Date: 3rd February 2008 at 7:42pm
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Got to say, after losing 2-1 to Fulham, who are second from bottom of the league, that they thoroughly deserved the win and for good parts of the game were the better team.

To start with Villa looked like they were within their comfort zone, they were fairly solid at the back and seemed to be containing a short of confidence Fulham who had only won two PL games all season. However, for all the comfort, there was no real meaning to our play and no real intent to attack. In fact, from memory (and to be fair, from my armchair position – we’ll have glensider’s away report later tonight/tomorrow morning) we didn’t have one shot in anger – at least not on target – in the first half.

I’m no genius, as you all know by now, but I have figured out that if you don’t shoot you don’t score. Well, usually if you don’t shoot you don’t score, today we didn’t shoot but Aaron Hughes obliged with an own goal.

It wasn’t deserved, we’d not created anything ourselves, but hey, you take what you are given and from there-on-in I could only see one winner, as I thought Fulham would be forced to push forward and we’d get them on the break. PAH. Within 4 minutes Villa conceded and a stalemate seemed to be most likely. The goal was preventable and unfortunately Curtis Davies again got caught ball watching and allowed Simon Davies to pop in.

Ok, a draw away from home is never shameful, especially when the team was so short of flair and form today. Trouble is, we couldn’t even hold on to that. Martin Laursen did have a chance before Fulham equalised to bury the ball from five yards out and although the ball came at him quickly and slightly high, he really should have buried it. He didn’t and we were punished for the miss. Curtis Davies gave away a fairly unnecessary free kick lunging into his former Baggies team mate Diomansy Kamara and Scott Carson obliged Jimmy Bullard by leaving half of his goal open for a free kick that should really have been saved. £10m? Jeez, I hope not!

Fulham was a game that Villa, looking to go back joint fourth, should have won. Instead we come away with 0 points and two injured players as Gabby Agbonlahor pulled (hopefully it is a pull and not a tare anyway) his hamstring and Curtis Davies hobbled off towards the end. Strength in depth is not something our squad enjoys, so we have to get out the collective claret and blue prayer matt.

You can’t be too harsh on Villa, they have fought to the top six this season and all that with limited options and this was our first defeat in nine games. However, I do fear – as I know many do – that the lack of transfer activity is going to cause us problems with injuries, suspensions and weary legs kick in during the final matches of this season.

Up next, Newcastle United at home. They are in perpetual crisis, we need to get back on track with all three points. Maybe we’ll even have a few meaningful shots and not try to walk the ball into the net?

At least we’ll have Ashley Young back, his tricks and crosses were missed today.

Player Ratings

Scott Carson 5
I’m not goalkeeping expert, but for a potential England No1 you don’t let in free kicks like that.

Wilfred Bouma 6
Seemed fairly solid and got stuck in.

Olof Mellberg 6
Was involved and his beard was back to its best

Martin Laursen 6
Should have scored the winner for us, at least he got in the right position.

Curtis Davies 5.5
Was over kind last time (and then watched the replay) today he was once again caught ball watching and that resulted in us conceding the equaliser. He had been solid up til then. England player? Not yet, not yet.

Stiliyan Petrov.
Not sure if I don’t rate him or can’t rate him. Made some great passes but also gave the ball away. I really don’t know with Petrov, maybe someone else can enlighten me!

Gareth Barry 6
He did get stuck in, was up and down the pitch, made some good interceptions etc, but he isn’t at his sparkling best.

Nigel Hokey-Cokey 6
Broke up some of the game, does the scruffy stuff. Another not on sparkling form though.

Shaun Maloney 6.5
At least he has a go, some wayward shots but not afraid to try. Has some good skills and touches, that is for sure.

John Carew 5
Thought he was woeful today, he really is an enigma. That said, the constant hoofing the ball ‘at’ him can’t help him at all.

Gabby Agbonlahor 5.5
No shots and no real runs. One goal in around 12 games now isn’t it? Real blow for him personally that he’ll miss the England game. Far from convinced at his age and with his current barren spell that he is ready though?

Marlon Harewood 6.5 (on for Gabby 46)
Not that many chances but he does at least look like he wants to be on the pitch, tries to shoot and pass + tried to whip the fans up.

Craig Gardner (on for Wilf 87 mins)