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Baggies bring their 32 years of hurt to a close!


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By John Lewis

Two consecutive league defeats have seen an end to our unbeaten record both away and now at home and this is our second consecutive 2 – 1 defeat against WBA after being a goal ahead. Although a linesman had a big hand to play in this one!

We accepted defeat all too readily yesterday and lacked the fight that many other teams have demonstrated in the past after going down to ten men. Where was the fight back that Wolves produced yesterday to grab a point when two down with six minutes left? Where was the pressure? We made this all too easy for Albion who comfortably took the spoils at Villa Park from a game during which we could only manage one shot on target in. Oh and where were the Villa fans (as we could barely muster 31,000 of our own fans for a local derby and the gaps were there for all to see and they were not just in our defence from set pieces)?

This game turned on a decision by linesman, Darren Cann, that Herd has trodden on Jonas Ollson in the area and that decision left us a man down for an hour. The Albion defender did not appeal and seemed shocked to be given a penalty. Neither he nor his manager was prepared to accept that the decision was wrong post match but the linesman was perhaps the only person who interpreted the incident in this way. The penalty decision was harsh but the sending off was even harsher but it seems referee Dowd had ran out of leniency for Herd and he and ultimately we paid a heavy price for that.

One goal is rarely enough for us with a full eleven men, let alone with just ten to call upon. We seem to lack belief and to play with fear as well as a lack of invention. We created little by way of chances and why we started without the creativity of Ireland at home (where the onus is on us to win games like this) and instead turned to a young player who had done so well on debut as a full back and then asked him to play deep in central midfield I cannot say. But, it was a gamble that did not come off and our two second half substitutions did little to improve our chances of getting something from this game that the minimum acceptable return was a point from.

So they get their first league win at Villa Park since Big Ron was their manager and we wonder what had happened to our bright future (we sold it this summer by the way). We now go in search of 29 points from our 29 remaining games to stay up and we start with a game at Sunderland that we really need to get something from now, before we get into that run of tough games leading up to the New Year. The rot needs to stop now at 2 games because otherwise it just might roll on and on and we might find ourselves in deep trouble in 2 months time!

My player ratings from a game that turned on a dubious sending off, as did Wales' Rugby World Cup semi-final defeat against France, are:

Shay Given – 6 – Went the wrong way for Brunt’s penalty on 31 minutes but justice was served anyway as his penalty was hit well wide of the post. Made a good one handed save from a Tchoyi shot on 42 minutes and then used both to beat out a Mulumbu effort on 55 minutes.

Alan Hutton - 5 – A couple of strong tackles one of which led to a booking before a clash of heads led to him coming off.

James Collins – 4 – This was nearer the worrying central defensive displays of last season than what we had up until now been getting from this pairing which was a return of the solid central defensive partnership we had during the season before last. Clark will be pushing for a place if this continues and there are some big tests to come for our defence.

Richard Dunne – 4 – Distribution was a problem at times as was the problems in defending set pieces that were exposed when Ollson powered in a header on the stroke of half time having risen between both of our central defenders and he could have done the same thing from an early second half corner had his header been on target.

Stephen Warnock - 5 – Skinned a couple of times yesterday.

Barry Bannan – 7 – MOTM – Inexplicably taken off with 12 minutes to go when he looked the only one likely to produce something different that might yet have earned us a late point. Hit a decent effort from the edge of the box that went just over on 7 minutes with Foster well beaten.

Chris Herd – 3 – Played like a ticking time bomb. Was far too pumped up for this one and rash challenge followed rash challenge and warnings went ignored. When he eventually paid the price this followed an altercation with Ollson and with all eyes upon him the tangle between them both led to him getting his marching orders for an alleged stamp. Bad that this decision was it had seemed only a matter of time before he would get a card and he needs to learn from this.

Stiliyan Petrov – 5 – Started in a more forward role but reverted to his usual deep position after we went down to ten men. Not able to turn things around.

Charles N’Zogbia – 4 – Another very disappointing performance. He should have settled in by now but seems unconcerned that he has done nothing to show he can be even half of the player he has been bought in to replace. He may prefer the other side of the pitch or the free role that he enjoyed at Wigan but he needs to pull his finger out now and start showing by the performances he gives in a role that he may be uncomfortable with (and he is not the only one in that position) that he was worth the money we shelled out for him.

Gabby Agbonlahor – 5 – Earned our penalty when he nipped in between Reid and Foster on the edge of the area and was brought down. Not near to his level of performances of late though and did not see enough of the ball stuck out wide to get at the Albion defence.

Darren Bent – 5 – Reid’s clearance from a fifth minute Petrov cross was hit first time by Bannan, the ball was going wide but Bent did well to bring it under control before blasting it over the onrushing Foster as well the bar to squander a great opportunity. Made amends with a well struck penalty on 23 minutes sending the keeper the wrong way. He lacked the service that the wide players we sold this summer provided him with last season and it is criminal to have a forward like this and not give him the ammunition he needs because without it he is left to feed on scraps.

Substitutes:

Carlos Cuellar – 6 - Replaced the bloodied Hutton on 41 minutes and did well enough on his return from injury even hitting a couple of quite decent crosses when coming forward.

Emile Heskey – 4 – Replaced N’Zogbia on the hour and showed he is no midfield player.

Marc Albrighton – Replaced Bannan on 78 minutes. Not on long enough to earn a rating but was on long enough to show his crosses are still being too heavily hit.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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