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Villa Stroll v Reading

Aston Villa
3 - 1

Villa Park


Attendance: 38 000


(Attendance, the official site/bbc etc say 33 000 something but the announcement at the game said over 38 000)

I have to admit that I'm not always certain how Villa are doing it but doing it they are! We haven't always played the prettiest of football this year but we have ground out results even when the chips have been down. I'd rather win ugly than lose prettily any day of the week and what we have now is a tight unit who just won't say die.

Yesterday against Reading though was a different matter. Reading came out of the blocks fairly quickly but Villa soon woke up, grappled possession and from there-on-in there was only ever going to be one winner and so it proved with a bit of a Saturday afternoon stroll at Villa Park. Big John Carew popped up with the first goal which some say was ever so slightly off side, having now seen the replays it looked ok to me!!! Then came Martin Laursen with a stunning header to put the score to 2-0 and effectively game over for Reading if it hadn't been already. One slight complaint. TOO BLOODY LATE Laursen, I'd got money on you for the FIRST goal!!! I'll forgive him though, he was immense and the chants from the fans was quite rightly 'sign him up'. The bloke is quality, has done all he can to prove his fitness and has certainly shown his usefulness to the team. I'd say out of the whole squad he would be the one player I'd hate to see us lose.

Big John, who looked much fitter than his last showing got a second to seal the afternoon and although we allowed Reading a consolation goal (which was actually a nicely worked goal by them) Villa were the deserved winners and soared to 6th in the league on equal points with Liverpool (who we play a week Monday) and Everton. JC also had a perfectly good goal (crossed by Gabby and back healed into the goal) disallowed as off side. Replays show Gabby was on side when he received the ball. Still, it has to be said that Uriah Rennie had a woeful game and did all he could to ruin the game, so it is no surprise one of his assistant refs joined in with the bad decisions.

This was the sort of game that we HAD to win, especially at home, and a good professional display ensured that we did just that. I must admit, on that form - and hopefully with a few much needed re-enforcements - I can't see why we can't win all our home games from now up to the end of the season (Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United, Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Bolton Wanderers, Blues and Wigan) and get Villa Park back to the fortress it has always been.

It was a shame we couldn't keep a clean sheet but it has to be said that Scott Carson did pull off one very impressive save and as part of the defensive unit managed to snuff out the threat of Kitson and Doyle. Oh, and on the Doyle to Villa thanks, we are equal on points with fourth place, we need to spend on better quality and really give it a go, Europe here we come?!? Well, not quite yet, still a lot of hard work to do and we can't keep relying on luck with the lack of injuries, but we are moving in the right direction and are certainly in with a shout.

Oh, and before anyone puts 2+2 and comes up with 5, Olof Mellberg had to withdraw late on with sickness.

Next up is a tougher trip to Anfield to take on Liverpool. We - with belief - CAN get something there. Just up to the players to remember what we have achieved against another top four club, namely Chelsea, this season.

Star Player

Laursen and Carew.

Player Ratings

Scott Carson 7

Stunning save, still not too convincing when it comes to crosses and corners though, bit like Sorensen at the moment (?) great shot stopper but not commanding?

Wilfred Bouma 6

Did ok, defended well, nearly got caught out but tracked back, the going forward bit isn't his strength

Curtis Davies 7

Helped snuff out any threat, looks a good addition to the team.

Martin Laursen 8

Supreme, sign him up!

Craig Gardner 7

Played well, no silly lunges and was assured.

Ashley Young 7

A difficult player to be against but he needs to learn to sometimes just do the simple lay off instead of trying all the stepovers and tricks. Certainly going to be a star for Villa.

Gareth Barry 6.5

Going through a slightly quieter time but still crucial to the team.

Nigel Hokey-Cokey 7.5

Does the ugly bits and breaks down the oppositions moves. Good game.

Stiliyan Petrov 8

Thought he had a really good game and is getting closer with his long range shots (v Man Utd it was just over, this time it was well saved, next week v Liverpool it will be in the back of the net!)

John Carew 8

Got the chances, took the chances, what more could you ask for?

Gabriel Agbonlahor 7

Ran his socks off, crossed for a perfectly decent - but disallowed goal. Sometimes, like Young, needs to learn to release the ball quicker.

Maloney (on in 90th minute)

Moustapha Salifou (on in 90th minute)

Stunning debut....!

Manager Rating

Martin O'Neill. I worry for O'Neill, the bloke looks like he is in agony throughout the game, he kicks every ball and paces up and down. Certainly got this lot playing as a unit and I would guess that Uriah Rennie won't be on his Christmas card list next December.

Opponent Rating

Steve Coppell. Should be very worried about where Reading are going this year, as if they keep playing like that, it could well be down.

Writer:J P Fear
Date:Sunday January 13 2008
Time: 12:00PM


I had Laursen for 1st goalscorer too and that lanky Norweigan Carew still scored late on so could have missed the first one ;-)
13/01/2008 12:20:00
Whats goin on with the attendance? 33,000 38,ooo??? no source is the same! doesnt matter anyway cos the villa won and in the mix for europe. I got a good feeling about Liverpool, our counter attcking style will no doubt serve better away at a club where they got the wobbles, Rafa is looking over his shoulder, middlesvilla proved they can be beaten by a bit of hardwork. I thought liverpool looked terrible, and the good run we are on we could overtake em in the league.
13/01/2008 13:37:00
Attendance 38,228 given at VP, and 6,000 less in papers etc. Six of us go to match together and we always have a wager (1 each) on the crowd at half time. All six guestimates were between 37-39,000 and we are usually very close. ( I didn't win, not as if anyone is interested!). Obviously loads more there than 32k. Very good second half performance, but I think if we are to improve we must get two full backs who are comfortable if possession and give us attacking options. What a difference Evra made to Manure. Olof and Wilf are very good defenders, but at home I think we need to be able to give the full backs the ball from the keeper as an option to continually going for the long ball to Carew and playing off him. Not a moan, just an observation if we are going to continue our progress to the next level. Chimbonda is the type of player we need, but I don't like hia attitude at all. Boswinga would be MON's first choice, but I think that is anon starter now. What about Diarra? Left back - Rise or Taylor? (Spurs won't sell Bale!!). Bouma is ideal when we are under the cosh defending, but not when we have to break down defensive minded teams. Any chance Milner might be persuaded away, and along with Defoe that would give us a REAL chance of Europe and an outside chance of the Champions League. UTV.
13/01/2008 16:04:00
More good news, Pompey losing (most the players playing in Africa) and bolton are beating B'burn, bit of a gap opening up city, Villa, Everton all in the mix for UEFA!
13/01/2008 16:46:00
i had carew as first scorer. five quid in the bank.
13/01/2008 18:25:00
not just in the mix in for uefa but for champo league to!! I dont care what lawro says we could very well sneak into that top four.
13/01/2008 18:28:00
wow you must really enjoy your football up there in the prem if beating lowly reading is so easy mind you we can't even beat Sheff utd
ozanne park rangers
13/01/2008 19:03:00
coker wasn't a 7.5 i don't think
13/01/2008 20:18:00
Lets look forward to Liverpool. At home they've W4 D5 L1 and scored 21. Away we've W4 D5 L1 and scored 21. Interesting match-up, and if Laursen can keep Torres quiet this next game is winable!
13/01/2008 20:29:00
Agree about Doyle thought he was poor yesterday however I don't rate Defoe and I'm not to sure who else is available as strikers. Agree that attacking fullbacks would be ideal for us NRC and Barry sitting deep and attacking down the sides with pace and power we would be hard to beat. Think we have a real chance at Liverpool I thought they were lucky against us at VP and for me MON is tactically much better than Rafa.
13/01/2008 21:09:00
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