Well that was better. By no ways perfect but better! I dreaded the result of this game, not sure why but I feared a thumping following our rather stagnant display against Liverpool but if any team deserved to win the game at St James Park it was Villa. We certainly had the best chances and played the most attacking football. That said, the game from both teams still lacked that certain ‘something’. Neither team really had a spark of genius and both sets of strikers didn’t really get a look in, apart from miscued or poor shots. Oh hang on, John Carew did make a good 30 yard drive in the first half that was well saved, although to be fair, it was hardly the fiercest shot you’ll see!
Match stats: Click Here
Villa just shaded possession but certainly had the most attacking intent, just not sure where our goals are going to come from this season, both Gabby Agbonlahor (a lot of pressure on a young head) and John Carew (a big reputation to live up to) have got to get their shooting boots on. Ideally Villa would have brought in a top striker this summer, I did think we’d lay down our marker and bring in a big hitter, I guess it isn’t too late!? Luke Moore is unlucky not to be starting because when he came on in the second half for Carew, he looked far livelier than Gabby had throughout the game and given a run in the team, could just do some damage to the opponents net, he certainly did pre-season.
The game in some ways was odd, there was huffing and puffing but no real brilliance from either side. It will be fascinating to see how both teams do this season as both have much lauded and experienced managers, both have the nucleus of good squads – with Newcastle having an impressive array of striker options it has to be said – but both need that little something extra.
Our defence was solid as a rock, to keep Viduka and Martins so quiet was impressive and if we can keep Laursen fit this season, we’ll not concede many, especially when we have Scott Carson in goal as well, he looked very able and made a couple of top class saves. Can’t help it though, when we have loan players, I sit there thinking ‘I wish he was ours’. I can’t see how we can build for the future by loaning players, but hey ho, that is another point altogether!
I’d have settled for the draw before the game but after the game couldn’t help but feel we should have taken all three points. Nigel Reo-Coker very nearly scored a perfect goal after making a winding run and was very unlucky to see it saved by the fingertips of Steve Harper and he would have 100% scored if Gabby – who had done the hard work – had only looked up and passed to him unmarked near the 5 yard box. Gabby has to learn to think far quicker and to go for the best option. Yes, strikers have to be selfish but he had pulled the keeper and defenders towards him and left a gaping hole for NRC to slot the ball home!
I was surprised towards the end not to see Marlon Harewood as well, I was amongst the masses of ‘non-delighted’ fans when he was signed by for the last 20 minutes he would have given the Newcastle defence something else to think about and Gabby had run out of ideas. Oh well, I’m not the gaffer, what do I know? Best not answer that!
Scott Carson 7
Fine saves, looks like he’ll form a good understanding with the rest of the defence. You can’t have him back Rafa.
Wilfred Bouma 6
Made one very important tackle that if he’d got wrong could easily have resulted in a penalty.
Olof Mellberg 7
No goals conceded, says it all.
Martin Laursen 9
Outstanding, truly outstanding and oh so nearly scored early on, actually if he’d headed it anywhere else it would have been in!
Craig Gardner 6
Good performance for a non-right back. Got to watch the silly tackles though, he’ll rack up a good few yellow cards and we don’t have enough players to compensate for suspensions.
Gareth Barry 6
In and out of the game today but still putting in the effort.
Nigel Reo-Coker 8
Thought he was outstanding. End to end, made the tackles when needed, distribution was good and very nearly scored + got in the right position for a sitter if Gabby had passed to him.
Stiliyan Petrov 6
Not at his best BUT much much better than many of his Villa performances. Didn’t give the ball away as much and got more stuck in. Need him to provide the inspiration though and he isn’t there yet. Oh for the return of Magic Merse, now there was an inspiration!
Ashley Young 7
Gets stuck in, very involved, uses his speed, if anyone can provide the service he can.
John Carew 5
Average at best at the moment and doesn’t look fully fit, hence he went off for a few minutes in the first half complaining of breathing problems. Why is he playing if he isn’t fit?
Gabby Agbonlahor 5.5
Not really a threat often enough, a great deal of pressure on a young head but if only he’d looked up and passed, we’d have got our goal. At the moment a top prospect but by no means the finished article. To get into Europe one would think we need the mix of prospects and finished articles?
Luke Moore (on for Carew on 66) 6.5
Looked lively and ideally would be starting games after being the one to score most of the pre-season goals.