Monday, April 11, 2011

Second City slump

Aston Villa 1 - 0 Newcastle

Gone are the days that Villa Park was a happy hunting ground. James Collins' first-half header condemned us to our fourth consecutive defeat there, and while this latest one was obviously nowhere near as painful as the last, it was nevertheless both dispirited and dispiriting.

Deprived of Cheik Tiote and skipper Kevin Nolan through ill discipline and Big Lad through injury, Alan Pardew was forced to send out a patched-up side. Steven Taylor came into the side, with Fabricio Coloccini pushed forwards into a defensive midfield role alongside Danny Guthrie, while Nile Ranger was preferred to Shefki Kuqi as Peter Lovenkrands' partner.

To say Ranger failed to grab the opportunity afforded to him by his first league start would be an understatement, a powderpuff early shot when played in skilfully by Spidermag arguably his only contribution of note. As Big Lad's replacement, he certainly did a sterling job of replicating that incredible knack of tying his own legs in knots...

ASBO also had an afternoon to forget, planting a headed opportunity over the bar from Jose Enrique's cross, committing the foul that allowed Ashley Young to whip a cross onto Collins' head for the decisive goal and having to endure the mocking taunts of home fans reacting to his recent bout of boastfulness and the sleight against former Villain Gareth Barry. Sympathy for our captain for the day was in short supply generally, with referee Stuart Attwell picking up where he left off in the game at Wolves and happily sanctioning a succession of naughty challenges by the hosts on ASBO, particularly in the second half. We did also profit from incompetent officiating, though, with ex-Mackem Darren Bent denied a second goal shortly before the break by a decidedly dubious offside flag.

In Bent, Young and Stewart Downing, Villa possess a dangerous clutch of England forwards, but we should have taken encouragement from their lowly league position and the palpable nervousness in the stands. As it was, passes went astray, creatively we looked bereft and our opponents made most of the second-half running. Steve Harper did well to repel efforts from Young and Gabby Agbonlahor, while Taylor can consider himself a little fortunate to have got away with an unnecessarily aggressive penalty-box shoulder charge.

For a side who have scored more goals than anyone outside the top four, it was hugely disappointing that we didn't seriously threaten the Villa goal until the last ten minutes. First Guthrie's clever curling ball was headed powerfully goalwards by Lovenkrands but too close to Brad Friedel, whose foot then kept out a low shot from the same player. Substitute Ryan Taylor had our final effort deep into stoppage time, but his free kick troubled the top rather than the back of the net.

So, let's hope this 1-0 defeat at Villa Park doesn't turn out to be as cataclysmic as the last one. It certainly shouldn't, with results elsewhere going for us, but with table-topping Man Utd our next opponents then we can't relax just yet.

Villa fans' views: Aston Villa News, Aston Villa Central, The Villa Blog

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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Blogger Jujuman said...

Hi, Villa fan in peace...just wanted to say it's great to read a good football blog that's well written and not full of bias.

All the best for the rest of the season.



12:55 am  
Blogger Ben said...

Cheers Steve! It pains me to wish you the same, given the delight some of your number took in relegating us two years ago, but go on then... Would love to see Wigan, Birmingham and Sunderland (of course) relegated ahead of you anyway...

1:43 pm  

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