Date:Sunday February 21 2010
Crystal Palace 2-2 ASTON VILLA
Administration hit Palace proved that the match was never going to be as easy as it looked on paper, and really took the fight to the Villa twice taking the lead.
Ertl gave the home team a 24th minute opener only for James Collins to level things with 10 minutes until the half time interval. Those who thought Villa would come out to dominate the second half proceedings were sorely mistaken as Palace again took the lead on the 70 minute mark this time through a lively Ambrose with a curling long range free kick that you feel Big Bad Brad perhaps could have done better to deny.
Still, as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes captain Stan Petrov came to rescue as Villa were awarded a gratuitous corner that clearly came off the head of young Nathan Delfouneso. With three minutes remaining Stewart Downing`s right sided corner met the head of Petrov to turn the ball past Palace`s Speroni to spare the blushes of the Villa faithful and keep dreams of a cup final alive with a replay at Villa Park.
Fulham 3-0 BURNLEY
After a brilliant home win over West Ham, Burnley shocked the nation by losing away from home to Fulham 3-0. Okay, maybe not shocked, but surprised the nation then? No? Thought not!
Their away day woes continued as Danny Murphy and David Elm gave Fulham a 2-0 half time lead, leaving future England striker Bobby Zamora(??) to wrap up the points with a third 10 minutes after the interval with a peach of a free kick.
Although Burnley can rightly feel aggrieved with the nature of the first two goals being clearly offside, Fulham were still good value for their win as they offered little going forward with Tyrone Mears going closest with a 25-yard free kick glancing off the cross bar.
Never one to tinker with his team too much, and with next week`s Cup Final clash against Manchester United unlikely to change that, Martin O`Neill should field a very strong team as he looks to nail on the starting line up for the day Villa lift the cup.
Agbonlahor is set to return to the starting line up after missing the FA Cup match against Palace and Heskey is said to have recovered from the groin injury that forced him from the field.
The only uncertainties will be as to who will be play at the back with L. Young, Cuellar & Collins all fighting it out to play alongside the certainties of Warnock & Dunne and if young Fabian Delph will see his third consectutive start.
Defence: Warnock, Collins, Dunne, Cuellar
Up Front: Agbonlahor, Heskey
With Captain Steven Caldwell still out with a long term groin injury which significantly weakens what I believe to be a promising Burnley team.
Whether manager Brian Laws will go with the same MON-esque experimental line up that saw him play new signing Danny Fox (a left back for the non-Burnley followers) played in the left midfield with centre back David Edgar shifted into the left back position.
Injury to Leon Cort 10 minutes before half time saw them revert back to the known with Edgar moving central, Fox dropping to left back and Chris Eagles coming on to fill the left side.
But conceding two goals with this set up, offside or not, may convince Brian Laws to revert back to what he knows best...
Defence: Fox, Cort, Carlisle, Mears
Up Front: Nugent, Fletcher
Gabriel Agbonlahor: I was going to make this Big Brad after the stoppers less than brilliant performance last week against Palace, and with the Guzan v Friedel war still raging, people will be paying close attention with the final around the corner, but taking into account the opposition and with 12 goals already this season, 10 coming in the league, Gabby Agbonlahor has already seen his best tally for Villa but will have a great chance to increase that number against a very poor travelling Burnley team known for leaking goals.
Brian Jensen: Jensen is sure to be put through a tough examination as the Villa forward line will surely see this as a chance to let the goals return to Villa Park. An ever present for the Claret & Blue wannabes, Jensen will need to organise his defence well and be very wary of the pace of players like Agbonlahor, Young & Milner.
Referee: Stuart Atwell
Assistant Referees: Mike Mullarkey & Stuart Burt
Fourth Official: Martin Atkinson
Right, without meaning to sound overly arrogant or disrespectful to the Burnley faithful... you`re in for a hiding!
Yes I am fully aware that Burnley haven`t lost to Aston Villa in their last 7 matches, but with the current away day woes, and I hate to have to remind any visiting Burnley fans, the worst away record in not only the Premier League, but the entire English divisions coupled with Villa`s lean mean goal reducing defensive machine, it`s just a case of how many we can score.
A run of 5 losses in 6 and only a solitary point from 13 away games this season has seen the Lancashire outfit plummet into the relegation zone.
Although Villa`s form is hardly befitting a top four hopeful with only one win and three goals in seven league matches, I can`t imagine Martin O`Neill could have picked a better opposition for us to take on with one eye on the cup final.
We all know already who will be playing in the final barring any last minute injuries so now it`s only a question of gaining some much needed confidence over this week and with the matches coming against Burnley & Palace, I want, nay... expect a clean sheet in both and at the very least 2 goals a game.
With Manchester United going 3-1 down to a much improved Everton today they have a week to sit and fester whilst we have a week to slam in some goals.
Aston Villa 4-0 Burnley
Milner (pen, 56)
Date:Sunday February 21 2010
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