Attendance: 21 848
After last weekends encouraging performance, it was with renewed enthusiasm and confidence that we set sail for Ewood Park this morning, all five of us seemingly convinced that we would be returning home to dear old Brummagem later in the day, celebrating our second away success, of what has been to date, a somewhat topsy-turvy campaign.
It was to be a straight there, straight back journey today, all of us having reasons to return home with the minimum of delay, but we were all in high spirits, convinced that our whistle stop visit to Blackburn would produce the desired result, and see us cement our position in the top half of the table.
On the television the game may have well been, but the diehards were out in force on the M6 motorway, as we sped north on this rather gloomy November morning, and early indications were that once again the club would be well supported, despite away performances and results this season not yet reaching the level to which we had become accustomed.
Brother-in-law Mike, over from Cincinnati, Ohio was accompanying us for his first Villa away game of the campaign, so our numbers had actually increased from the usual four of us to five, but the away-day routine of talk, debate, music, newspaper reading, and more general nonsense remained as per the norm, as we laughed, argued, and sang our way northwards.
Our regular pre-match gambling den was in operation, although the winning booty today totaled twenty-five pounds as opposed to the usual twenty, and we all allowed the heart to rule the head by going for a Villa victory, just with differing score lines, something of course we would all live to regret.
Arriving in Blackburn just after noon, we stopped off for a quick dose of refreshment, something I also regretted, as we bumped into the son-in-law and my youngest daughter (they are not married to each other, the son-in-law is married to my eldest – complicated I know, but…), and their two friends, and somehow I ended up paying for their drinks (always do – generous to the core, that`s my failing!!), meaning that unless I happened to win our little prediction sweep, I`d be well and truly out of pocket on this trip. Always good though to mix with some of the other away-day regulars, catch up on the news and latest rumours that are doing the rounds, even though 95% of the gossip we hear never seems to bear fruit, and you all too often are left wondering what type of people actually sit down and take the time to dream this stuff up. It gives us something to chuckle about though, should heaven forbid, the game be dull, or as the miles roll on by as we head home, so for entertainment value alone, its sort of priceless. I don`t think we could survive without our away-day rumours fix.
Entering the ground the news reached us that Marc Albrighton had fallen ill yesterday, and was consequently out of the team, so yet again more need for poor old Gerard to jig and re-jig his starting line-up. We`ll soon be struggling to name a starting line up and full complement of substitutes, things are getting that bad, and as things stand, without wanting to wish our lives away, January and the new year transfer window cant come quick enough.
Anyway, Gerards latest team selection read:- Brad Friedel, Luke Young, Richard Dunne, Cieran Clark, Stephen Warnock, Stewart Downing, Stephen Ireland, Jonathan Hogg, Barry Bannan, Ashley Young, Gabby Agbonlahor. On the bench, Brad Guzan, Bob Pires, Nathan Delfounseo, Isiah Osbourne, Chris Herd, Shane Lowry, Eric Lichaj.
Rovers started on the front foot, soon earning a free kick on the edge of our box, Samba though eventually wasting the early opportunity, screwing his effort well wide.
The recalled Stephen Ireland was inches away from playing through Gabby, who was goal side of the home central defenders. Samba cut it out, only for it to find the feet of twinkling Barry Bannan, who jinked inside only to shoot wide from the edge of the area. Encouraging move though.
Ashley Young brought a fine save from Robinson after referee Oliver had collided with a Rovers defender, to set up the chance, and then Roberts breaking through at the other end was denied by Richard Dunne, who put the ball behind for a corner.
We were looking bright on the counter, with Ireland and Downing combining well on the right, and they almost played in Gabby, only for Samba to once again come to the home teams rescue.
Givet wasted a good opportunity for Blackburn, their best chance to date, when he shot high and wide from the edge of the box.
Brad was looking less than comfortable as Blackburn threw long balls into the box. He came off second best in an aerial duel with the intimidating Samba, and then he misjudged another long ball and collided with a fellow defender as he went for the catch, landing rather awkwardly.
Blackburn had another half chance, when they shot over from a tight angle following a corner, and then again Friedel lost out in another aerial duel with Samba, this time though the referee blowing up for a foul on our keeper.
Stephen Warnock almost headed the ball past Brad as he attempted to play the ball back, and whereas now Rovers had upped their game somewhat, we were still reliant on the counter attack, without really looking too threatening.
Ash attempted to play Gabby in, but the ball skidded off the surface and Robinson collected comfortably, and with neither side really doing enough to take the game by the scruff of the neck, it looked as if we`d go in at the break level at 0-0.
However Stephen Warnock, perhaps retaliating on El-Hadj Diouf following a clash of heads just moments earlier, gave away a needless free kick out on the right touchline. You had sensed all throughout the first half that a Blackburn free kick swung into the box would eventually be our undoing, and so it proved. Pedersen swung a curving, dipping cross towards the far post. No Villa defender attempted to attack the ball, while Friedel completely misjudged it. The cross managed to avoid everybody, and the ball flew just inside the far post. What a disaster. Enough to ruin our half-time meat pies.
We had though allowed Rovers way too many free kicks throughout the first forty five, allowing them to throw crosses into the box, and with Brad looking so uncertain throughout the half, you had sensed that a goal would come from this route sooner or later. Up front, despite us a times playing some bright inventive attacking football, the Christopher Samba inspired Rovers defence had looked in little trouble.
We started the second half at a healthy pace. First Ashley Young cut inside, escaping his marker and shooting, His fine effort was acrobatically saved by Robinson, only for the ball to loop out to Stewie Downing, who got to the byline and sent his cross back in. Ashley Young’s fine header hit the top of the bar, and Rovers escaped.
Ash had been pushed up alongside Gabby at the start of the half, and we were definitely looking more threatening.
Cieran Clark was booked for a foul on Roberts as our frustrations grew, and Rovers almost doubled their lead when another Pedersen free kick flew into the box just crying out for a touch, but Brad was able to collect the ball.
It was looking increasingly likely that this was going to be another frustrating and disappointing afternoon away from Brum B6, because we just didn`t look capable of creating anything that would at least bring us back onto level terms.
Diouf had a glorious chance to wrap the game up for the home team, after Stephen Ireland had been caught napping, and robbed of the ball by Jason Roberts. Roberts played Diouf through, but he hesitated, allowing Richard Dunne to slide in and save the day.
Respite was brief though, Blackburn won a corner which we could only clear as far as Samba on the edge of the area. His first-time effort was charged down, Salgado shot from the rebound, but his shot was going off target, only for Pedersen to stick out a foot in the six-yard box and diverted the ball past Brad, who quite simply just didn’t have time to react to the diversion.
Robert Pires came on for Stephen Ireland, but with Rovers now playing with confidence, it was going to take something very special to get us back into the game. We all wondered why we hadn`t thrown Nathan on. We needed to pull back two goals, and a bit of urgency was needed.
Stewart Downing hit a stinger from twenty-five yards which Robinson could only parry, Jonathan Hogg and Gabby Agbonlahor just failing to net the rebound. While we were starting to dominate possession though, we just didn`t have that cutting edge so needed at this level.
Gabby came off to be replaced by Nathan, but the switch hardly raised hope amongst the traveling faithful.
Chris Herd came on for Jonathan Hogg, and almost reduced the arrears with his first touch. His header, from another fine Stewart Downing cross, flew just wide.
There were half-hearted Villa appeals for a penalty when the impressive Jones handled in the area, but it would have been harsh on the Blackburn defender, and despite some Villa pressure towards the death, the home team were able to see out the game relatively comfortably.
So there we have it. Another extremely disappointing away result, which when allied to our run of Villa Park draws, is seeing us heading for a tricky time, particularly with Arsene Wenger`s Arsenal next in town.
Yes, we are in a transitional period, we keep hearing that, and yes we are suffering from an horrendous injury list, but somewhere, somehow, the hard luck stories have to take a back seat, and we have to start chalking up some victories. Our away form has to be a major concern, we have just become a very soft touch when on our travels. Blackburn, like Stoke City, Sunderland, Newcastle United before them, were no great shakes, but all succeeded in sending us back to Brummagem B6 with our tails between our legs.
Oh well, once again I can only apologise for not being able to report on a much needed Villa victory, but fingers crossed, next time we hit the road, for the short trip to Brummagem B9, things will be very different.
Have yourselves a great week, and don`t work too hard!