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4 Minutes almost produce an unexpected comeback


blandy
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By John

Four minutes yesterday provided a memory of how games used to be at Villa Park. Fans who up to then were consigned to another defeat were roused by 2 quick goals but unfortunately that also provoked Chelsea to move up a gear and claim their win.

Yesterday was a day for our captain who with great courage was at the game bedecked in his Villa coat and sitting alongside his wife and children. Before the game he was in the dressing room to wish his teamates all the best and prior to the game both sets of players wore shirts bearing the words “Our thoughts are with you” (Chelsea) and “Support Stan” (Villa). The fans support for him pre match and on the 19th minute was clearly emotional for Stan and I am sure our good wishes will have fortified him for the fight he now faces. All our very best wishes for a full and speedy recovery Stiliyan!

Football has taken a back seat during the past couple of days as our thoughts have rightly been with Stan and his family. But, we lined up yesterday with a team that comprised of 9 players who this time last season were mostly sitting on the bench and getting their 90 minutes in reserve games in front of hundreds rather than thousands (albeit on Manchester City’s bench in Given’s case). So this was always going to be a big ask for us with so many first team players missing but we almost claimed a point during 4 minutes that produced 2 goals and hopes of a vital point that might have been 3 had Gabby not been brought back when running clear before their reply. But defeat it was. However the players should take some encouragement from their performance today as the next 3 home games will not be against the likes of Chelsea.

Wins for QPR, Wigan and Bolton yesterday have moved the goalposts as far as what we need to do to secure our safety. Teams below us are picking up unexpected wins but we are not. We are beginning to look over our shoulder and to hope 3 of the 4 teams who lie below us who are 4 and 5 points behind us with an inferior goal difference do not get another 5 or 6 points or more between now and the end of the season because at present it is hard to see where the next 3 points are coming from for us. Another 3 points might be enough and another 6 surely would be particularly if a win against Bolton was amongst our points haul. But, has any team conceded so many goals from corners this season? It seems to be a crucial flaw in our defence no matter who plays in it and one that has not been addressed over the course of this long and depressing season. It might be too late now but it is something we need to focus on for the last 8 games that will define our season.

My player ratings from a game that Chelsea did enough to win without needing to come out of second gear until the last 15 minutes brought the game and sadly ultimately them to life are:

Shay Given – 6 – Got a leg to a Torres shot on 6 minutes after Luiz had played a sweet ball past Baker and into the striker’s path.

Eric Lichaj - 8 – MOTM - Hutton has looked better of late but of our many absentees his absence was least felt today given the quality of the performance Eric produced today and he topped it off with our equalizer on 80 minutes when he was on hand at the far post to turn in Albrighton’s cross. His was also the long throw that led to our equalizer. Writing 19 in the turf as a part of his goal celebrations was also a class act.

James Collins – 7 – Did well enough as the senior of our central defenders and appeared to thrive on the responsibility. James popped up with our first goal on 77 minutes when getting his head to Lichaj’s long throw.

Nathan Baker – 5 – Did not look comfortable yesterday and hopefully that will come from the confidence a run of games can provide, after all it was his first full game in the centre of our defence. Nathan did well on 23 minutes to get to a loose ball before Torres after Mata’s shot had come out off the post.

Stephen Warnock – 6 – Got forward well particularly in the second half although his final ball could often have been better but he was not alone in that. Did well to deny Torres on 9 minutes but the loose ball was pouched on by Sturridge for their opener.

Barry Bannan – 6 – Worked hard.

Stephen Ireland – 7 – Another very good display and he produced some nice touches for those around him to move onto.

Chris Herd – 6 – Put a shift in without quite reaching the levels he had during our last home game but he did not have our captain’s guiding hand alongside him this time and this was an inexperienced midfield finding itself up against some very established exponents of the art.

Gary Gardner – 6 – Wasted out wide and it seemed strange that we did not use Marc wide and play Gary in the middle from the start given our lack of options.

Andreas Weimann – 6 – Busy throughout.

Gabriel Agbonlahor - 6 – Unlucky to have been foiled by Cech’s trailing leg on 43 minutes to deny us an equalizer after Weiman had fed him inside the box as he was when pulled back for a foul on Terry when he was racing clear with a chance of giving us a lead during our purple patch.

Substitutes:

Marc Albrighton – 7 - Replaced Herd on 70 minutes and made a difference by getting a number of crosses over including the one that led to our equalizer. Does not always seem to look up to see who is available when he is shaping to hit a ball over and he would be better for doing that.

Emile Heskey – Replaced Weimann who had been carrying an injury on 82 minutes and had a header saved by Cech having started in the middle with no doubt a view to protecting the point we lost within a minute. Not on long enough for a rating.

Stay up the Villa and Stay Strong Captain!

John Lewis

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