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The Canaries fly away home pointless!


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by John

This was a vital win (as was proven beyond any reasonable doubt when the identity of our opponents in our next three home games was flashed up on the boards around the ground yesterday) and we achieved the win in some style!

This was so very much better. A crowd swollen to 35,290 by our visitor’s arrival in numbers witnessed an open entertaining game of football where five goals were shared and we emerged with the points.

Yesterday we scored three goals for the first time since our first home game of the season; we got forward in numbers and put some real pressure on the opposition by running at them down the flank and through the middle. On the down side we also conceded two goals again but this time we showed a bit of resilience as well by avoiding repeating our habit of conceding a late goal and we did battle back to win the game having been a goal down.

My player ratings from a game that left us eighth in the league and currently nearer fourth place than eighteenth are:

Shay Given – 6 – Conceded two again but he does not really need to hold his hands up for either and gave his usual solid performance on the occasions he was tested. Stood no chance with their first on 25 minutes when Pilkington picked his spot from the edge of the box to curl in a free kick wide of the wall and into the top corner and with Morison’s late second when he was left open on the far post.

Alan Hutton - 5 – A couple of fleeting glimpses of the marauding full back we were promised but he still has a bit of a way to go to show us something approaching his past best. Conceded the free kick that led to their opener but the decision was late and harsh. Alan was also unlucky not to have been awarded a free kick in the build up to their second which came from his side as he was trying to hobble back into position. Also hit a nice ball into Bent inside the box early in the second half which he finished albeit from an offside position.

James Collins – 5 – Bandaged but another who remains some way off his very best and he really should have been on target with a free header from a second half corner.

Richard Dunne – 6 – Solid at the back and coped pretty well with their aerial threat. Got in an important block in on a Morison shot on 2 minutes.

Stephen Warnock - 7 – Sound at the back and got forward to good affect. He does sometimes have occasions when he plays a risky ball out of defence or across the back or decides to play his way out of danger rather than to take the safer Row Z option but he is much nearer the player he was two seasons ago this season to date and this was another fine performance from Stephen.

Emile Heskey – 6 – He is a player’s player and even when starting in the middle he can do a job as he demonstrated yesterday. He worked well with Gabby, hit the simple balls and got forward once or twice as well almost getting onto a good N’Zogbia cross on 54 minutes. He offers us strength and height in the middle if not what the likes of Ireland and Jenas would who were left sitting on the bench yesterday. But he did his job yesterday until replaced and was given an ovation on 67 minutes.

Chris Herd – 7 – Played an important role in our midfield yesterday and looks like he could develop into a very decent holding player for us. Some timely tackles and interventions and he can hit a pass as well. Can get even better with experience.

Stiliyan Petrov – 7 – He really looks a different player this season. He is enjoying the opportunity to get forward more and to show his creativity and threat around the box remains intact.

Charles N’Zogbia – 6 – Much more encouraging now he is enjoying some freedom rather than spending his games tied to the wing. Had some threatening runs and played an active role in the threats we presented to Norwich during the game. Hit a nice cross on 33 minutes that Bent was not able to get a foot to and tracked back on a couple of occasions.

Gabby Agbonlahor – 9 – MOTM – Scored one and set the other two up on a plate for Darren. Like Petrov he is a much different player this year than he was last and is performing as well as he ever has done in our shirt and he richly deserves England recognition again on the back of his form to date. Gabby was far too hot and speedy for either Naughton or Barnett to cope with. He ht a splendid cross that Bent got on the end of on the half hour which was a repeat of what he had done to Naughton minutes earlier but Bent was not quite able to reach that one. Got his own goal on 48 minutes when he pounced on a weak back pass to the keeper from Barnett that the keeper had looked likely to reach first but he showed determination as well as pace to touch it past Ruddy and then to hit the ball into the net for our second. Hit another firmly hit cross that Bent converted for our third on 62 minutes and after Petrov had won the ball hit another dangerous cross that was a couple of feet from bringing our fourth and an own goal 7 minutes later when Martin and the keeper blocked the ball at the near post with Bent waiting behind them but it was deflected just wide for a corner off the defender.

Darren Bent – 8 – In the right place at the right time and applied the right finish twice. Might have had a hat-tick or more on another day. He was unmarked on the end of a well worked opportunity on 19 minutes when Herd floated a ball to the edge of the box which Heskey headed on to Gabby who flicked a header that fell into his path but Ruddy was quickly off his line to block his effort. Having converted one Gabby cross he then did the same on 62 minutes to give us a vital 2 goal cushion finishing well to put the ball in at the near post with the keeper having anticipated he would guide the ball the other way.

Substitutes:

Jermaine Jenas– 6 – Replaced Emile on 67 minutes for his first Villa appearance. Coming on at 3-1 up was a bonus and he showed he will be a useful addition to our options this season in what time he had available to do so.

Stephen Ireland – Replaced our captain on 76 minutes. Not on long enough to gain a rating.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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