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Safe at last!


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by John

Heroic defending kept us up and effectively brings a close to a sad season that promised little and delivered even less. If this was the season of transition we were warned of I do not like what it has transformed us into!

So we did find a point from somewhere and that along with Albion’s point at Bolton has spared us from the last day of the season relegation anxiety that now awaits others. We did not get there with a fifth home win of the season but we got there with a determined rearguard action.

The vital point came against a Spurs side who had a Champions League place to fight for and which dominated most of the game even more so when they went down to ten men. Our tactics were negative and involved getting men behind the ball and dropping back deep inviting Spurs to try to break us down. It was not particularly pretty to watch but it proved effective and the players gave a whole hearted performance to secure our safety.

We started well but created little and often found our defence included our midfield as might have been anticipated given the number of defenders that started in it. Spurs had the lion’s share of the possession but troubled our keeper only rarely and we were able through dogged often last ditch defending to stop countless corners and forward momentum producing more then one goal.

So a plucky last home performance sees us survive and limp over the line to reach 38 points which thanks to our vastly superior goal difference on those who are below us will be enough. But it was way too close for comfort and it was not in any way acceptable for a club of our status.

Without changes and investment we will most likely face another relegation fight and the more of those you face the more likely it is that you will lose one. It is a season that has offered little by way of entertainment and one in which we have produced the least ever home league victories of any team in Aston Villa history. That is not the proud future or the type of history we were expecting Randy!

My player ratings from a game that demonstrated the gap between these two clubs that was none existent a couple of seasons ago are:

Shay Given – 7 – Produced a splendid one handed save on his near post from Bale on 38 minutes and clutched another effort from the same player from inside the box on 82 minutes. Cool, calm and effective when called upon.

Alan Hutton - 6 – Not the best of starts but he did reasonably well at the back before a dangerous challenge by Rose led to him being substituted and left Spurs down to ten men.

Carlos Cuellar – 7 – MOTM - If this was to be his last home game for us then it was a very solid one. Looked very comfortable in the centre of our defence until his flexibility led to his spending most of the second half at full back and he then looked solid enough there as well. I guess we cannot afford to pay his wages anymore as a football club because I do not see his departure as a football decision rather than a financial one and I do not see us paying the money in wages or transfer fee to get someone better or more adaptable than him.

Richard Dunne – 6 – One moment of madness spoilt an otherwise sound central defensive display but the penalty he conceded could have cost us the game and threatened our survival and it was a silly challenge to make on the edge of the box on Sandro who was posing no immediate threat on goal. Might have made up for that on 76 minutes when he all but forced home a header from a good N’Zogbia corner.

Eric Lichaj - 6 – A solid performance again from a player with a big future at our football club.

Charles N’Zogbia – 5 – Some way off his best yesterday but I think he may have come off due to injury had we attacking options on the bench to replace him.

Chris Herd – 7 – Kept trying to find a way through and was well up for the fight. But enough of that fracas earlier in the week! Chris owed us a performance and he gave us a big one putting his indiscretion behind him as both he and Clark provided a solid obstacle to Spurs forward movement throughout.

Stephen Ireland – 7 – What few things we did creatively came from him and he put a good shift in yesterday.

Ciaran Clark – 7 – Gave us the lead on 35 minutes with a speculative shot from well outside the box which took a wicked deflection off the shoulder of Gallas to leave former Villain Brad flat footed and the ball nestling in the back of the net.

Stephen Warnock – 7 – Worked very, very hard and covered a lot of ground for the cause almost having run himself to a standstill by the end but then going again each time he was called upon.

Emile Heskey - 7 – Did all that could be expected of him as a lone striker and it was not his fault that he lacked support alongside him. Did not have the pace to get a shot in when Ireland intercepted a ball in his own half and then played a nice ball between two defenders for him to run onto but Kaboul reached him before he was able to pull the trigger when running clear on the edge of the box after 11 minutes. Held the ball up very well.

Substitutes:

James Collins – 6 - Replaced Hutton on 53 minutes and played his part in securing the point.

Andreas Weimann – Replaced Heskey on 53 minutes before himself being replaced on 70 minutes having picked up an injury in a challenge with Brad Friedel as he raced on to try to reach a ball from N’Zogbia before our former keeper could. Not on long enough to rate but provided the energy we were looking for until he left the field.

Nathan Delfouneso – Replaced Weimann on 70 minutes and was largely ineffective other than for one sweet ball that he played out wide. Nathan has needed to grab opportunities like these to prove he can fulfil his promise but performances like this have seen him fall below the player he replaced yesterday and who is now a distance in front of him in the pecking order.

Staying up the Villa and Stay Strong Captain!
John Lewis

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Massively frustrating performance from McLeish yet again.

1-0 up and the opposition down to ten men. We have to replace our injured RB when we have a RB playing LB (and doing so very well) and a LB playing LW and McLeish brings on a CB pushing one of the CB's out to RB and we have three players playing out of position!

If he had gone positive with Lichaj to RB, Warnock to LB and Carruthers on the LW I would have thought we might have had enough to keep them engaged at the other end!

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I take your point briny-ear but I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he was carrying an injury so gave him a below par 5 but his was still the lowest marking.

If he had gone positive with Lichaj to RB, Warnock to LB and Carruthers on the LW I would have thought we might have had enough to keep them engaged at the other end!

That would have been an option I would have looked at as well barry's boots as attack is said to be the best form of defence and against 10 men I would guess it would be even more the case. But, I think Eck was looking to try to hold onto the point at all costs and thought the negative option (which seems the first one if not only one in his tool box) was the one to go for even though we outnumbered them because we had been under the cosh for most of the game up until then and he might have felt that too many positional changes might have put the solid defence we had before and after that change into question and have considered it would have put a lot of pressure on Carruthers at such an early point in his playing days to play this length of time in such a high pressure game. But I would like to see Carruthers start against Norwich now that the pressure is off.

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That would have been an option I would have looked at as well barry's boots as attack is said to be the best form of defence and against 10 men I would guess it would be even more the case. But, I think Eck was looking to try to hold onto the point at all costs and thought the negative option (which seems the first one if not only one in his tool box) was the one to go for even though we outnumbered them because we had been under the cosh for most of the game up until then and he might have felt that too many positional changes might have put the solid defence we had before and after that change into question and have considered it would have put a lot of pressure on Carruthers at such an early point in his playing days to play this length of time in such a high pressure game.

We all know what Eck will look to do, even though, of course, he is not a negative manager! :winkold:

With them down to ten men we had the chance to play some progressive possession football but, to do this, you need progressive footballers on the pitch. Not something McTool understands.

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