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Huth ball goal stands and denies us a rare win!


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By John

A second point over the Easter holiday weekend has seen us edge ever nearer safety. It would now be unexpected although not impossible for three of the four teams that languish below us to make up a 6 and in three of their cases a 7 point gap in the 6 games that remain particularly as our goal difference is worth the equivalent of another point on all of them.

The lowest home league crowd of the season yesterday witnessed our make shift injury ravaged team fail to add to the 4 home wins we have managed so far this season at Villa Park and try as they did they were unable to give us a second home win in 5 months. It is little wonder given these statistics that home crowds are dwindling. Although this game was held on an Easter Monday (albeit one plagued by inclement weather) when crowds are normally expected to be higher than the norm and Stoke are some way short of being glamorous visitors an attendance that was 5,000 lower than the attendance for the same fixture last season must surely set some alarm bells ringing on the financial side. These should add to those that have been ringing for some time seemingly unnoticed on the playing side by the money motivated men at our football club.

Stoke are not good travellers lately and this was only their second away point from their last 6 away games. Given our lack of home wins this season it seemed inevitable that this game would finish all square as so often has been the case in recent meetings between the two clubs. But we really needed all 3 points yesterday to add to the unexpected point we took at Anfield on Saturday and given we held the lead for almost 40 minutes it did seem like 2 points dropped at the end of the game.

But Stoke are a team that we struggle to beat with a full first choice starting eleven and their uncompromising style is one that we have always found difficult to break down even when we had the likes of Milner, Downing and Young to call upon. So although it was not pretty it was a hard earned and an important point. Yesterday the team itself cannot be faulted for effort but we did lack guile, width and the ability to apply sustained pressure on their defence.

The two points are also not the first we have lost this season due to goals that have been conceded at set pieces. This was our 21st goal against from a set piece this season and that is a 21st that is no cause for celebration! It is the worst record in the division and has contributed much to us being where we now stand rather than sitting safely in what would otherwise be mid table mediocrity.

My player ratings from a game that sees us continue to limp towards safety by continuing to get our points in singles are:

Shay Given – 6 – Not a busy day yesterday. But there was a negative point when Shay came for but was unable to claim a Collins header in first half stoppage time from a Delap throw that looped alarmingly towards our goal mouth rather than clear.

Alan Hutton - 5 – Has been looking better of late but did not do so yesterday.

James Collins – 5 – James was bullied out of it by Huth on a couple of occasions at set pieces and needs to be stronger than this in such situations. Huth used him for leverage when getting above him to score their equalizer and can thank the referee that was allowed to stand but he did much the same shortly afterwards from another set piece in the build up to Shawcross’s disallowed effort. After his poor attempted headed clearance from Delap’s cross Collins was also second to Etherington’s resulting cross that Walters headed just over. Had his own 18th minute header from a corner easily gathered by Begovic at the foot of his near post.

Nathan Baker – 7 – Looked much more comfortable yesterday than he had on his last Villa Park appearance and deserves a run of games to show whether he can continue to build on these encouraging early signs.

Eric Lichaj - 6 – Not as effective as he was in his exceptional last home appearance but he was good enough to stake a claim to continue in this role.

Barry Bannan – 5 – Worked hard enough but he needs to be imposing himself more in games like this now and his distribution was off at times yesterday. Barry was replaced on 74 minutes but he has shown he is not effective out on the wing.

Stephen Ireland – 7 – Our main if not only creative threat again.

Chris Herd – 6 – Two head injuries the second of which involving the abrasive Huth led to him being stretched off with concussion on 88 minutes. Hit a ball from N’Zogbia over the bar on 75 minutes but needs some creativity around him.

Stephen Warnock – 6 – Solid enough defensively but rarely made an impression moving forward in this midfield role and for me he seems able to get forward more when playing as a full back than he did yesterday before he was replaced following an ankle injury on 59 minutes. Got a very good block on an on target first half Palacios shot.

Andreas Weimann – 8 – MOTM – Hit a stunning goal to give us the lead and a point. Played a one – two with Ireland on 32 minutes and then picked his spot curling a lovely shot past Begovic and into the top corner of the net. Might have managed a late injury time winner when Ireland did well to find him in the box but he lost his footing having earlier hit another shot from the edge of the box that was deflected into Bergovic’s grasp. Big Eck is clearly a fan now having said post match, “It was truly inspirational. It was a wonderful goal from a very promising young player. You get great goal scorers and scorers of great goals and today he proved he could do both. Goals talk it’ll be very difficult to leave him out.” Don’t then!

Gabriel Agbonlahor - 5 – Starved of service but he missed the one opportunity he got when on 56 minutes Bannan found him and he side footed the ball past the keeper but also past the post to the extent that it went out for a throw in. That chance could have sealed the win. His goal threat is much missed.

Substitutes:

Gary Gardner – 6 - Replaced Warnock on 59 minutes and was a tad unlucky to be penalised for a nudge on Pennant (who went down like he had been shot) that gave them the free kick on the edge of our box that led to their equalizer. Another who would thrive on a central midfield role rather than a wide one.

Charles N’Zogbia – 6 - Replaced Bannan on 74 minutes. Nice to see him back and available for selection during the run in but not for the first time he made little impression on the game albeit in the 21 minutes he was on the field.

Emile Heskey – Replaced Herd with 2 minutes of normal time left not on long enough to rate.

Stay up the Villa and Stay Strong Captain!

John Lewis

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Weimann and Ireland are my only two players that i rate for the game yesterday. Gabby looks slow and lazy, Herd did alright until he was battered off the pitch. Needed to be 3 points and sadly it wasn't. We crawl slowly towards safety. It's not looking good thats for sure.

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