Date: 9th February 2008 at 6:10pm
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What a joyful day! Talk about chalk and cheese, first half woeful, second half resplendent!

First half, is best confined to the back of the memory banks as one to miss, Newcastle took the lead in an uneventful half where really 0-0 would have reflected the total stalemate of the situation. I must admit my catching of the ball and swift pass to Bouma for a throw in was the fastest move for the Villa in the first 45 mins and some around me were heckling ‘this is boring’. Villa weren’t THAT bad, they just weren’t that good. The Magpies goal came from a great cross by James Milner, such a shame we didn’t get him signed! {gay mode on} you should see the muscles in Milners legs. {gay mode off} !! The cross was headed in by Michael Owen and that was that, not exactly against the run of play as neither team had had a run of play.

The first half ended with a chorus of boo’s from the Villa fans, bit harsh in my opinion but hey ho, you pays your money, you takes your choice.

My dad, who is usually quiet and reserved (I obviously take after him!) called to Martin O’Neill ‘wake them up for the second half’ and to be fair, MON turned round and nodded.

AND BOY OH BOY did he wake them up or what? I’d loved to have been in the dressing room at half time as you can only assume some of the players had strips torn off them for once again not showing up.

The second half was just so different with every man fighting for every ball from start to finish. Once again Villa have set a benchmark for the rest of the season and hopefully MON will stick with the players he started with in the second half for the next game (away to Reading). It won’t hurt Gabby Agbonlahor, if he recovers fitness, to sit on the bench for a game or two but it would hurt Shaun Maloney or Marlon Harewood if they were dropped.

MON made two changes at half time with the sadly woeful Stiliyan Petrov being dragged off (and replaced by Harewood), for his own good as well as the good of Villa you’d assume. Plus Olof Mellberg came off and was replaced by Craig Gardner. Not sure if that was tactical or an injury to the bearded one, but I can’t say he had a particularly good first half – that said I can’t say any of them exactly excelled.

You can read loads of match reports that go through the blow by blow accounts, so I’ll sidestep that, but having just watched the second half replayed, there was only one team in it and nearly every attack we made we looked threatening. Ok, ok, there was a huge slice of luck in Wilf Bouma’s first goal that did take a slight deflection, but hey that is his first goal for Villa, he’ll take it and we’ll take it! Within a few minutes John Carew – who looked at times like a statue in the first half – sprang to action and scored a lovely glancing header. Just like the buses (pah, as if I use public transport, the very thought wot wot) you wait ages for one and then comes along 2 more the third being a well taken penalty following a ridiculous hand ball by Stephen Carr. What was he thinking?!?

The atmosphere was another massive plus point today, Villa as a club really is rocking and the fans are playing a major part in that. I couldn’t help but think when football produces this sort of atmosphere and excitement, why should we allow the money men to ruin it with their pathetic money grabbing proposals, but that is for another day I guess! It was also great to see John Carew throw his top in the Holte End to celebrate his first hattrick for Villa (and first for 7 years) as well as Marlon Harewood taking his off and giving it to a kid in the Trinity.

Martin O’Neill, I don’t know what you and your backroom boys said to the team at half time, but please, give them more of the same before the next game, this sort of turnaround could give us the injection of confidence that could see us make Europe this year.

Ratings, first half 5 for them all. Second half it all changed though and to think, we still aren’t at our best!

Player Ratings

Scott Carson 6
Not to blame for the goal I don’t think but then again, what do I know?! Not the most commanding of keepers.

Wilfred Bouma 7
Think he has come on leaps and bounds and worked hard to keep James Milner quiet. Great to see him on the scoresheet for the first time!

Martin Laursen 7
Few small errors but put his head in where it hurts over and over again.

Curtis Davies 7
Solid and no lapses of concentration.

Olof Mellberg 6
Just ok today and brought off, not sure if that was injury or tactics.

Ashley Young 8
Showed what we missed against Fulham. Tricky bugger to play against and got far more stuck in with tackles etc today.

Stiliyan Petrov 5
Such a shame, I thought he was finally finding his feet, but today he was a liability and rightly brought off. Wasted talent or maybe he just can’t and won’t get up to the speed of the Premiership. He never complains, hope he comes good but how long can we all wait and hope for before having to cut our losses? Come on Stan.

Gareth Barry 7
Has to do more of the scruffy stuff in the centre but is always involved at both ends.

Nigel Hokey-Cokey 7
Got stuck in and helped boss the midfield. Got very angry and could have been sent off – wonder what Taylor did/said to make him lose his cool so much? He has to learn to control his temper, if he’d got another red it could have cost us dearly.

John Carew 8
First half he was a statue waiting for the ball to drop to him, second half was the player we brought in with the massive reputation. More of the second half Carew and we’ll be in Europe next year.

Shaun Maloney 7
Thought he did really well, needs a run in the team and after today’s efforts deserves to keep his place.

Craig Gardner (on for Olof at half time) 7
Didn’t disappoint and nearly scored. Still a very promising young player.

Marlon Harewood (on for Stan at half time) 8
Helped transform the game, becoming a cult figure down at Villa Park and rightfully so. Can’t help but salute the man as he’s not once grumbled since coming from West Ham and when he comes on he certainly makes his presence felt. Another that now deserves to keep his place.

On in injury time.

Manager Rating
Martin O’Neill A relieved man I’d think as a loss today could have seen us go into confidence meltdown. The first half wasn’t good enough, he knew it and took action. Nice job!

Opponent Rating
Kevin Keegan. I like Keegan, he is a real footballing man but I think he has one hell of a job to turn the Mapgies around again and I’m not convinced he has the staying power anymore.

The Villa Fans. 10 out of 10.
Proud to be a part of the claret and blue army, hey I even took my top off to take the michael out of the topless Geordies when we went 2-1 up. Not sure the folks around me or anyone else are quite ready for that though, so I’ll promise not to do it again…! It did get me a ladies phone number mind you. Trouble is the number was for the Samaritans. ;o(

Chicken Pie 8
Nice and hot but rather disappointed it was back to the old shape as I’m told the last game had square ones and I missed out. Blimey my life really is sad.