Date: 31st January 2009 at 8:01pm
Written by:

Oh my good lord Paul McGrath, how the hell didn’t we score?!?!?!?

There is no way anyone can criticise the application and effort from the Villa team today, despite Wigan – as was their right – trying to slow the game down, we just kept going at them from start to finish but it just wasn’t to be our day in front of goal.

I thought the first 20-30 minutes Villa played some top stuff, in fact they were scintillating in patches, especially Gareth Barry who put up a real Captains role today and in front of the England manager Fabio Capello. He was truly world class during that spell and not too shabby the rest of the game either. I turned to my mate at that point and said we HAVE to score whilst we are so ahead but despite our best endevours not many shots resulted from this bright start.

Wigan did start to ride the wave and got slightly more into the game which made us go slightly deeper at times than I like to see but even then, I never really felt that Wigan were a major thread.

The second half Wigan got more of the ball – especially on the touchline when taking throws and when taking goal kicks, talk about time wasting…! Still, it is ‘professional’ footie now and I can more than understand why they wanted to slow the game down, if I was playing against an in form Villa team, I’d want to slow them down as well. In fact I think I’d just want to go home and cry…! Villa when like this are a handful, unfortunately the only part we weren’t able to do was to get the ball over the line…. or were we? I’ll have to look at the replays before deciding, but we were all up and celebrating a goal at one point in the second half, sadly it hadn’t actually been given!

I’m sure the draw felt like a defeat to the players in the dressing room today but they must not let their heads drop, they should be proud of the effort they put in and the good news is that Arsenal also drew so we still have the five points between us and them. I hope when I see the replay tonight that we didn’t deserve what looked like a bang on penalty and also that the ball didn’t cross the line following a Luke Young shot, if not we might well be cursing our luck at the end of the season and lamenting two points undeservedly dropped!

It was also very nice to see Martin O’Neill go for the jugular and bring on a sub (John Carew for Craig Gardener in the 62nd minute) nice and early to try to change the game. 3 strikers – now that did show intent! Fair enough due to it Wigan did nearly break a few times but our defence was more than up for it again and any threat was soon snuffed out.

All in all, a real shame we couldn’t get the 3 points to put more daylight between us and Arsenal but hey, the effort was there and some very good football was played. Just need Gabby to find his shooting boots, he looks like he needs a goal for his confidence so hopefully that won’t be too far away. I also think Heskey and Carew should have been on target with a few chances but again, I’m sure it wasn’t for the lack of trying.

Entertaining afternoon, albeit cold and ultimately frustrating.

Player ratings – as will appear in the Observer tomorrow… ooooooh, ark at her!

Player Ratings

Brad Friedel 6
didn’t really have that much to do but did pull off a great save late on.

Carlos Cuellar 5
not seeing the best of him and his distribution today was sadly woeful – MON tried to get his attention a few times but wisely Cuellar didn’t look over!

Zat Knight 7
looking good, he has cut out the mistakes and is playing VERY well. Top man.

Curtis Davies 6
should have scored I think – might think differently after seeing the highlights tonight maybe (?!) – but a good defensive display.

Luke Young 7
doesn’t put much of a foot wrong and some good crosses.

Craig Gardner 5
big fan of Craig but today he wasn’t on form at all, every cross seemed to go to the nearest Wigan player taking pressure off the Latics.

Gareth Barry 9
thought he was amazing in our first 30 odd minutes and not too shabby the rest of the game either. I think I’m in love!

James Milner 8
he puts in tireless effort and never stops. Some good crosses as well. I do like our Milner!

Stiliyan Petrov 7
decent game all round

Gabriel Agbonlahor 6
hopefully not about to go on a goal-less run, needs one quickly to get him flying again, wonder if the Pompey miss is playing on his mind? Hope not, but did have some good chances today without any conversion.

Heskey 6
not great, but certainly not bad, but again had a few chances that should have at least been on target. His flick on’s certainly find players though, take note John Carew.

John Carew 6
on for Gardner 62. Got a heroes reception, I’ll say nothing as I don’t want to be grumpy! Had his chances like the other two strikers but didn’t take them. Good to see another option for the bench back ‘fit’ after his three month rest and like the new hair style!

Manager Rating
MON never stood still, he kept going half way down the touchline which game me and my mates something to laugh about, even the 4th official was laughing.

Opponent Rating
Potato Head is eating too many pies, he has put on the pounds and then some!!!!

TuBBz and Co!
Was good to meet Vital member TuBBz today. Rotten sod committed his son (and new member) SunnyDay to an afternoon sitting with me and having to listen to the constant banging of the boardings! I provided him with headache tablets though and think he survived! Top chaps!

Rob Styles
One word – DIRE