Date: 19th July 2008 at 9:32pm
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Villa started their European odyssey (ahem, cough cough) with a tired and rather shambolic 2-2 draw away to Odense BK.

It was obvious, as an early season game, that the team were short on match fitness and despite getting off to a bright start and a well taken goal from John Carew taking advantage of a saved shot by Ashley Young, Odense were soon back in it with an unfortunate own goal by new boy Steve Sidwell.

From thereon in, Odense were by far and away the better team and it has to be noted with their season set to start soon, they were more match ready. Villa went 2-1 up following yet another fearless header by captain Martin Laursen but couldn’t hold on and again conceded in the dying minutes.

The performance as a whole was sloppy but then, it is important to remember that we now have two away goals and surely Odense will struggle to come to Villa Park and replicate the performance they put in tonight? We should also, hopefully, be fitter and who knows, we might FINALLY have bought a few more players.

The shape and sharpness was certainly not there and although it gets repetitive, you have to ask why we’ve not got a right-back, we’ve been without one for over a year and although Craig Gardner did well – and actually cleared by a header a ball off the line – he was caught out of position and for pace a few times, not helped I’m sure by the fact he is only just back from a groin strain.

Martin O’Neill has allowed players to leave and the squad is decimated and he now HAS to act. It was unsettling to hear former Villa hero and commentator for Setanta question the pot of gold that Randy Lerner has, saying he has seen little evidence, when it is in fact the manager all eyes should be on. We were left woefully exposed today, if Gardner hadn’t been fit to start who would have played at right back? If Stuart Taylor had picked up an injury we’d have had a kid in goal. Intertoto might not be the most respected of tournaments BUT it is a way into Europe and that is crucial to our quest to get back the glory days of the past.

It was strange to see Nigel Hokey-Cokey out on the right, what did we buy Wayne Routledge for, I thought he was a winger, NRC is not. Also, as Deano said in commentary, Gabby and Carew don’t seem to work together, they rarely put each other in and to be fair tonight, the supply to them was negligible. Also towards the end you would think that Marlon Harewood would have been given a run out, he is an impact player and with Carew and Gabby both not fully fit – and Carew was limping towards the end – surely a fresh pair of legs would have been a sensible plan?

So, not a time to panic but certainly not the sort of display we’d all like to have seen. Controversial thing to say or not, this will do little to convince players that Villa are serious contenders for Europe and certainly won’t have Gareth Barry regretting his desire to leave for the Champions League. The manager MUST ACT now to bring in players. Ever the optimist, he will…. won’t he?

All in all Odense were fairly unlucky not to have got the victory but at least Villa ground out a result that gives us the advantage with all to play for next weekend.

VILLA: Taylor, Gardner, Bouma, Laursen, Knight, Reo-Coker, Sidwell (off on 82), Young, Petrov, Agbonlahor, Carew. Subs: Parish, Harewood, Salifou, Routledge (Sidwell 82), Osbourne, Maloney, Baker.