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Match Report & Reaction: The Rot is Stopped


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Aston Villa 2 Watford 0

FA Barclays Premiership

Saturday 20th January 2007.

Football fans are generally a rather superstitious bunch. Whether it’s wearing the same clothes every time you win a game, having the same Saturday morning routine or just waving at every lonesome magpie you see – it’s all pretty silly as whatever you do it’s not as if the players find out and think “Well that’s it then, I’m going to play rubbish now he hasn’t done thatâ€.

Whatever Martin O‘Neill’s superstitions are, they worked today.

It’s hard to really try and make what actually went on in this game sound vaguely interesting. I cam back from the game in the mind that the match had been a fairly dull one, two poor teams battling it out, with Villa getting a break and taking advantage of it. And after seeing Match of The Day’s highlights I think that impression remains.

Looking back on the game through Villa glasses, to me no Villa player really jumps out as having played what some may term as “wellâ€. Similarly, I can’t think of anyone who played particularly poorly. They all played, well, a little below average. Now whether that is as far as they can push themselves, or they are just out of sorts, I dunno.

Watford certainly created chances – a few too many for my liking. As we have seen at times this season, mistakes are often made in the Villa defence and again balls were being left to drop and Watford nearly benefited from this. The final stages of the first half and beginning of the second were largely controlled by the visitors and things didn’t really go the way of Villa. This seemed to change midway through the second half when a glaring miss by Hoskins seemed to shake Villa into action.

Martin O’Neill made a few very daring decisions during the game today – that would have brought him a lot of criticism had Villa not won the game today. However, these brave decisions actually ended up winning the game, and when a manager does something like that you do realise that you have somebody special at the club. It is all about winning games, and the manager ensured this happened today.

Early on in the second half, Wilfred Bouma sustained a nasty cut from an elbow by a Watford player that was completely missed by both referee and linesman. Bouma was forced to leave the pitch for stitches, and rather than throw Samuel on for him, Villa were left playing with ten men for nearly five minutes – at one point you could see Barry screaming at O’Neill for a substitute - yet Villa weathered the storm and Samuel was kept for later on. Patrick Berger came on for striker Angel, which raised eyebrows as whilst angel has been quiet again, it was effectively bringing on a midfielder for a striker despite trying to go for the win. But Berger managed to craft out two golden opportunities for Baros, both of which were missed when he should have done better. He then went on to miss a further one on one chance with Foster.

Villa’s mis-firing forwards are probably the biggest issue we have at the moment. Whilst Ashley Young is a good signing, I don’t think he is the solution to our problems up front actually puttng away the chances. The trouble is, whilst I think Angel has seen his better days behind him, I firmly believe that Baros has a talent. It’s there somewhere, which is really annoying as you’ll know he’ll score bucketful of goals wherever he ends up at. His movement and pace do cause problems, and you just wish we’d see more of the Baros that we saw when he made his debut, and less of his unconfident self we have seen recently.

If the Berger substitution raised eyebrows, the next one would have raised up whole faces. Baros came off and on came Samuel – yes – J’Lloyd Samuel the left back. It was almost as if we were playing for the draw. I’m still not sure what formation Villa ended up playing, but it seemed to work as chances began to be created again and a poor deep corner taken by Davis was rifled in as a cross by McCann and turned in my Alan Mahon. Yes – that Mahon – the Birmingham City supporter who had been shooting his mouth off about Villa before the game at Vicarage Road. Sweet, sweet relief.

2-0 minutes later, and a scoreline that eventually flattered Villa. If you were a Watford fan you’d be disappointed. A clearance by that man McCann gave Gabriel Agbonlahor the chance to run against Danny Shittu. A clash of the players with the silliest names in the Premiership, if you want. Shittu had been pretty decent throughout the game, but showed why he was at no bigger club than Watford as he showed a complete lack of pace before tumbling over. Agbonlahor took the time to steady himself before carefully placing the ball past Foster.

It’s not the way you play, its how many points you pick up. And to be fair this is probably the best result we could have asked for. A reminder that players are needed and we need to strengthen – but we got the three points too - which is the most important thing.

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Excellent report.

It's a big thing to take off both your strikers when you're 0-0 and desperate for a goal.

Personally I'd have hoiked Baros rather than Angel, but then it worked, so top marks to MO'N.

Quite impressed by Cahill and Olly at the back, and Bardsley didn't put a foot wrong.

All in all a very good day for the manager. It worked out fine in the end, and though we made hard work of it (and Watford played OK) we won.

I feel better, now.

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I thought it was quite a good game, a lot more open than I expected. Watford's defence left so many gaps which we got through many times, but couldn't finish. I don't think the players played below average. I saw a team which knew this was a great opportunity to stop a bad run and went for it. I was really impressed by Bardsley. Composed, strong, mature. I noticed he was very vocal when we were defending set pieces too.

The substitutions didn't raise any eyebrows for me. If you hadn't noticed, we didn't exactly have a bench full of strikers. We were making chances but the front two weren't going to put them away. Good substitutions by MON, Berger having an immediate effect, and Samuel allowing Barry to push further forward. We certainly weren't playing for a draw bringing Samuel on, it was pretty much the only option.

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Good Post John..... I largely agree with you.

I believe the rot was stopped in terms of result, but not in terms of performance.At times there is an eerie naivety about our play a Technical wilderness in fact.If we are going to progress this needs to improve and whether it is acheived via the transfer market or Bodymoor heath, i don't care ......but it needs to happen.

I agree with your assessment of Milan Baros, and equally agree with the manager about booing our own players.On his debut Milan was exactly what we were looking for, but i predicted to my friend watching the match that day,that he would finish up like he is now.Why was i so sure?...... because I have seen a similar situation with too many other forwards before him and unless we improve the quality of ball to the forwards, i fear we will see it again.You can't have the majority of players hoofing balls out of defence with little responsibility on a regular basis and keep blaming the strikers.Right now there is a striker problem but i believe the problem runs deeper than that.

I am not sure if Milan was using us as a stepping stone or not ( if he was then there is no hope with him), but he has the ability to deliver quality, despite the fact he is not.I believe he does not possess the mental ability to rise above the difficulties at VP and the lack of quality around him...... he has just sulked.

Patrick Berger who is another one.......However he did exhibit, just what is missing at B6 with some intelligent penetrative passing.

There is undoubtedly a long way to go......But i still beleieve Mon & RL are the people to do it.

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