his shot well over. Headed another ball from Bannan on 20 minutes over the bar having been unable to get up enough to head it downwards. Brought a great ball from Bannan under control on 25 minutes and then hit a shot that Al Habsi did well to keep out. But he was not to be denied and on 62 minutes he applied a good finish to round off Gabby’s good work and drilled the ball past the keeper into the far corner of the net to give us an important 2 goal cushion.

Substitutes:

Emile Heskey – 6 – Replaced the injured Ireland on 57 minutes and filled in well enough.

Charles N’Zogbia – Replaced Bent on 74 minutes. Didn’t do a great deal to prove Big Eck was wrong to not start him against his former club in what time he had available which was not enough to earn a rating.

Andreas Weimann – Another who was not on long enough to earn a raring but having replaced Gabby on 85 minutes he was almost on long enough to score when Heskey found him in the third minute of injury time but his shot was easily gathered by Al Habsi.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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