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Bendtner is unlucky and it's draw number 15!


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By John Lewis

Bendtner appeared level when what might have proved a winner was ruled out for offside and we have Ireland to thank for a goal line clearance from the same player. But on the balance of pay we would have been unlucky to have got nothing from a game that we shaded. So we continue to get the points we need in singles as the gap between us and those below evaporates.

Clubs that are below us continue to pick up unexpected points against teams that we tend to roll over against. We like Wolves are much more predictable as proved the case when we got another point as we edge ever closer to elusive safety. But as we limp to that line we all know that we are just one bad result from being pushed towards the abyss.

Our next home game represents that banana skin. It is a 6 pointer that we just cannot afford to lose. Defeat could leave us a mere 3 points ahead of Bolton (who have already beaten us at home this season) and we already only have 2 points and our goal difference to spare over QPR and Wigan. Sad days indeed and we walk a tightrope without a safety net on Tuesday. They will be up for it and we need to be as well.

We started yesterday’s game on a high tempo but the goal needed to come then when we were first to the loose balls and putting pressure on our opponents when they had the ball. But as we know Martin sets his stall out on riding out the first 20 minutes of an away game and after that the game fell into the pattern of many at Villa Park this season. They had their fair share of the play and created a couple of good chances one of which could have been ruled onside and left us in an even direr situation than we are now. But the rub of the green went our way for once with 15 minutes of the game left to set up a squeaky bum Cup Final on Tuesday.

Our former manager got a predictable pre-match reception as did our former player Craig Gardner initially when he made his way off the field following his sending off. Gardner eventually left to some applause from fans that were around the tunnel having removed his shirt to reveal a Support Stan t-shirt and I cannot help but wonder whether Martin’s reception might have been different had the story of his departure been made public.

As Martin said about his reception, “It’s natural, considering they have never known my reasons for leaving. I was expecting it and I got it. The idea that I left Villa in the lurch…I apologise maybe for it being 5 days beforehand. But I came to this football club a fortnight before the season started with a team that had almost been relegated the previous year. When I left and the timing is never great really 5 or 6 games before the start of the season I think the team was infinitely better than the one that I had. Internationals galore, players who have gone on to other clubs and been excellent. I’m talking about Milner, Young and Downing people like that”.

So had he lined up a replacement for Milner and been told no? Was the reason something that would have made his position at the club untenable? We may never know. But we do no those players are gone, have not been adequately replaced if replaced at all and what was a top 6 team has now become a bottom 6 one!

My player ratings from a game that has not changed the fact that we have had only one win at Villa Park since Bonfire Night are:

Shay Given – 6 – Did the necessary on the rare occasions he was called upon to do something.

Carlos Cuellar - 6 – Surprisingly started ahead of Hutton but he looked solid, particularly when he moved into the centre where he is most comfortable in place of Collins. He may find himself back in the centre on Tuesday given James’ injury.

James Collins – 6 – Was having one of his better games before injury struck at Villa Park again. Did well to get to a back pass that turned into a 50/50 ball which spared Cuellar’s blushes on 15 minutes.

Nathan Baker – 6 – Steady enough at the back but it was disappointing that he did not react and try to get on the end of an N’Zogbia cross that just needed him to get something on it before it sailed past the far post on 13 minutes.

Eric Lichaj - 7 – Solid once again and he deserved to get the nod yesterday although Warnock may not have felt so if he was fully fit. That late run was awesome and summed up his commitment to the cause.

Charles N’Zogbia – 6 – We need him to be back and somewhere nearer his best in the run-in. He produced something of a threat yesterday and hit a shot on 13 minutes that was turned wide by the keeper.

Stephen Ireland – 7 – Not quite as influential as of late but did very well to get back to clear Bendtner’s shot off the line on 68 minutes.

Chris Herd – 8 – MOTM – Covered and worked tirelessly in our midfield. He appears to have what it takes to become a first team regular with us if he can avoid the second season that has claimed other promising players in the past and present. An impressive all round display.

Marc Albrighton – 5 – Worked hard but too often his crosses were less than accurate.

Andreas Weimann – 7 – Such a busy player who makes runs in anticipation of the ball getting there rather than after the ball has been played. Unlucky on 19 minutes when he was brought down on the edge of the box by Turner’s foot taking his. Chose the wrong option twice, on 29 minutes when he got free of a couple of defenders to hit the side netting with a near post shot when he should have tried to hit the ball across the keeper and did the same thing on 47 minutes with a better opportunity. Heskey threaded the ball through 2 defenders to put him in near the end but he delayed rather than tried to hit a shot early and then found Bannan whose shot was well off target.

Gabriel Agbonlahor - 6 – Looked bright at the start but his shoulder injury did for him and led to his leaving the field on 48 minutes without breaking a goal drought that now stretches back 3 months. His committed first minute challenge on the keeper bounced into Weimann’s path and Mignolet did well to recover and save his effort which had looked on target. Four minutes later Gabby cut inside and had a shot deflected by a defender’s leg to safety.

Substitutes:

Alan Hutton – 6 - Replaced Collins on 43 minutes when at long last the bench noticed he could not continue due to injury. Did as we have come to expect in his familiar role with Carlos moving into the middle.

Emile Heskey – 7 - Replaced Gabby on 48 minutes and the big man did all that could be reasonably expected of him and did make a difference when he came on. Emile won balls in the air, flicked balls on and worked hard.

Barry Bannan – Replaced N’Zogbia on 83 minutes so not on long enough to earn a rating.

Stay up the Villa and Stay Strong Captain!

John Lewis

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