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Villa Stalemate v Pompey

Aston Villa
0 - 0

Villa Park


Attendance: 37 660


A wise man once said 'It is a funny old game' and so it proved at Villa Park on Saturday against Portsmouth.

The weather was nice, the mood was high and the confidence amongst the Villa fans was tangible, albeit most of us realised it was a game that could go either way and that Pompey will be there or there abouts come the end of the season. Hey, even the pies were hot, this was going to be a good day!

From the start I never really felt that Pompey could quite get hold of the game and despite arguably a far more experienced and capable strike force in Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch, they rarely troubled our defense. Fair enough in the second half (if memory serves me right) Portsmouth missed a sitter but then, our very own Curtis Davies missed a chance hitting row z of the Holte end when slotting it into an empty goal looked a mere formality (yeah, says the man who couldn't score in a brothel!)

Our defense... hmmmm. Interesting changes by the boss saw what some thought was going to be three at the back but which proved to be a more conventional 442 with Carlos Cuellar at right-back, poor Gareth Barry being shifted from pillar to post again at left-back and Curtis Davis alongside the rock Martin Laursen in the centre. There was also space, by shifting Barry, to keep Nigel Hokey-Cokey in the team and accommodate James Milner. I'm not sure about all these major changes to fit in players, MON does similar when he makes substitutions, convention usually says you make as few changes as you can to achieve the result you want, surely that makes sense?

So we went from an unchanged team to seemingly major changes with our new left and right backs on the bench. Now it isn't that the team didn't gel totally, as said I think we just about shaded the game, but there wasn't the sort of cohesion you would hope for at this stage of the season when they have had more games than most having played in the Inter Toto as well as the Uefa Cup. Carlos for example seemed to be good at defending, worked hard to win the ball and then passed to the invisible man (who also had a bad game) giving possession straight back to Pompey. Now I would argue he was passing to where he expected our strikers to be making runs, but our two up front don't seem to run into attacking spaces, they don't even link up themselves with JC's flick on's hardly ever finding Agbonlahor.

Our main problem - and it has been said before - is the lack of strike power. Last season we were amongst the highest scorers but many of those goals came from set pieces and you would expect our opponents this season to be slightly more aware of our threat. I had thought at the end of the game what a shame it was that Gabby hadn't been fit enough to play only to be told he was on the pitch....! As the phone in with Tom Ross said, Gabby can be what Gabby wants to be, the world is at his feet, but he has to put in 110% ON the field as well as off it and apart from an outstanding hattrick against Man City, he simply isn't doing that at the moment. I'm not knocking him, he has improved season on season but surely there is too much pressure on his head, he is like the Grolsch adverts, he isn't finished yet but he is expected to be banging them in game after game. Our strength in depth is Marlon 'lionheart - but not quite good enough' Harewood. This calls again into question the purchasing policy of the boss - but then that is for another day.

As for John Carew, if only he could do for 90minutes what he does in bursts, he would be awesome. He did have one great header which hit the top of the bar and went over, he also made a few runs, but all too infrequently. For a man with such a big reputation, he certainly doesn't seem to wear his heart on his sleeve. If he had Marlon's attitude with the skill and size Carew has, he'd be on 20 a season no question at all.

I have to be honest, I found the game quite enjoyable, there were some decent tackles flying, lets face it Harry has set up a very physical big team and plenty of incidents (the one being embarrassing for such a great and proud club as ours when some numpty threw a coin towards Harry and instead hit the linesman. No one deserves that. Still, as some will remember from my match report last season, I was hit by a pound coin, apparently the lino was hit by a 50p so this just proves to Labour once again, the credit crunch really is hitting home - sorry, not making light of it, I hope they find the clueless coward who through the coin). So all in all, it certainly wasn't as flat as the score might suggest, but I did feel that although we shut out their strike force, I think we could have played another 90 minutes and still we'd not have had the rub of the green and a goal.

The main hope is that Gabby and JC can start to 'click' and also that James Milner gets a run in the side so that he can get fully integrated because yesterday, apart from a few promising runs, he had a pretty forgettable afternoon. He is soooo much better than that, or at least for the fee we paid, he better be...! Hopefully in time he'll join in with Ashley Young whipping in balls and JC and Gabby will realise that strikers need to a) be in the box b) get to the far post every now and then c) back each other up d) SHOOT e) actually, I'll take the e's.

Bring on Ajax, if the strikers have an on day, the match could be the highlight of the month. Saturday was two points lost, we now need to pick up maximum points from Wigan and Blackburn. What better way to set those games up than an emphatic win against the Dutch giants at a - hopefully - sold out Villa Park.

Star Player

Stiliyan Petrov and Martin Laursen.

Player Ratings

Brad Friedel 7

didn't have much to do but what he did, he did well.

Gareth Barry 7

some say he was poor, some say he was great. I think some miss his finer points and the side is far stronger with him in it, wherever he plays!

Martin Laursen 8

kept Crouch and Defoe in his pocket and won more headers than Mr Header from Headsville.

Curtis Davis 7

clean sheet, say no more

Carlos Cuellar 7

let himself down with his distribution but again, clean sheet, for the defenders that is job done isn't it?

Nigel Hokey Cokey 6.5

had a good game - again

Ashley Young 6.5

did little wrong and got kicked to bits as per usual

Stiliyan Petrov 8

man of the match - again!

James Milner 5.5

an afternoon to forget but he'll soon be doing the business

Gabby Agbonlahor 5.5

come on Gabby, bleed for the side

John Carew 6

unlucky not to score with the one header but should be doing so much more to menace the defenders of our opponents.

Luke Young, on for Laursen, 87 mins.

Writer:J P Fear
Date:Sunday October 19 2008
Time: 8:45PM


9 minutes and 27 seconds before NRC actually touched the ball ! Is that a record for a so called ball winner in his favourite central role ?? Yes I know I'm sad but I just had to glance up at the scoreboard the first time he touched the ball ! He did touch it three more times in the first 20 minutes and actually made one tackle ! Shows how exciting the match was really! GB had more of the ball in the leftback role in the first two minutes but someone said he was crap ??? Petrov played well ,shame GB wasn't in there with him. We might just have created a few goals!
19/10/2008 21:33:00
You are beginning to get paranoid about Coker 57 get a grip. Most everyone else gave him rave reviews, and Fear how come we dominated so much yet had 1 shot on target. Dominated what, the touchline butchery. At home against a side like Portsmouth and what an epic 0-0 draw. Same as against Liverpool, real coaches have sussed O'Neill doesn't have a plan B, so stop Young, stop dead all situations and that is Villa done . Poor Mart couldn't even use his wonder substitution tactic, this time around, he'd pulled it off before kick off. All that money spent and what he drops 2 of his signings to give 2 more a run out great and the result was another poor performance. Come Ajax he'll still put out the same basic 11, tiredness my rear end, lack of ideas is the problem, here's to his luck fairy appearing to bale him out.
19/10/2008 22:58:00
the above comment is absolutely ridiculous. avfc 48 you need to see how far we have come under MON...jeez
20/10/2008 10:57:00
Are you are real plonker avfc48 or what. Mon has done a very good job yes some of his decisions are questonable but he is human. Try getting behind him and support your team. I bet u are one of these guys that you always seem to have sitting behind who moan 4 90 mins, looking for every mistake. Your a *****.
20/10/2008 12:55:00
With our lack of firepower primarily blamed on a lazy Gabby who would you play with Carew. Would you play him on his own with Young and Milner further up with him in support, Harewood or The Fonz?? Or would you maybe have Milner, Young, Petrov as a 'Number 10' in behind the big man??
20/10/2008 15:04:00
Spelling please. Defence not defense.
21/10/2008 00:32:00
Careful avfc, you nearly said something that wasn't criticism thinly disguised as praise ...
21/10/2008 13:55:00
Not the most exciting of Villa performances, but hey, it happens. Two points dropped perhaps, but at least we didn't get rolled over.
26/10/2008 03:18:00
If Jermaine Defoe had have been his normal clinical self, we'd be bemoaning a home defeat right now. Still wish we had his talents at Villa Park.
07/11/2008 22:24:00
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