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We recover from a 2 goal deficit to claim a point!


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by John

Mark Hughes remains winless at Villa Park as a manager following a game that finished all square and during which we showed some fighting spirit although this result will also stretch our run of home games without a win to three long months.

The January transfer window slammed shut on the eve of yesterday’s game. Our transfer business took the form of concluding a deal that had been arranged during the previous window and using the money that we received for the outgoing Lowry to cover the wages of Robbie Keane until he leaves us later this month. This game has shown us how much we will miss Robbie when he does leave us and that will be all too soon. Although he may not be as fleet of foot as he once and may not quite have the same engine he remains a clever player with a goal threat who gives us something we have been missing. He is able to encourage those around him to play by maintaining the performance levels he sets of himself and his presence and the respect he has earned in the game demands something approaching that level of performance from his team mates. You get what you pay for and what we got may just be enough to get us to safety sooner than might otherwise have been the case.

QPR had a much more active window than us and that paid early dividends with a debut goal from Cisse that put us once again on the back foot at Villa Park. When Warnock handed them a second I guess most of us thought that was probably the end of the game as a contest. But as Arsenal showed us on Sunday it is possible to come back from two goals down and we did that to get something from this game and to add another point towards our safety target.

Bent’s 100th Premier League goal that came late in the first half was vital. It gave us some belief that we could get back into the game after all and it lowered the sound levels on what would otherwise have been a very loud chorus of boos. We started the second half very strongly and played some good football at times but when the goal did not come we did not accept that it was not going to be our day and came again until we got our second and at the end it was them that were looking for the final whistle and with a little luck and a referee that was prepared to make a decision we might just have won this one with one of the two very strong cases for a penalty we had last night when a hand and an arm denied us goals.

My player ratings from a game that has increased or maintained the gap between us and those who occupy the spots at the foot of the table we need to avoid are:

Shay Given – 6 – Rarely tested on a night when he nevertheless found the ball resting in the net behind him twice.

Alan Hutton - 6 – His best game to date in our shirt. Got forward pretty well and got some decent crosses over including the one that presented Bent with our vital first goal just before half time.

Carlos Cuellar – 6 – A good display that reinforces my view that he should not be shipped out at the earliest opportunity as he is one of our more solid defenders.

Richard Dunne – 6 – Solid enough but not an easy game for him up against the pace of Cisse.

Stephen Warnock – 4 – Recovered pretty well from the profound embarrassment of stretching their lead to two goals when a twelfth minute Taiwo cross went over the head of Dunne and his inexplicable header went across Given and into the corner of the net . He almost did the same thing against Everton but Given was not able to save his blushes this time and we may need to put a man on him in the box in the future as he has become a threat to our goal when a cross comes over.

Charles N’Zogbia – 8 – A particularly encouraging second half when he ran for fun at defenders and his confidence levels will have taken a big boost from his splendid goal on 79 minutes. Petrov pulled a lovely cross back for Charles who hit a sweet first time volley into the corner of the net for our second. Had a shot on 86 minute pushed out by Kenny for a corner after Petrov had found him and he almost got a winner in stoppage time but Onuoha’s head blocked his goal bound effort.

Stiliyan Petrov – 7 – Another tidy performance. He keeps possession well and it was his fine cross that led to our equalizer. Might have scored on 36 minutes when a shot from Keane was deflected off him and cannoned onto the crossbar on 36 minutes. Unlucky on 51 minutes when his shot wrong footed Kenny only for the keepers trailing leg to keep the ball out of the net.

Ciaran Clark - 6 – He remains a defender who is being asked to fill a specialist midfield role and at times it showed. Made a good run and was found well inside the box by Keane on 13 minutes but he failed to get a shot in from a good position. Might have scored with an on target shot at the end of a good flowing move that Derry’s raised hand kept out only for the referee to turn down what was a clear penalty.

Stephen Ireland – 7 – He is maintaining the sort of form we had feared we would not see from him in a Villa shirt and he looks to be enjoying himself and relishing the opportunity to play football regularly again. Got a block in on Wright-Phillips’ shot but the ball ran through to Cisse whose first time shot gave Given no chance for their opening goal.

Robbie Keane – 8 – MOTM – See above. He made us tick up front and played a large part in much of the good things that we did. Had an effort from inside the box saved by Kenny on 32 minutes and a minute later could not quite turn in a Dunne header from a Petrov corner from close range. Hit a curling 58th minute shot that Kenny stretched one hand out to and was not quite able to connect with a good Warnock cross on 73 minutes.

Darren Bent – 7 – A good display last night and he was clearly motivated by the opportunity to get that 100th goal and get it he did. Got a strong header onto a Hutton cross from outside the box on 40 minutes which went a couple of feet wide of the post before scoring 5 minutes later. Ireland found Keane who played a nicely weighted pass to Hutton whose inviting cross was slotted past Kenny by Darren who had got across his marker. Could have done better on 70 minutes when his bouncing shot went wide of the post. Seemed to be denied a penalty on 83 minutes when Cuellar flicked on a corner that he hit well which Smith cleared off the line with what seemed to be his arm as he turned into the shot.

Substitutes:

Barry Bannan – 6 - Replaced Clark on 70 minutes but we really need to be starting him in games like this rather than going for the more cautious approach of playing a defender in the middle at home. Did what we have come to expect from him during the time he was on the field.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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by John...and a referee that was prepared to make a decision we might just have won this one with one of the two very strong cases for a penalty we had last night when a hand and an arm denied us goals.
i would be more straightforward - agents warnock and referee robbed us 3 points last night. at least one hand was so blatant and denied the goal (hand raised to the air, stopped the ball, you should bet it would be a 1000% penalty against us). match commentators were straight also few minutes from the end too, they claimed it was another, at least second rightfull claim (i did not see this incident as stream went down for a while).
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Those are pretty positive marks for a team that managed to get a draw at home to a newly promoted team that has not won away this season and had two very new defenders in a new back 4. We really should have mullered them.

I would echo much of your sentiment though. I thought Given was solid; Hutton was ok; Cuellar showed he is our best and most consistent defender (will be an absolute disgrace if he is dropped for the donkey at the weekend or allowed to leave in the summer for nothing); Warnock had a nightmare and it is surely time for Stevens to get a shot; CM was okay against a poor QPR CM; the two wide players were very good especially in the Zog's case in H2; and the front two were ok.

Whilst I like Keane as a player I just don't think we have the CM pairing to play a 4-4-2 and I would prefer to see Ireland in the centre playing off Bent/Gabby as a no. 10. For me, the front 6 should be:

--------------- Clark/Herd -------------------- We really should have loaned/signed a specialist in this position

--- Petrov/Bannan/Delph/Gardner ----------

Winger --------- Ireland ------------- Winger With the wide player rotated between Zog, Marc and Gabby

--------------- Bent/Keane -------------------

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Let's get the negatives out of the way ... The first thing is that Villa are on the worst-ever run at home ... 4 defeats and 2 draws i.m.o. is now worse than the 5 consecutive defeats of 1963; particularly as the last 2 games have not been against top-draw opposition.

The next thing is something I read in one of the blogs is that the writer believed that AM goes into a game with one prime intent, which is not to lose the match. Not to win it, but not to lose it. Now I vented that opinion much earlier in the season, and I am convinced that is true. Admittedly he has not had the midfield talent to rely on till now (with the resurgence of Ireland and Petrov's form), but the attitude *must* stop otherwise the manager will never gain any respect.

And he must surely try other defenders instead of the two full-backs being played? Lichaj for example?

The big positive is that It seems that Villa should have won the match based on their play in the last 60 minutes, and 15 shots by itself is not a bad stat.

Somehow, Villa must use the performance of the last 60 minutes as a basis for future performances, but also they must be going into matches to win - at home, at least. Surely, if they had started the QPR match in the vein that they finished it then they would have won for certainty?

My remaining worry is that Keane has (I think) only 4 matches left. Or is it 3?

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at least one hand was so blatant and denied the goal (hand raised to the air, stopped the ball, you should bet it would be a 1000% penalty against us).

Yes it looked very clear to me as well Majkee the referee did a Wenger.

it is surely time for Stevens to get a shot

I wonder if it might be a bit early for him as yet barry'sboots. It is a big step up and he might just need some time to get used to us.

The first thing is that Villa are on the worst-ever run at home ... 4 defeats and 2 draws i.m.o. is now worse than the 5 consecutive defeats of 1963; particularly as the last 2 games have not been against top-draw opposition.

I would always see 5 consecutive defeats as worse than 4 John. Yes we did have wins either side of those 5 defeats rather than a win and a draw this time but Everton 0-2, Man Utd 1-2, Sheff Weds 0-2, Wolves 0-2 & Notts Forest 0-2 looks worse to me than defeats against Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal and Swansea do this time and Man Utd ended the season 19th that season.

We were also not too good away during that same period having had away defeats at Fulham (0-1) & Blackpool (0-4) leading up to the home defeat against soon to be champions Everton and then 4 more away defeats at Burnley (1-3), Wolves (1-3), Bolton (1-4) & Sheff Utd (1-2) before the run of home defeats came to an end with a win against Man City (those 6 away defeats being part of an 8 game consecutive run of away defeats). So in my own opinion that was the worse of the two runs at a time when we had a manager of the calibre of the late Joe Mercer as our boss.

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You say that, John, even when we're probably about to go 7 home games without a win?

To argue purely about stats is not addressing the real issues if you don't mind me saying. The underlying issue is that this season's performances have been totally unnececssary and are due to the appointment of AM. Though some financial adjustments may have been necessary for the running of the club, a bad thing has been done i.m.o. to inflict AM upon the fans.

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it is surely time for Stevens to get a shot

I wonder if it might be a bit early for him as yet barry'sboots. It is a big step up and he might just need some time to get used to us.

I wouldn't disagree except Warnock is clearly struggling and we have no other option realistically as Clark has to play DCM as Herd is still injured and I wouldn't want to play a right footer at LB. I believe Baker is still injured? Having watched Delph play there last year I thought he could have done a job.

I don't dislike Warnock I just think he needs to be taken out of the firing line for a couple of games.

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Yes he is having a hard time barry'sboots and the point you make on Delph is a good one but our options are very limited now he has gone to Leeds. I guess it is dependant on how Stevens is looking in training and how Warnock plays from now on starting today. I would like to see Stevens given a run of games when our position is more secure but I accept that there may come a point where we cannot wait any longer.

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To argue purely about stats is not addressing the real issues if you don't mind me saying

John I was making the point that the stats show this is not our worst home run. Your opinion is that it is and my own is that it is not. Oh and we have not lost our next home game yet.. :winkold:

As far as "addressing the real issues" is concerned it is clear that you do not like the Big Eck appointment but who made it and then failed to give him the chance to show what he could do if he were backed? To bring him in and not back him suggests he was appointed to act as a scapegoat so that frustrations would be directed at him rather than at the decision makers when our lack of ambition off the pitch showed on it. Home performances have been dire John and the manager has some responsibility for that but for me the blame is not on him alone.

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