Date: 13th January 2008 at 12:00pm
Written by:

(Attendance, the official site/bbc etc say 33 000 something but the announcement at the game said over 38 000)

I have to admit that I’m not always certain how Villa are doing it but doing it they are! We haven’t always played the prettiest of football this year but we have ground out results even when the chips have been down. I’d rather win ugly than lose prettily any day of the week and what we have now is a tight unit who just won’t say die.

Yesterday against Reading though was a different matter. Reading came out of the blocks fairly quickly but Villa soon woke up, grappled possession and from there-on-in there was only ever going to be one winner and so it proved with a bit of a Saturday afternoon stroll at Villa Park. Big John Carew popped up with the first goal which some say was ever so slightly off side, having now seen the replays it looked ok to me!!! Then came Martin Laursen with a stunning header to put the score to 2-0 and effectively game over for Reading if it hadn’t been already. One slight complaint. TOO BLOODY LATE Laursen, I’d got money on you for the FIRST goal!!! I’ll forgive him though, he was immense and the chants from the fans was quite rightly ‘sign him up’. The bloke is quality, has done all he can to prove his fitness and has certainly shown his usefulness to the team. I’d say out of the whole squad he would be the one player I’d hate to see us lose.

Big John, who looked much fitter than his last showing got a second to seal the afternoon and although we allowed Reading a consolation goal (which was actually a nicely worked goal by them) Villa were the deserved winners and soared to 6th in the league on equal points with Liverpool (who we play a week Monday) and Everton. JC also had a perfectly good goal (crossed by Gabby and back healed into the goal) disallowed as off side. Replays show Gabby was on side when he received the ball. Still, it has to be said that Uriah Rennie had a woeful game and did all he could to ruin the game, so it is no surprise one of his assistant refs joined in with the bad decisions.

This was the sort of game that we HAD to win, especially at home, and a good professional display ensured that we did just that. I must admit, on that form – and hopefully with a few much needed re-enforcements – I can’t see why we can’t win all our home games from now up to the end of the season (Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United, Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Bolton Wanderers, Blues and Wigan) and get Villa Park back to the fortress it has always been.

It was a shame we couldn’t keep a clean sheet but it has to be said that Scott Carson did pull off one very impressive save and as part of the defensive unit managed to snuff out the threat of Kitson and Doyle. Oh, and on the Doyle to Villa link….no thanks, we are equal on points with fourth place, we need to spend on better quality and really give it a go, Europe here we come?!? Well, not quite yet, still a lot of hard work to do and we can’t keep relying on luck with the lack of injuries, but we are moving in the right direction and are certainly in with a shout.

Oh, and before anyone puts 2+2 and comes up with 5, Olof Mellberg had to withdraw late on with sickness.

Next up is a tougher trip to Anfield to take on Liverpool. We – with belief – CAN get something there. Just up to the players to remember what we have achieved against another top four club, namely Chelsea, this season.

Player Ratings

Scott Carson 7
Stunning save, still not too convincing when it comes to crosses and corners though, bit like Sorensen at the moment (?) great shot stopper but not commanding?

Wilfred Bouma 6
Did ok, defended well, nearly got caught out but tracked back, the going forward bit isn’t his strength

Curtis Davies 7
Helped snuff out any threat, looks a good addition to the team.

Martin Laursen 8
Supreme, sign him up!

Craig Gardner 7
Played well, no silly lunges and was assured.

Ashley Young 7
A difficult player to be against but he needs to learn to sometimes just do the simple lay off instead of trying all the stepovers and tricks. Certainly going to be a star for Villa.

Gareth Barry 6.5
Going through a slightly quieter time but still crucial to the team.

Nigel Hokey-Cokey 7.5
Does the ugly bits and breaks down the oppositions moves. Good game.

Stiliyan Petrov 8
Thought he had a really good game and is getting closer with his long range shots (v Man Utd it was just over, this time it was well saved, next week v Liverpool it will be in the back of the net!)

John Carew 8
Got the chances, took the chances, what more could you ask for?

Gabriel Agbonlahor 7
Ran his socks off, crossed for a perfectly decent – but disallowed goal. Sometimes, like Young, needs to learn to release the ball quicker.

Maloney (on in 90th minute)
Harewood (on in 90th minute)
Stunning debut….!

Manager Rating
Martin O’Neill. I worry for O’Neill, the bloke looks like he is in agony throughout the game, he kicks every ball and paces up and down. Certainly got this lot playing as a unit and I would guess that Uriah Rennie won’t be on his Christmas card list next December.

Opponent Rating
Steve Coppell. Should be very worried about where Reading are going this year, as if they keep playing like that, it could well be down.