Well, I enjoyed that FA Cup day out. I went down with low hopes for a good crowd and was very pleasantly surprised, as were the players according to the very complimentary to the fans Martin O’Neill. Always lovely to hear the boss compliment us! Must say well done to the club and consumer sales manager for pitching the price spot on for the game, it – along with the great game v Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday night – certainly helped get to just shy of 40 000 fans.
The Brighton & Hove Albion fans, who were at least 6500 strong, also added to the occasion and helped dispel this myth that the FA cup has lost it’s gloss. It hasn’t, it is a great historic cup and to be fair, the League Cup, now the ‘big’ clubs are back taking it a bit more seriously is also getting a better profile again.
The start could not have been better for Villa, we had a brave selection from MON, especially as this cup is so important (despite already being in one final) to the club and also the boss who is missing an FA Cup win on his record. If we’d lost no doubt the doom mongers would have been out saying he’d done the wrong thing, so it was ‘brave’ to rest some key players, a few due to injury niggles but I’d bet they would have been rested anyway. If we had gone out you still would have been a fool to blame the team selection, we’ve called out for years for strength in depth, we’ve now got it and many also call for the kids to get more chances, well yesterday they got their chance and three of them took the chance with both hands.
Yup, right from the start the quality was there and a very smart run by Marc Albrighton and a lovely cross resulted in a real strikers goal by Nathan Delfouneso. Now I’m not going to start to criticise the three main line strikers too much here, things are good at Villa at the moment, there are plenty of opportunities to be negative and this isn’t one of them BUT they could ALL look at the movement and positioning of The Fonz for that goal. He got IN FRONT of the Brighton & Hove Albion defenders and virtually tapped the ball in. That is what Shearer, Owen, Fowler, Sutton, Ruud van Nistelrooy etc did in their pomp. Fonz, what a prospect! He also had another good chance AND another where he hit the post. This lad – introduced at the right pace as he will be – could be the real deal for us.
The sad thing was Albrighton who has waited patiently for his chance then got injured setting up the goal and the poor lad looked gutted as he walked passed us fans having been subbed with James Milner. Marc, in that one move you showed what we have there, you’ll get plenty more chances and we’ll be there supporting you when you do (sick bag inducing maybe, but true!?)
Anyway, Milner stayed on the wing in the first half and then crucially moved back to his new and very much best position (he was saying in the week that he loves the freedom in the middle to get forward and set up chances/shoot more so he obviously agrees with this move) and was very influential on the game.
Brighton & Hove Albion could have been overawed by the big stadium, the mass of Villa fans (although their fans were very loud and all credit to them!) and by going one down but to be fair to them, they kept going and we sort of invited them to score a goal having not cleared one corner well we then did it again. 1-1 at half time but even then, I wasn’t really that worried. Some were moaning in the concourse (read bogs) at half time but then, some would moan if we were 10 up?
The second half started brightly, a great cross in – Downing I think? Pretty sure, I could be wrong – who floated the ball perfectly for Ashley Young to score a lovely header. Yeah, read it again, Ashley Young to score a lovely header, even he looked surprised in his celebration. Quality the way he got the height on it to float over the keeper, the good thing for Villa is this young winger is starting to rise in confidence. Oh, I say winger, he was played up front yesterday and didn’t let us down.
I don’t make notes of times and all the challenges, chances and incidents, I started doing that a few years ago for match reports and found that a) I was missing parts of the game and it became ‘work’ b) my reports were coming out like all the main BBC/Sky etc ones, that isn’t what a fans site / report should be in my opinion… there, I’ve covered myself and copped out really! LOL. However we did have chances to put the game out of sight, The Fonz certainly hit the post and had another chance well saved and the very impressive former Leeds United youngster Fabian Delph also had a chance saved and was a constant thread – boy oh boy, he also isn’t afraid of a tackle or two is he?! Anyway, he finally got a chance with plenty still to do skipped through the defence and buried it beyond the keeper. I’ll again mention that the three main line strikers could take note of the fact this lad ran TOWARDS the opponents goal, didn’t look to pass but to get into the box and SHOOT. Lovely goal, 3-1 and all over.
Well, ok, this is Villa. Rarely do we do anything to save the poor fans from heart attacks and we did allow a sloppy injury time goal to give us a few moments of worry, the last thing we needed was a replay on top of an already hectic schedule of games and happily, we didn’t.
3-2 was the final score, BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION players and fans made a great account of themselves but the quality as Brighton manager Gus Poyet said at the end of the game, did tell in the end. It was always going to wasn’t it? Well no, not in a cup game, anything can and as we saw on Wednesday night often does happen.
I’m loving this season, there are the usual ups and downs but I’m here for the ride, no bigger picture is needed to be looked at when you are in the 5th round of the FA Cup, the Carling Cup final and a Wednesday night win v Arsenal (yes, I know, easier said than done but we’ve done it before we’ll do it again) to go 4th.
Brad Guzan 6
having a bit of a wobble maybe, pulled off one great save that I can remember and lets face it, the lad is young and learning, he isn’t going to be perfect all the time.
Habib Beye 6
was surprisingly in the centre, did he move over in the 2nd half, not totally sure? Oh yes, sorry, he did when Davies came on as Warnock was replaced. Didn’t let us down though, good squad player, would look silly to sell him to Sunderland?
James Collins 6
solid in the tackle and headers but think right for all to get 6 as we did let two goals in!?
Luke Young 6.5
so much better playing a right-back at right back, also got forward quite well. I like Luke, he does what it says on the tin, like a Mr Ronseal really!
Stephen Warnock 6
not sure if he was injured? Not totally on his game.
Fabian Delph 8.5
lovely match, lovely goal, lovely future, young and a massive career ahead of him. Come to think of it, I think I hate him!!!!!
Marc Albrighton 8
such a lovely start, gutted he had to come off but not marking him down for that!
Steve Sidwell 5.5
not looking for the ‘one’ to moan about but Sidders had a good chance to impress yesterday but really didn’t. He did break up some of the play in the centre and wasn’t a disaster but I’d expected so much more from this signing. Then again, hard to just come on after not playing for a while and be ‘at it’ straight away. Oh hang on, Albrighton, The Fonz and Delph all did and they have less experience. Ok, I retract (which makes you wonder why I didn’t just use my delete button really!)
Stewart Downing 8
quality, will he push for a World Cup place? On that cross alone he might be worth a shot! Think a few more practice sessions for his volley’s though! :o)
Ashley Young 8
much much better, looks to really be getting back on top of his game.
Nathan Delfouneso 8.5
could be a star this lad, hopefully we’ll see a few more starts for him and more especially more sub appearances to blood him into the PL.
James Milner 8 (on for Marc Albrighton 13)
showed how much better he is in the centre having played the first half on the wing (still good on the wing, don’t get me wrong!)
Curtis Davies 7 (on for Warnock 50)
didn’t let us down on his return.
not on long enough to rate.
MON. Brave selection and so nice to hear him praising the fans and mentioning the fact it was a top effort as money is scarce at present for many.
Brighton & Hove Albion manager Gus Poyet, full of the spirit of football, looked at our bench when they got one foul laughing that no way was it a foul, then laughed again and pretended to zip his mouth up! Also had a few smiles for the Villa fans, always shows a bit of quality that. And admitted at the end it was always going to be tough for them v a quality side like Villa. Made a very good account of themselves nevertheless.
1) Totally awful, had a mare, should be taken out and shot, 2) Awful, but not usual standard, 3) Very poor, needs to improve quickly 4) Poor, below the standard expected, 5) Average, the least expected, 6) Better than average, but in patches only, 7) Good, generally decent performance, 8) Very good, above the standard, standing out at times, 9) Excellent, stood out all match, 10) Outstanding (aka Paul McGrath!). Truly commanded the match, stunning.