Monday, September 03, 2012

Master blaster saves the day

Newcastle Utd 1 - 1 Aston Villa

So this season's HBA Goal of the Month competition is up and running, then. Those who assumed the Frenchman's right leg was only for standing on were given food for thought as he fired a second-half rocket into the top corner of the Villa net to give us a share of the spoils.

As anticipated, we were back to full strength after the Atromitos match, except for the continued absence of Mr T (evidently his "injury" wasn't just a ploy to keep him out of the limelight during the pre-deadline day scrum for signings), with Vurnon Anita deputising. Former loanee Stephen Ireland was named in the Villa line-up, but there was no place for Shay Given, dropped to the bench where he was accompanied by Charles N'Somnia.

Ireland received a rough welcome, but most of the home crowd's venom was saved for former Mackem Darren Bent. In truth, he looked sharp and dangerous, troubling Tim Krul early in the first half before Villa took the lead. Ciaran Clark stayed up from a corner and snuck in between Saylor and Sideshow Bob to head Barry Bannan's cross past Krul from close range.

Villa's pace on the ball and their tenacity and work ethic off it seemed to unsettle us and we never really got into our stride in the first period. Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba gradually started causing headaches for Clark and partner Ron Vlaar, but they couldn't find a way past Given's replacement Brad Guzan, the American deflecting one Cisse shot behind with his shins before watching our number nine head harmlessly wide.

By that point we'd been forced into a change, Danny Simpson withdrawn injured with the versatile Anita switching positions to cover and 18-year-old Gael Bigirimana coming on for his Premier League debut. With Raylor already on the treatment table (a fact acknowledged by the squad's training tops bearing the legend "Ryan Taylor over the wall" on the back), the Silver Fox is likely to rueing the lack of deadline-day additions even more - especially given that the lengthy pursuit of natural right-back Mathieu Debuchy came to nought.

When the second half kicked off HBA seemed determined to singlehandedly drag us level. He failed with a header, a relatively easy stop for Guzan, but the visiting 'keeper was powerless when our French wizard drifted inside Brett Holman and hammered a rising drive that would still be travelling now were it not for the Gallowgate net. A stunning strike from our best player of the season so far - and little wonder Bent looked somewhat sorry for himself when smashed in the face by HBA soon after, much to the delight of the home crowd.

From that point forth we dominated in terms of possession and territory, pushing for a victory, but that left us somewhat exposed at the back. Bent and substitute Gabby Agbonlahor tried to exploit the gaps that opened up, leaving Sideshow Bob in particular looking less assured than normal. Bent was denied by a stupendous sliding block from Bigirimana, while Ireland also came close to cementing his position as one of the pantomime villains of the piece, volleying wide when he probably should have scored.

In the end, though, it was Villa who were perhaps most relieved with the draw (their first point of the campaign), as Dreamboat's curling free-kick deep into stoppage time had to be clawed away at full stretch by Guzan. Had that gone in, it would have been our 1000th Premier League goal - but it wasn't to be.

In many ways this was a poor result against a side we've recently had the easy beating of, especially at home, but I think we have to concede they were far better on the day than they'd been in their opening two fixtures and that we certainly weren't at our best. Cisse is increasingly in need of that first goal of the season and we need both Mr T back fit and our full-backs to stop getting crocked - but for the time being at least HBA can relied upon to pull rabbits out of hats

Other reports: BBC, Guardian (who've excelled themselves by commenting on Guzan's selection but then claiming Given was in goal by the time "Ben Afra" scored - the only surprise is that the report was filed by Kevin McCarra rather than TBW...)

Labels: ,



Post a Comment

<< Home