Date:Saturday April 12 2008
Attendance: 33 036
It was Robert Browning who uttered the immortal line, 'Oh to be in England now that April's there', and while I completely agree with the great English poet, I think that I've discovered the route to go even one better. My fellow Vital Villans, take yourselves off for a stroll in the park, or even better, do exactly as I have spent my day, and take two strolls in the park, albeit two strolls of a very different nature. Its certainly, as I have today experienced, the ideal way to spend an April Saturday, and to send you into the planned events of a Saturday evening with a smile on your face, and a spring in your step.
I kicked off my Saturday morning with a romp in scenic Sutton Park alongside my two dogs, before heading off around noon for the short hop, skip, and a jump into the east midlands, to enjoy a romp of an even more impressive and enjoyable kind, at Pride Park, home of The Rams of Derby County.
Poor old Derby. What can you say about them that hasn't already been written to describe their horrendous and embarrassing season? In truth, not too much. Although to witness their supporters arriving in their droves at Pride Park, you would have been excused for thinking that their season was very much still alive and kicking, and that Paul Jewell was about to mastermind another 'Great Escape' of Steve McQueen proportions. As we all know though, that is not to be the case, with County looking almost certain to bid farewell to The Premiership, correctly described as the worst team to ever 'perform' (I use that word very loosely) in the top flight. Jumping ahead a little if I may, I have to say that after seeing Derby play twice now this season, I am at a complete loss as to why it seems to be the accepted fact that this team will make an immediate return to The Premiership. They wont, certainly not unless PJ undertakes a complete overhaul of the squad this summer.
On the evidence of what I witnessed both earlier in the campaign at Villa Park (when they at least looked somewhat organized) and again this afternoon, the only way that they'll escape from The Championship next season is by being relegated to League One.
Fortunately the woes, failings, and future of DCFC are not of concern to our good selves, so lets now concentrate on The Good Guys, Martin O'Neills claret and blue army.
Martin decided to go, and rightly so, with the starting line-up from last weekend, yet for the first twenty minutes or so we looked sluggish, below par, and allowed The Rams to get in amongst us, without really giving us too much cause for concern. They definitely looked up for it though, and I think that many of the travelling claret and blue army started to wonder whether we might not be in for a trickier afternoon that we had probably expected.
Then though, from almost out of the blue, two goals in two minutes put us in complete control, Derby heads dropped, while our lads went from strength to strength.
Goal number one came via an Ashley Young free kick (how often have we said that this season?), no touch being needed, with Roy Carroll allowing Ashley's 25 yard effort to slip through his grasp, while under minimum pressure from Olof. A bad mistake by the Norn Iron keeper.
The cheers had barely died down before we were all hugging and kissing again (best part of the away games), as Big JC rifled home after Carroll had made an attempted clearance with his feet, which unfortunately for the keeper fell invitingly for our very own Norwegian Wood to put the game beyond Jewells lot. Some said JC's effort took a deflection off Gabby, so as I'm writing this without the help of umpteen tv replays, I may well be crediting JC when its actually been awarded to Gab, but if that is indeed the case, then it will have been very harsh on 'the man whose bigger than me or you'.
Goal number three was a stunner! Our goal of the season bar none. Take a bow Stan The Man Petrov.
With seemingly plenty of time to clear a backpass, Carroll was put under pressure by Gabby, resulting in his clearance falling just short of the half-way line. Stilyan chested the ball down, allowed it to drop, before unleashing a 50-yard gem that flew over Carroll, and into the top right-hand corner of the net. Sheer brilliance!
Arguably the best Villa goal I've witnessed in many, many a year. I'm looking forward to seeing it on the box later, just to convince myself that it really happened the way my memory tells me it happened.
The rejuvenation of Stilyan continues.
3-0 at half-time, clearly game, set, and match. Mind you, didn't we think that down in north London earlier this season? In truth though, Derby were dead and buried. Even their most optimistic of supporters wouldn't have dared hope for more than a shot on target and a couple of corners throughout the second forty-five.
Gareth bagged number four on sixty minutes following a simple tap-in, with Gabby adding number five with fifteen minutes left.
The rout was completed in the 85th minute with Marlon, on as a substitute for JC, scoring (what else? Its what the man does - and does well!!) his sixth goal of the season in front a now three quarters full at best, stadium.
Well, if that little work out hasn't set us up very nicely, to welcome our dear friends and neighbours from across the way into Villa Park next Sunday, then nothing will. Well done the lads.
Ten goals in two games has certainly halted the mini-blip, two clean sheets too. O.K., maybe the opposition hasn't been the most testing, but lets not forget, even Manchester United struggled to win 1-0 at Pride Park just a few weeks back.
Have yourselves a great week my friends, and let the countdown begin for the 'Second-City' derby.
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Date:Saturday April 12 2008
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