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Aston Villa 1 - Middlesbrough 1

Villa Park


Attendance: 39 874

Villa Whimper V Boro

Ok, lets face it, that game was dire from Villa. The team came out like snails not the rampaging lions we expected and something just didn't seem right. Certainly the people around me were scratching their heads at the tempo of the Villa boys, the way the first half shaped up you would have thought this was a nothing to play for, end of season game not one where we needed a win to stay in touch with 5th place and out of reach of the chasing pack.

The lack of will, aggression and possession was quite shocking, I had to check with my mates (yes, I have mates - I think paying people to go to the football with you counts as mates anyway?) where Boro were in the league, 1st or 2nd because they were first to everything and making all the attacking plays. Not what had been expected of this game and once again, every time us Villa fans start to get excited and expect a win, the teams complacency gets slapped right back down.

Ok, ok, this was just one game and at the end of the day, we didn't lose it at least, but a draw at home v a team played off the park by Cardiff City at the weekend was not good enough, nor was the shape of the team or the tactics.

{Flame suit on}

Why play Ashley Young on the opposite side to where he is effective? It made no sense and Shaun Maloney yesterday had the look of a little boy lost, totally out of his depth which is the first time I've seen that. They ended up swapping sides anyway so what was that all about?

Why play Zat Knight when the experienced Sweden international Olof Mellberg was available? (I could go on and say why by an average player like Zat, from an average team like Fulham, when we had better in Gary Cahill who is now being eyed by Capello for England). Zat, - and I'm not trying to make a scapegoat here, just passing an opinion - as he, like it or not was once again responsible for giving a goal away due to a silly mistake. He tried to pass the ball where no Villa player was and gave Boro the gift of possession in a dangerous place, a gift they took with great thanks.

Craig Gardner - who always gives 100% and could make a very decent midfielder for us, is not a right-back. Fair enough nor is Olof BUT at least Olof has experience playing there. A massive risk was taken taking off Gardner for Olof in the second half because before the first half was out, Martin Laursen had started limping after a 50/50 challenge. I hate to think what would have happened if he'd not been able to run that injury off in the second half. We certainly had no other options on the bench and I'm sorry, only one person is responsible for that.

Why the long ball tactics? I thought we'd got away from that in recent games and that we were actually starting to play with some style. Not the managers fault I here some say (yes, I have voices in my head!). Well, from where I was sitting - right by the bench incidentally - it very much is his old fashioned 90's tactics to hoof because the one time Scott Carson showed a bit of initiate and tried to play the ball out from the back, like truly great teams do, Martin O'Neill went ballistic at him and told him to whack the ball up the f***ing pitch. I'm sorry but WHY? Huth and Wheater could not believe their luck that all they had to do all game was head away long balls, they lapped it up. Easy tactics for modern defenders to counter. This is 2008, not 1990 and Villa are not Wimbledon. If Villa had brought the ball down and actually passed it about, we'd have walked all over Boro, of that I have no doubt but then, last night the team all seemed allergic to the ball and couldn't wait to get rid of it, half the time to a Boro player.

{Flame suit off}

So Boro went one up following an error and still looked more likely to score than Villa and if not for an awful shot by Mido from 7 odd yards out, they would have been 2 up and it would have been game over. Mido happily shot into the sky when it would have been easier to score. He still looks a major threat, but only to the pie man who tries to hold some back for other customers! Villa equalised via a penalty, Barry took it with aplomb which to be fair was the only thing he did right all night - a very unusual thing to be saying about our usually most consistent player. I haven't seen the replay so don't know if the penalty was fair or not - don't really care either - but the way the Boro players were protesting, I can only assume they felt it was harsh!

I repeat, this was just one match, but it was a match where we threw away two valuable points in the same fashion we threw away three down at Fulham. We are not and never have been good enough to just turn up to win, the sooner this lot realise they have to battle 100% every minute they are on the pitch, the better. To play well against the top teams is all well and VERY good but they have to show up for the league strugglers as well, arrogance does not win championships or earn European places.

That isn't taking anything away from Boro, they played well and deserved all three points. I'd also salute the few hundred of their fans who showed up to shout their team on. A long journey to visit a place where most if they were being honest would have expected little change and after recent results and awful performances by their team, those few hundred really were REAL hard core fans. Respect!

Ok, so we have Pompey at the weekend, one can only hope we come out fighting from the start, show the passion that was totally missing last night and come back with something, if not they'll be in 6th and we'll be on the slide which would be a shame after such a valiant effort by such a small squad this season. With Everton still to come, it is all still to play for but last night put a huge dent in our slightly lofty aspirations for 5th. If we play like that again, we'll not even finish 6th.

I have to wonder if the team were suffering from a bug or something, all did not look right last night, maybe it was just a bad day at the office?

Star Player

Not sure 'star' player is appropriate for last night, but Wilfred Bouma was the best by some way in my ever so humble opinion!

Player Ratings

Scott Carson 5

I'm no expert but it looked to me like he should have saved that goal.

Wilfred Bouma 7.5

I think he was excellent and saved us being beaten

Martin Laursen 6

Most unusually he missed a few headers last night!

Zat Knight 5.5

He did make a few crucial tackles that had to be timed right but giving the ball away for the first goal and then not getting back to correct his error cost us the points.

Craig Gardner 5

Had rings run round him and was brought off. He isn't a right-back, but then we don't have one of those do we?

Ashley Young 6

Very quiet game, came more to life when moved to his more natural side but things just didn't come off for any of the players last night.

Gareth Barry 5.5

Worst I've ever seen one of my favourite players perform. Took the penalty well though which always takes bottle.

Nigel Hokey Cokey 5.5

Dillied and dallied and gave the ball away. Had a few chances to shoot and passed sideways instead. A lot more to come from him hopefully.

Shaun Maloney 5

Awful performance, looked like a little boy lost at times and I don't think he'd have been able to pass wind if he tried. Looked very off colour.

Gabby Agbonlahor 6

Difficult to rate because the hoofing tactics don't and never will suit him, he needs balls to feet to run at defenders. If a pratt like me can see that then .... ?

John Carew 6

Another difficult to rate, he might be a big bloke but that doesn't mean he wants to be playing with the ball in the air all the time with ineffective flick ons. Again, this isn't the 90's and this isn't what he would be expecting surely?

Harewood (on for Maloney 46) 7

At least he cares! He did try but not the impact he'd have hoped for but probably our best player in the second half.

Mellberg (on for Gardner 46) 6

Steadier than Gardner, still better in the centre though.

Agree or disagree?

Our man of the match poll currently has Bouma ahead by some way and only Harewood and Mellberg also being voted for. That shows what people thought of the rest last night. Agree or disagree with my ratings? Why not put your own down in the forum or article comments, I'm always fascinated how we all watch the same game and see such different things!

On the bright side, my pie and water was nice as was 90 minutes of fresh Aston air. Always like to end on a positive!

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The Journalist

Writer: J P Fear Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Thursday March 13 2008

Time: 11:20AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
I would've had Reo Coker on 4 and Gabby on 3. Might sound like an exagerration but they were both totally anonymous, and Gabbys attitude last night worries me. 6 suggests an average performance, Gabby wasnt even poor, he was *****.
Report Abuse
13/03/2008 11:24:00

I may have been watching a different game but looked like Reo Coker completed more passes than not, lets check opta index!!!!
Report Abuse
13/03/2008 11:26:00

But they don't get the ball to him at all dan, they need to feed the strikers? Even van Nistelrooy in his pomp wouldn't have stood a chance with that lack of supply?
The Fear
Report Abuse
13/03/2008 11:26:00

Wilf currently sits at 80% of the votes cast. I see no reason that should change unless it goe's to 90%. Poor performance, no leadership on the pitch, no gameplan, hoof and hope will not work, Villa defended too far up the pitch and got caught. One game lets hope thats the last dire performance this season or we can kiss goodbye to European dreams.
Report Abuse
13/03/2008 11:27:00

I actually thought NRC held us together and had a fine game, as did most of the people sitting around me. Surprising how different people in different parts of the ground view things. Wilf was solid as well, but I'm afraid it was an awful performance and ended up being a point gained. First half Boro were excellent.
Report Abuse
13/03/2008 11:56:00

The weekend goes one of two ways for you this weekend, beat pompey and your an outside chance for top 4/5. But screw up again and you'll be in a real battle for 6th. we (everton) need to put last night behind us, we had a go, but fell short, need to secure at least 5th now.
Report Abuse
13/03/2008 12:22:00

Gabby - 2/3 Carew 3 Did he win any headers ? Barry 4 - would have been 3 if he had missed the penalty. NRC - 6.5 He had to cover for Barry all night. Did the work of 2 midfielders. Gardner 4 -Below the average in patches. MON - 3 Tactically we got it very wrong, motivation poor. A very off day at the office.
Report Abuse
13/03/2008 12:52:00

A complete and utter shambles from start to finish, and apart from that there's little else to be said. Boro were the better team, and only bad finishing denied them a relatively easy three points. Not one Villan looked remotely up for the occasion, and we were very fortunate to even get a solitary point out of it. Not good enough, not good enough by far.
Report Abuse
13/03/2008 13:12:00

we were crap of that there is no doubt. But we managed to scrape a point which keeps us in with a shout albeit a fait shout but a shout none the less...
Report Abuse
13/03/2008 13:34:00

to be honest, i think Carew is well off with the ball passed to his feet rather than the head. yes he might score some goals from the head, but he is also excellent when it comes to holding and dribbling.
Report Abuse
13/03/2008 13:47:00

Gabby needs to be on bench for the pompey match, so he can pick up some good play from Defoe.
Report Abuse
13/03/2008 14:39:00

Too much pressure from a must win game. We peaked at Arsenal and looked like we hadn't warmed up even in the second half.
Report Abuse
13/03/2008 14:54:00

I think Reo-Coker Cola is getting some unfair stick here, he was 2nd best player for us yesterday, Bouma was brilliant, and NRC was good the rest range from poor to poo!!! I think people may be letting their opinions of NRC cloud what was actually decent game by someone who has at times been average this season. Feel sorry for the guy, if he doesnt come behind Bouma in this poll it will be a travesty cause from where me and my uncle and it now appears others where sat he had a decent game.
Report Abuse
13/03/2008 15:32:00

So with reference to my comment above I would also like to say Mellberg and Harewood too had good games, so 4 players from 13 looked good last. Now that is simply unacceptable!!!
Report Abuse
13/03/2008 15:35:00

gappy65 is right in one very important aspect. It wasn't so long ago that we'd have performed like that and lost. Wednesday evening we at least picked up a point. A much improved performance is needed at Fratton Park.
Report Abuse
14/03/2008 06:34:00


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