There is very little I can say that Martin O’Neill hasn’t already said in his very honest assessment of the game. We were pants and we still won. Well, he didn’t exactly say that, but you get my drift! >>> Bye Bye Blackburn >>>. That is a very very nifty habit to pick up, the sort that the likes of Manchester United have learnt many a long year ago, grind out the result if you can’t dazzle your way to one.
Not sure how many games this season we have genuinely dazzled in and yet we are still 4th with PLENTY of players still finding their feet or waiting to hit peak form. That can’t be bad can it?
I thought Villa started off well against Blackburn and for maybe five minutes looked like we were going to rip into them. We had an early chance following a cross from Gabby that found Barry, he put the ball back into the six yard box but no one was following in. This is where the team has to learn some poaching techniques, ie get in the messy areas and get the easy ones in!
Then Blackburn started passing the ball about nicely and everything shifted to the point when they went 1 up you couldn’t argue that they deserved it. Nice goal as well, they broke through our defence like a knife through butter. At that point it seemed highly unlikley we’d get anything out of the game. The Holte End at one point started singing ‘what the f*** is going on’ and all the quality passing and movement was coming from Blackburn. It must have been bad as some of my mates (I say mates, they are more care in the community really) started texting me to give them a wave, or telling me ‘this is poo’ and ‘I came down from Liverpool for this tonight!’.
However seconds before half time, following a great cross by Nicky Shorey, Luke Young…. yes, I did say LUKE Young, got the ball over the line and hey presto, quite undeserved but we went in 1-1. Surely we’d come out and play better in the second half?
Well, errm, not that much no. MON made a change – the sort that some were thinking should have been done during the first half when the one up front tactics were so blatantly not working – and brought on John Carew for the injured (he had a tight hamstring, hopefully something that will clear quickly) Stiliyan Petrov. That helped a bit and gave Gabby a bit more freedom to make a run or two, however Blackburn were still the ones with the crisp clean passing and we were mostly on the back foot or hoofing the ball forward. Very rushed, very naive and most definately not pretty. However, it was Villa, thanks to a good strong run and pass by James Milner who could easily have gone to ground with the defender right up with him that Gareth Barry was able to slot home and from there on in, it started to look – despite more forward attacking play from Blackburn – that this was going to be our night and so it proved when Gabriel Agbonlahor scored the killer goal – and what a goal getting the ball passed from our own half and running through with a lovely break – to take all three points and put the game out of the reach of Rovers.
Rovers did get a consolation goal right at the end, a quality free kick which Friedel had no chance of saving, from a very dubious decision by the new, young and not very good referee. From the re-start the ref did his best bit of work and blew for full time. The Villa fans left happy by the result and most probably slightly bemused as to how we pulled it off… How the Rovers fans must have been feeling I have no idea, then again, I also have no care, we got what we needed, 3 points. Job done – just don’t play like that again please!
I said at the start of the month if we could get 7 of the available 9 points we’d be sitting pretty and the table makes for very nice reading with Villa 4th on equal points with Arsenal. Now for a trip to Newcastle United on Monday night and then our second Uefa Cup game the following Thursday. Yup, the matches are coming thick and fast and MON hinted that a few more players might well be brought into action to stave off player fatigue. Nice to think we now have some options, sooner January comes and we bid for one or two (if Harewood leaves – which to be fair to him, he should having not been able to feature for us regularly) strikers the better, we just need to stay in contention in the meantime and after the luck of the footballing Gods being with us last night, we might just do that!
Brad Friedel 7
Pulled off a couple of fantastic reflex saves, without the luxury of seeing the replay, it didn’t look like he could do much with the free kick.
Martin Laursen 6
Tut tut, just goes to show, even the most brilliant players do have off nights at times, that said he still won the lions share of headers!
Carlos Cuellar 7
Seems a good, strong, no nonsense defender. Starting to get some understanding with Laursen as well. Might be a job for Curtis Davies to force his way back in.
Luke Young 7
Defended well enough and weighed in with a goal, only his 6th of his career I believe. Nice timing!
Nicky Shorey 6.5
Got turned a few times but his distribution going forward is doing well.
Gareth Barry 6.5
He isn’t on peak form but some of his deft touches and passes are still full of quality.
Ashley Young 6.5
Made some dazzling runs but hadn’t got his shooting boots when it came to the two free kicks in dangerous positions. He doesn’t half get lumps kicked out of him by the opposition players, I wish the refs would pay a bit more attention before this lad gets seriously injured.
James Milner 7.5
Some of his touches are real quality and he is so very tenatious. Also when he loses the ball, he works twice as hard to get it back. Had a hand one of the goals. Going to fit in at Villa VERY well as he finds his feet.
Nigel Hokey-Cokey 6
Correct me if I am wrong, he seemed to have a quiet night? Still made a few useful tackles and is obviously being told to play the holding role doing the scruffy stuff to help the team.
Stiliyan Petrov 6
We did lose the possession in the first half but then, the tactics appeared to be lumping the ball forward which to be fair bypasses the midfielders!
Gabriel Agbonlahor 7
Starting to really look the part, if he can play like that (and like Wigan) all the time, he might just prove to be the real deal and maybe, just maybe, we have a 20 a season striker.
John Carew (on for Petrov 49)
Nice to see he wasn’t too tired and blessed us with his presence!!!! Won’t be on the bench for the next game, you can almost guarantee it. I say almost because lets face it, none of us can second guess MON!
Sidwell (on for NRC) 83
Not on long enough to rate.
MON – honest in his assessment, wish he’d made the changes earlier. Looked bemused and angry the way we were playing.
Paul Ince – the self styled (as it was him who nicknamed himself – never a good sign?!) Guvnor. What a cocky twerp? The way he swaggered around, especially when walking back to the dug out after half time, made you wonder if he was a fashion model instead of a football manager. Something very dislikeable about the chap purely because of this arrogance. Some people seem to have a chip on one shoulder, he’s got one on both, and some fish and mushy peas no doubt!
Happy to report the pie was 100% better than the one I bought (and had to throw away) up at Wigan.