Villa Beat Pink & Blues
Attendance: 40 842
I got a text after the 1-0 win over West Ham which read: 'I'll take the three points happily but we have GOT to become a 90 minute team'.
And so it continues, a good half - a bad half. BUT the major difference is Villa are now picking up wins where before they'd scrape a draw or take no points with a loss.
Villa started much the brighter and for the duration of the first half we used our pace to really test West Ham. Within the first few minutes we could have gone ahead when a cross (was it Gabby or Young, I forget) to Luke Moore should have resulted in a goal and not the miss-kick that entailed. Moore looks slightly short of confidence and that would have done him the world of good. With luck and a prevailing wind, things will come right for the lad, he is still young and he is still learning.
I don't think anyone could go any further with a match report without mentioning the incompetent referee, Steve Tanner. As Jon.H said in the match stats article comments: 'Just been flicking through my dictionary and under the definition of incompetence it said Steve Tanner.' This ref was truly awful, he did his best to ruin a decent game as he was fussy, blew the whistle for petty fouls and has obviously never heard of the 'keep the game flowing' style of reffing. He also missed three cast iron penalty claims, two for Villa and one for West Ham.
The first claim came for us, when Ashley Young was brought down by Lucas Neill who struggled to keep up with the pacey winger - lets face it, what defender wouldn't have struggled to keep up with him on yesterdays form? The decision from the ref though was a goalkick with Young lying on the floor looking towards the man in blacks direction in disbelief! Next up was a handball, again from Neill that Shearer on MOTD (only two games yesterday and still Villa were last!) said was a certain penalty. Then in the second half our very own Zat Knight wrestled Carlton Cole to the floor, in anyone else's book a sure penalty!
West Ham also had a goal disallowed for hand ball and having seen the replay, the player should have been sent off for blatantly cheating. He just dived with his hand fully out and punched the ball into the net. Not exactly the hand of God eh Camara? Still, karma got the better of him as he left the field on 36 minutes to be replaced by the useless Carlton Cole, who was guilty of missing two great chances.
Villa went ahead through a deflected Craig Gardner free kick on the edge of the box, that was two goals in a week for the young midfielder - who looked more than worthy of his place in the team at the expense of Stiliyan Petrov, and that goal proved enough to make it four wins in a row at Villa Park. The return of the fortress perhaps?
The second half was a far more scrappy affair and West Ham certainly had the best of it. What I couldn't understand was why Villa decided to play so deep? I also couldn't understand why Craig Gardner was brought off and replaced by Stiliyan Petrov but more to the point, why some Villa fans booed the Bulgarian. I even had someone behind me (bearing in mind I sit right by the bench so if I could hear it so could the manager and player) shouting 'MARTIN - NO NO NO'. Not sure how that is going to help a player who is obviously very short on confidence? What is it with fans these days. Surely the golden rule is you NEVER boo your own players, you can slate them before the game, at half time and after the match if you want, but when they are on the pitch, in the claret and blue shirt, they are 'ours' and you support them? Maybe I'm just old fashioned. Or maybe I'm just old! :o(
Anyway, despite maybe riding our luck a bit in the second half, we had the safety net of Carlton Cole leading their line and an unfit Dean Ashton. They could have scored, by the replays Cole should have scored, but all that matters is they didn't score.
Villa got more points and climbed into fifth, if only we'd not blown it against Spurs, we'd have been riding even higher! One thing is sure, we've got a gem in Cole, a real captain in Gareth Barry and some exciting young talent at Villa BUT they HAVE to toughen up and learn to really close down games. That will take time, patience and hopefully some swift action in the next transfer window.
Next up, Manchester United. No problem at all!
West Ham Images on official site
Match stats - Click Here
Managers reactions - Click Here
Scott Carson 7
Olof Mellberg 6
Martin Laursen 9
Zat Knight 6
Wilfred Bouma 6
Ashley Young 8
Gareth Barry 8
Craig Gardner 7
Nigel Hokey-Cokey 5
Luke Moore 6
Gabby Agbonlahor 6
Maloney (66, on for Moore)
Petrov (78, on for Gardner)