Villa Romp Home v Boro
Attendance: 23 900
Report by Vital Villa's very own away correspondent Glensider!
Always one of the favourite away trips of the season for yours truly, made even better this time around because it was our first 3.00 p.m. Saturday afternoon away day kick off. How football has changed since the early seventies when we made our first trip to Teeside and Ayresome Park. The destination nowadays of course is to the considerably more modern and impressive looking Riverside Stadium The drive up to Middlesbrough gave us the opportunity to conduct a post-mortem into England's disastrous European Championship campaign, a discussion that lasted all of five minutes, before we turned our attention to more important matters, namely MON's decision to turn his back on the F.A., followed by almost three hours of solid AVFC talk, including how we are doing, where we are going, who are we going to sign come the new year, and whether or not a top six placing is within our reach. Arriving in Middlesbrough city centre at close to 1.00 p.m., we parked up, and headed off to The Hairy Lemon to lubricate our vocal chords with a pint or three, and then it was on and into the stadium.
As we somewhat expected Scott Carson came in for plenty of verbal abuse from the locals following his England performance the other evening, as to a lesser extent did Gareth Barry. Scott started nervously, slicing a Zat Knight back pass horrendously, before allowing a Stewart Downing shot to squirm under his body and roll just wide of the net. Fortunately our on-loan keeper grew in confidence, helped considerably by the fact that Boro looked arguably the poorest opposition we've faced this season, and posed no threat up front whatsoever. The first half was pretty dire, a poor advertisement for premiership football, but just when it looked as if both teams would return to the dressing room for their half-time tongue lashings from two frustrated and angry managers, Gareth delivered a superb ball in from the left, Big John swivelled past England under 21 defender Wheater, and buried the ball past Mark Schwarzer. 1-0 to the good guys, and suddenly the chilly, wet, overcast afternoon on Teeside didn't seem so bad after all.
Attacking 'our end' in the second forty-five the lads were soon well into their stride, and when Lee Cattermole made a complete and utter mess of an attempted routine clearance, the ball fell rather invitingly for that ace predator Olof Mellberg to tuck the ball past Schwarzer for goal number two. Cue mad celebrations for the 2,000 or so travelling Villans, and for Olof Mellberg, whose beaming face and joyful celebration showed just how much the goal meant to him personally. His first goal since opening day last season in the 1-1 draw at The Emirates. We didn't have to wait too long before it was game, set, and match, with Gabby getting onto the end of a long clearance from Scott Carson, holding off Woodgate, and firing a right footed effort past Schwarzer to make it 3-0. Game over.
There was never any likelihood of another White Hart Lane collapse, Boro just didn't have it in them. Gabby nearly made it four when he hit the post, but apart from that we seemed more than content to simply play out time. It looks like a long, hard winter ahead for Gareth Southgate, and with attendances dropping alarmingly, its obvious that the Boro faithful are far from happy with their situation. Give them credit though, they didn't turn against Southgate or their team, and chanted throughout singing the praises of their chairman Steve Gibson, but they showed their displeasure by streaming out in droves long before the end. The travelling Villans meanwhile did their very best to pass on advice to Brian Barwick and his cohorts at the Football Association, by gleefully, if somewhat cruelly, chanting 'Southgate For England'.
So there we are. Another three points on the march for a top six placing, and a result that sets us up nicely for Wednesday's trip to Ewood Park, for what will no doubt be a much tougher work-out than we faced at The Riverside. Man of the Match today I'd say was shared between Gabby, Freddie Bouma, and Olof. It was far from a great Villa performance, Boro were sadly lacking, but winning away from home by a 3-0 scoreline doesn't happen every week, so all credit to Martin and the lads for that.
Blackburn Rovers here we come.