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Player Match Ratings – Up for the Cups!


John
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This was a very welcome home win. It retains our unbeaten record in 2013, moves us nearer to making more than one Wembley cup appearance for a second time in 4 seasons (with hopefully a cup or two to show for it this time) and it leaves Darren Bent cup-tied so likely to be a less attractive transfer proposition for any potential suitors who have serious cup ambitions!

This was a potential banana skin that we managed to avoid despite having gone in a goal down at half time. Our second half performance was a marked improvement on our first half showing and brought us two goals that settled this cup tie without the need for what would have been a potentially draining replay. It was also nice to see the return of players from injury that we have missed in recent weeks. These players will give our manager some selection decisions to make at long last as well as give him some options on the bench that we have been without of late.

Ipswich are not the side that they were in the early 80s and nor are we but once again we were the team to emerge successfully as we did back at the end of season 1980-81. During the course of that season we went out of the FA Cup in the Third Round at Portman Road and the Tractor Boys might claim that the extra cup games they played that season contributed to their end of season league downfall (although I see it as their failure to get more points than us that did for them). This season it is they who are left free to concentrate on the league whilst we face forthcoming cup commitments alongside a relegation scrap. But cup wins can build confidence to take into league games and players will want to play well enough in the league to win a starting place for big cup games that are to come. I for one would prefer to be fighting on three fronts now rather than facing a long relegation fight after two demoralising cup exits against teams from outside the top flight. It is also 56 long years since we last won the FA Cup for a then record seventh time and its return to Villa Park is too long overdue.

My player ratings from a game that has left us just 3 games from a Wembley FA Cup semi-final appearance are:

Shay Given – 7 – His distribution was not quite at its best but this was a solid enough performance and he made a couple of vital saves diving well at the feet of Murphy on 18 minutes and making a good one handed save on 79 minutes to push a goal bound effort over the bar.

Eric Lichaj – 4 –Chopra’s shot was deflected off Given which put the ball into Eric’s path with a forward running closely behind him and he was unable to do anything other than to help the ball into the net on 31 minutes. His mistake on 36 minutes led to a cross but Given saved the resultant effort with his legs to keep us in the game when a second goal in 5 minutes had looked likely and we might not have come back from that.

Nathan Baker - 6 – He was bullied off the ball and to the ground by Chopra as they both ran onto the ball in the lead up to their goal leaving the forward with a clear run on goal. Other than that this was a solid return to the centre of our defence.

Ciaran Clark – 6 – Loach did well to keep out his solid header on 38 minutes. Worked well alongside Baker again and this in the continued absence of Vlaar looks our best central defensive pairing.

Joe Bennett - 7 – MOTM - Let the ball run under his foot on 34 minutes but Given saved his blushes easily holding the shot of the player who had been left in space. Flashed a decent shot just wide of the post on the hour mark and looked particularly good when moving forward and getting some support when doing so. This was both an encouraging and promising overall display that shows just why Lambo signed him.

Marc Albrighton – 4 – Left the field and was replaced on 43 minutes having picked up an injury. He had again looked below par prior to that.

Barry Bannan – 6 – Worked very hard alongside Fabian to keep things going in the middle.

Fabian Delph – 6 – This was nearer the performance level he produced shortly after he joined us although the proof of the pudding will be if he can begin to do the same consistently against Premier League midfields to show he can do it at this level.

Charles N’Zogbia - 6 – A very encouraging start to the game and he also had a good second half spell. He offered us something that we had been missing this season and it looks like the coming semi-final is one he and others will want to be involved in.

Jordan Bowery – 6 – He does not look like a winger but spent a lot of this game out wide before making way for Gabby on 62 minutes. Got an early header on target from a 2nd minute cross which the keeper gathered easily enough, stretched but could not quite get to a cross 16 minutes later and was then clear inside the box on the half hour but his shot was too close to the keeper who kept it out easily enough they then went straight down the other end to take the lead and on such things games can be won or lost. But this was a decent enough performance at this early stage in his career with us and he will get better with more games as he did as he began to find his feet as this game progressed.

Darren Bent - 7 – A welcome return and given his appearance yesterday may have an impact on the price we might otherwise have got for him had he moved on during this month it seems we can now accept we are not looking to offload him which is a relief as our chances of survival and of further progress in cup competitions are better with him in our squad rather than out of it. Did what he was selected to do when he hit our equalizer in the first minute of the second half. Bannan played the ball through to N’Zogbia on 46 minutes who in turn threaded the ball nicely through to Bent who hit it first time past the keeper and into the corner of the net to give us a vital equalizer. He then had a decent shot pushed around the post for a corner by Loach on 63 minutes. Darren looked up for it yesterday and this outing will have done much to clear off the cobwebs as will it for others that had grown ring rusty.

Substitutes:

Andreas Weimann - 7 – Replaced Marc on 43 minutes and looked lively throughout scoring our winner on 83 minutes when Gabby played the ball back to Bennett who hit a nice cross into the box that Andreas headed sweetly over keeper Loach and into the corner of the net. He had earlier just failed to get his head to a good cross on 54 minutes. His introduction did much to turn the game in our direction for me.

Gabriel Agbonlahor – 6 - Replaced Bowery on 62 minutes and looked very bright and eager to make a positive impact. He did manage to get his head to a Lichaj cross on 67 minutes but he was unable to quite get the header on target.

Stephen Ireland – 5 – Replaced N’Zogbia on 71 minutes. Nice touches but needs to be able to and show the desire to dominate when appearing in games like these.

Up the Villa and Stay Strong Captain!

John Lewis

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