Another Aston Villa game under Alex McLeish. Another Draw. That`s probably the best way that I can sum up this game, in what`s becoming a pretty recurrent theme of our performances this season. We weren`t terrible, and had Newcastle troubled on a good few occasions, Gabby scored again, our defence is excellent, and there were parts where we weren`t so good. I don`t think there`s anything particularly catastrophic in there, as there hasn`t been in any of our performances so far this season, in my opinion. But there is no doubt that there are one or two things that need to be worked on.
So, to deal with the most positive aspect of the game, and indeed this season so far, Shay Given and his defensive colleagues. There were one or two people on Vital who were slightly unsure about Villa`s signing of Given, and at the time I couldn`t really blame anyone for it, seeing as he hadn`t played a competitive game for a year and being aware of his injury record, but I`m sure the good members of Vital are now only all too willing to eat humble pie after seeing how he benefits the claret and blue defensive unit.
With this unit in place, we won`t need to score many goals to win games, and I`m sure we will start scoring more goals once N`Zogbia and Bent hit their best form. Dunne and Collins also deserve honourable mentions for the way they dealt with Newcastle`s barrage of balls into the box, as does the much-maligned Stephen Warnock. He was an absolute colossus today, especially in the second half, and considering that he was dealing with an injury. He deserves a lot of praise for the character that he showed in the second 45 minutes this afternoon.
Moving onto the negatives, I wasn`t too sure about Alan Hutton`s performance today, he seems like he will be able to offer the team a lot going forward but looks shaky defensively, and naïve at best, to be kind. Charles N`Zogbia`s performance, in all fairness, was a little disconcerting, but I think most Premier League fans will be fully aware of what he is capable of and subsequently I don`t think we should be worried, he`s got bags of ability and although he is looking short of confidence at the moment I`m sure that over the course of the next few weeks he will play himself into form.
Newcastle made a great start to the game, looking assured and keeping possession of the ball well, but Villa took the lead in the 13th minute, after Brummie boy Gabby Agbonlahor followed up the rebound after his first effort bounced off Coloccini. The lad looks like he`s on fire right now and pretty much back to his best. Perhaps, after the interview that appeared in the national press on Friday, we now know the real reasons why the class of 10-11 underperformed so badly.
The claret and blues looked to capitalise on taking the lead immediately, and Barry Bannan went close with a fantastic, dipping 25 yard effort, while Darren Bent was presented with a great chance after the ball was squared to him by Stan Petrov, which, uncharacteristically for him, he didn`t take advantage of.
The rest of the game could be described as somewhat inauspicious from a Villa perspective, and Newcastle ended the half the strongest with efforts that went just wide, and another that tested Given.
At the start of the second half, Gabby unleashed another effort on the Newcastle goal which flashed just past the post, before the game returned to it`s pattern that was set in the first half, with Newcastle having a lot of the ball.
Cabaye looks like an excellent player, and his long-range curler smashed off the Villa crossbar in part of the momentum that built towards Newcastle`s equaliser. The ball was played to Tiote, whose cross found the head of Leon Best, and his initial header was well saved by Shay Given before the rebound fell to him to make sure at the second time of asking.
There was still time for Villa to have one really good chance before the end of the game, as a Stephen Ireland through ball deflected through to Darren Bent who attempted to lob Toon ‘keeper Tim Krul but his effort was cleared by Steven Taylor.
As the end of the game approached, there was still time for a few Villa fans to have ‘hearts in mouths` moments. That man Cabaye was again at the source of all the trouble for the Villa defence, bringing out a tremendous save from Shay Given, while an effort from a tight angle was ballooned over the bar.
The performance could have been better, but in a game involving two teams that have been unbeaten so far in the Premier League, a draw isn`t a bad result, and there isn`t really much more than that that could be said. If we can`t win games, then I would much rather us get draws than the defeats of last season. This start to the season has reminded me a lot of Martin O`Neill`s first few months in charge, but I would expect a higher finish, considering the difference in attacking quality.
So, that`s me finished until Tuesday night, and I would just like to take this opportunity to answer a few common sarcastic points. If anyone takes issue with my player ratings, then yes, I was at the same game as you, unless the different seats at Villa Park are spread across the country`s football grounds, and if you believe that the comments section is better than my report, there are plenty of other Vital articles and forum threads you could read instead.
Shay Given 8
Made some fantastic saves.
Alan Hutton 6
He could add something going forward, I’m unsure defensively.
Stephen Warnock 8
Was brilliant in the second half, we need more performances like this.
Richard Dunne 8
His re-emergence is one of the best things about the McLeish era so far.
James Collins 9
Got his head to everything.
Stan Petrov 7
Played well, unlucky to go off with injury.
Fabian Delph 6
Looked a bit unsure today.
Charles N’Zogbia 5
Just wasn’t at the races today.
Barry Bannan 7
Did his chances of regular starts no harm at all.
Gabby Agbonlahor 8
It’s great to see him back amongst the goals again.
Darren Bent 6
Was unlucky with his one main chance, doesn’t quite look fit again yet.
Marc Albrighton 6
Beat a few players but didn’t do much else.
Stephen Ireland 7
Looked lively in his little cameo, he could still come good.
Not enough time.