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Another two points dropped at home!


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by John

Everton with a makeshift defence were there for the taking. But this was another disappointing home performance save in main by a purple patch at the start of the second half that was brought to an abrupt end with an equalizer that came against the run of play but led to the anxiety of both team and crowd re-emerging.

On a positive note we avoided becoming the first Aston Villa team in 49 years to lose 5 consecutive home games. Back then from April 1st 1963 we lost home games against Everton, Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday, Wolves and Nottingham Forest. That run had started with defeat against Everton but this time 4 consecutive home defeats were brought to an end with a draw against the same opponents for whom Villa Park has not been a very happy hunting ground in recent years.

Before kick-off this had looked a likely draw between two teams that have flirted with Champions League qualification in the recent past but who are now both in downturn with money being too tight to mention. Everton shaded the first half and it was not until the start of the second half that we began to put some serious pressure on their defence which might well have cracked more than once had we been able to sustain the pressure on it that all but evaporated when they equalized. Their goal led to the game swinging back to them as our confidence levels dropped alarmingly to where they had been at the start of the game.

During the first half this game had increasingly looked like it might be settled by a single goal if there was to be a goal at all. Had it been them that had got that goal that may well have proved to have been the case as I wonder if we would have had the belief to have come back into the game this time where we could not against Swansea. But it was us that opened the scoring and their equalizer came when we had looked much more likely to get a second than to be pegged back. But after that equalizer the pendulum swung back away from us and if anyone was going to clinch it after that, it looked like they were the most likely to do so. This point does break the run of home defeats but against the Everton side we faced yesterday it was for me 2 points lost rather than a point gained. It was a better performance than we gave against Swansea but it would have been difficult to have produced one that was not and the result like many at home this season was disappointing.

I think we missed an opportunity today. Had we started with Robbie Keane the crowd would have been lifted and he would have had an opportunity to lift his team mates from the start of the game if not to get another debut goal. I understand he may not have had enough at this stage to have given us a full 90 minutes yet but I would rather have started with him and then taken him off when he had the opportunity to have given us some impetus rather than to have brought him on with the crowd deflated, his team on the back foot and with only 9 minutes left to make a difference.

My player ratings from a game between two clubs who have become a mirror image of each other on the pitch and at the bank that produced a sixth successive draw between them are:

Shay Given – 7 – A welcome return from injury for our first choice keeper who proved a point although Brad has proved his worth during his absence. Made a good one handed save from Saha’s header on 17 minutes which had helped on a good Baines free kick. He also did very well on 23 minutes when his fine reflex save kept out a goal bound header from his own player as Warnock kneeled and headed a Drenthe cross that had gotten a deflection off Hutton before reaching our full back. He then kept out a Fellani header from a Baines free kick with his upper shoulder at his near post on 50 minutes.

Alan Hutton - 5 – His most important contribution could well have led to a penalty but instead impeded Saha as he looked to get an inevitable opening goal by connecting with a cross from Donovan that had sped across the face of the goal and over Collins. So Saha rather than the ball ended up in the back of the net on 23 minutes with the referee unsighted. Distribution was not too good at times but he has had worse games for us although he still needs to step up to a higher level to secure his starting place.

James Collins – 5 – Cahill got in behind him on 14 minutes to almost get a touch to an inviting ball from Gibson. Not greatly tested but he still did not seem near the player he was during his first year with us.

Richard Dunne – 6 – Our most effective and solid defender once again.

Stephen Warnock – 4 – Improved in the second half. But could well have got his name on the score sheet but for Given and hit some wayward balls. Showing signs of the form that led to GH resting him recently rather than of the improvement he had shown earlier in the season that had seen him somewhat nearer his best. Replaced to make room for Robbie on 81 minutes.

Marc Albrighton – 5 – Did not track back with his man to cover Anichebe’s run towards goal for their equalizer and instead let his man go to appeal for an offside decision that would have spared his blushes but would never come. Cross delivery was not at his best yesterday and I had thought Big Eck might have looked to replace him with N’Zogbia the way things had been going.

Stiliyan Petrov – 6 – Had a 7th minute free kick from outside the box punched out of danger by Howard. In a more holding role today which he did reasonably but he was not therefore able to get forward to the good affect he has been doing of late.

Ciaran Clark - 6 – Did well enough and can hold onto the ball but he is a defender in the midfield who is papering over a crack and we do need to look to bring a player to fill this holding role during this window. It is at central defence where his future with us will be.

Stephen Ireland – 8 – MOTM – He was playing too well to make room for Keane today and I was glad to see he got the nod to start given his recent form as he needs the encouragement. Stephen ran the show and linked well with Bent particularly during our purple patch during the third quarter of the game making our goal and showing good movement and touches throughout.

Gabriel Agbonlahor – 6 – Wasted out wide. Nevertheless he picked the ball up just inside their half on 41 minutes, ran on and picked his spot to curl a nice shot from outside the box that Howard kept out with a hand at his far post. Needs to be more central where he can be kept more involved.

Darren Bent – 6 – He gets goals and that is why we need to keep him. Leapt like a salmon to reach a Warnock cross having got in front of a defender but his header sailed over on 40 minutes. He opened the scoring on 56 minutes hitting the ball into the roof of the net after Ireland had found him after he had flicked on an Albrighton cross that Duffy headed back in his direction for him to pounce on and to then find our scorer. Darren then got on the end of another good Ireland cross 2 minutes later guiding a good header from just inside the box on target that Howard kept out. More involved in the game than he has been of late in others.

Substitutes:

Robbie Keane – Replaced Warnock on 81 minutes and looked keen. I was surprised that he did not start given he is only with us for such a very limited period and that he did not come on earlier than he did after they had levelled things up. Not on long enough to earn a rating.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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He was playing Right wing and was having to cover the LEFt back as he was covering for a CB who had gone walkabouts

I take your point Denis but he did need to go with him having been in the position to have done so.

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cant really blame anyone for the equaliser, we were on the attack and howard got the ball into our half before we could get back, just a typical counter attack goal. had warnock and hutton made better use of the ball the countless times they got to the byline than we would have won 2-3 nil. i counted 3 consecutive times warnock needed to lash the ball across the 6 yard box along the floor instead he chose to float it to the back post for everton to clear, and it was from one of these poor crosses that everton equalised from.

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Villa have a manager that must have some kind of quality - he has kept faith with Ireland, for example, and the result of that has been producing some decent play from that player. But then Nzog has been showing improvement of late and now is shoved onto the bench. He didn't even get a chance as a sub. And the player that this week came in with a clarion call - Robert of Keane - is given a 10-minute cameo. For goodness sake, if he's only on board for 7 weeks Villa might as well use him - right?! At least a 30 minute spell on the pitch would have been more understandable.

Meanwhile, a manager who was a defender still cannot get his defence to deal with straight-forward defensive issues. Some manager; some coach. At least he seems to have trained up Warnock to give our keeper some useful on-the-field training!

Less than 30,000 Villa fans turned up yesterday, it seems. That seems to be a definite indicator that the fans are getting fed up.

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But then Nzog has been showing improvement of late and now is shoved onto the bench. He didn't even get a chance as a sub

Agreed John it is a pity he did not get some game time at the very least.

Meanwhile, a manager who was a defender still cannot get his defence to deal with straight-forward defensive issues

He has clearly worked at the set pieces but let us not forget this is not "his defence" but the defence he took over (other than in the case of Hutton) which he has been left to get the best that he can out of John.

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