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Aston Villa 2 - Portsmouth 0

Villa Park

19th Septermber/15:00

Attendance: 35,979

Saturday Afternoon Stroll: Pompey Report

On the journey home, I had a quick peek at Facebook and decided to update the status thingy to, "Phil Kimberley believes that win can be summed up as comfortable, professional and a little dull."

I think that`s a very nice job, so there you go. See ya!

What? You want more? *Sighs* Okay, come on then…

A fourth consecutive league win, up to joint second (albeit temporarily), two clean sheets for the new look defence, three goals in as many games for Gabby… there have been worse Saturdays.

The first-half was a relative breeze. As some of you will know I am a huge advocate of us playing 4-5-1 but today the 4-4-2 actually seemed like the right thing to do; Portsmouth appeared relatively happy to park the proverbial bus and settle for a draw, but unfortunately for them, their bus seems to have dodgy brakes.

For example, one of the best saves of the match was made just after 10 minutes by David James - which he was forced into making after Aaron Mokeoena almost headed an Ashley Young cross into his own goal!

Pompey knocked it about nicely and their five-man midfield meant they were seeing a fair bit of the ball, but with no real cutting edge we were very comfortable and looked like we could score whenever we went forward. Quite a few times in the first half a straight ball down the middle caused them some problems that they really should have been able to deal with.

Just after the half-hour mark, Pompey hit the self-destruct button through Nadir Belhadj. As Stiliyan Petrov lost control of the ball in the box, Belhadj failed to clear, and as Petrov won the ball back, Belhadj made a clumsy and needless challenge that gave the Villa a penalty.

Step up, James Milner.

Jimmy struck the ball well and despite David James going the right way, the speed of the ball ensured it went in.

The game remained comfortable with Villa in around third gear, and despite Friedel having to make his first save with a few minutes of the first-half remaining, it was Villa who doubled the lead - and effectively sealed the win - just before half-time.

James Milner flicked on a Brad Friedel goal-kick into Gabriel Agbonlahor, who turned Ben Haim with astonishing ease and, despite slipping as he shot, smashed the ball past James.

The second half was a dull affair; Villa happy to soak up the Pompey pressure, with the visitors unable to do much to test the Villa defence beyond a few long-range efforts that were dealt with well by Brad Friedel.

Their best moment came from Frederic Piquionne who managed to force his way past a couple of defenders and forced a very good save from Friedel.

Villa could have added a third, with some good work by Agbonlahor on the left going unrewarded and James pulling off another good save after an effort from Petrov.

But the job was done, and all rather comfortably. Hopefully by this time next week we will have progressed in the League Cup and have another three points in the bag.

It`s far too early to get excited, but I quite like the way we are quietly going about our business while Spurs and in particular Man City get all the attention as the 'most likely to break the top 4` contenders. My belief is almost back…!

Up the Villa!

Star Player

No-one was exceptional but there was enough good performances to make this difficult. I'm going to say Milner, but I could understand claims for Friedel, Collins, Dunne, Petrov or Agbonlahor as well!

Player Ratings

Brad Friedel - 7

He was kept fairly busy and made a few decent saves. You would be disappointed if he headn't made them, mind. But you can only deal with what is thrown at you and deal with it he did.

Carlos Cuellar - 6

He was solid enough, but this is the type of game where it seems like we really should have a right-back that can offer us more going forward.

Steven Warnock - 6

He still seems to be finding his feet a bit. He can (and I'm sure will) do better.

James Collins - 7

Not that most challenging of afternoons, Collins did well with what he had to do. Positionally he lets himself down a bit by being too deep; the problem for me is that he is the same kind of defender as Dunne and wants to be out there attacking the ball, so is slightly uncomfortable in the 'Cuellar role', as it were. But overall, a good performance.

Richard Dunne - 7

Very good again. He joined in well with the midfield a couple of times and was slightly unlucky not to score off a corner. I think that long-term him and Cuellar may well be the main duo for us, and in theory that should be very good indeed.

James Milner - 7

No apologies needed this week from Jimmy! I thought he did well, his movement was good and the execution of his passes were much better than the previous game! Took his penalty well. Possibly MOTM for me.

Stilyian Petrov - 7

You know what you're going to get, and you know it's going to be good. He probably forced the save of the match from James, and was his usual reliable self.

Steve Sidwell - 7

As usual, he was missing slightly at times but I have no qualms about what he did. He makes some very good runs, almost Platt-like, but unfortunately he doesn't have the touch or composure to get the goals that Platt did. He should score more, though. Did his defensive work quite well to be fair.

Ashley Young - 6

Pretty quiet from Ash. He did okay. I would have thought that this would be the type of game where he would really shine but in all fairness there was usually two men on him. Sometimes his set-pieces drive me mad, because you know he CAN do much better.

John Carew - 6

Again, like Young, I would have thought he would have imposed himself more against this Pompey defence. I suppose he has played a bit less football than the others, and he will now be hoping to get a bit more of a run in the side. Given the NRC situation, I believe he may well get what he wants.

Gabriel Agbonlahor - 7

Took his goal very well and caused plenty of problems for Ben Haim. I felt he wasn't as good as he had been in the last 3 league games but it was still a decent performance and hey, the most important thing is that he keeps sticking the ball in the net.

Emile Heskey

The fans around us were genuinely willing him to do well. As long as he's a Villa player, I will understand the negative comments but hope he gets that kind of support whenever he is out on the pitch. Obviously the injury meant he wasn't on the pitch long enough to really judge anything!

Fabian Deph

He didn't have lots of time to impose himself and the game had already died out by then. Tried to get involved as much as he could, though.

Not Used

Guzan, Beye, Shorey, Gardner, Delfouneso.

Manager Rating

7. A standard win. I hope 4-4-2 doesn't return permanently though. Not that I have an issue with the starting XI in a 4-5-1; John up top, Gabby on the right, Milner in the middle. Keep it flexible, switch to 4-4-2 sometimes, swap Milner/Young/Agbonlahor on occasion, keep the opposition guessing. Simples!

Opponent Rating

6. What can you say? They knocked it about nicely, had a few efforts on goal and over the course of the 90 minutes will argue that they deserved a draw. I'd be inclined to disagree because we have at least another couple of gears in us, but really the point is - defend like that, and you are in real trouble. They play better football than most the teams around them, but like the Baggies last year, have issues at both ends of the pitch. If they can sort them out then they may have enough about them to stay up, but they need to sort it out quickly.

Michael Brown - vile

What a horrible little character. Consistent fouling, consistent whinging, consistent rolling about on the floor like he's been shot followed by jumping up seconds later and running around normally. At least he's consistent. Consistently a scumbag.

Ref Watch

Stuart Attwell - by a Premiership standard he was okay. Unfortunately for him and us, that still means rubbish. Some really poor decisions, both for and against us. There will be a lot worse performances this season though.

Next Up

Blackburn away. A trip I love to make but unfortunately am unable to do so this year. So if you're going, give the boys a shout for me!

The Journalist

Writer: Sheriff Kimbo Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday September 20 2009

Time: 1:11PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
nice report. will be interesting to see the team sheet away at blackburn. personally i hope reo is ready to come back because 4-5-1 works well away from home. but yeah i can see milner moving into the centre with gabby on the right and big john up top.
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20/09/2009 13:34:00

I now think NRC is behind Milner (in a 4-5-1), Gardner and Delph!! I actually think we can get to Jan without actually 'needing' him which I think suits O'Neill so he can then get rid of him. On another note, would he take a loan to a Championship side until then?? He WAS linked to Boro. How about an agreement to loan them Reo until Jan/end of season, in return we buy Wheater but loan him back until the start of next season.
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20/09/2009 15:10:00

Great report Sheriff. Agree, pretty dull, who cares we've got the points so to speak and to be where we are and chalking up the wins without some being on form yet is very positive if you think about it. Similar ratings to the ones I gave for the Observer fan comment thing yesterday. Friedel 8 as he made some gooduns, Petrov 6 as I thought he was a bit off the pace, Gabby 8 for the well taken goal and Carew 5 - thought he was way off yesterday, come on big John, start terrorising! Apart from those small differences, totally agree!
The Fear
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20/09/2009 15:28:00

Can't agree with the manager rating - deciding to put Heskey on the pitch should mean an immediate 3pt deduction from his final total.
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20/09/2009 17:20:00

Ah Saurat, at least we won. C'mon, gi' us a smile... you know you want to... ;-)
Sheriff Kimbo
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20/09/2009 23:01:00

I agree, every game Heskey plays...MON automatically gets a 2 in the coaching department. No exceptions....
All hail MON
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21/09/2009 00:17:00

Pompey are poor. We were slightly better. I do not agree that we could have moved up a 'couple of gears'. I really think that a 442 formation will bite us on the arse as it did for the back end of last season and against Wigan this season, when we play any team that is half decent. Friedel was the busier keeper by a mile and in my eyes that is a concern. However, 4 wins on the bounce whilst never looking convincing in any of them is brilliant. The first 10 games is about getting points on the board, not necessarily performances. If after 10 games we are in the top 4 and still in the League Cup, I think this could go on to be a good season. I said prior to (and after during the doom and gloom) the Wigan game, that this season has a feel of the start of the 1980 season. Nothing yet has changed my mind. If the belief starts rolling down the terraces then 2009 could indeed be a great year (providing M'ON doesn't mess up by being blinkered in playing a formation that is not suited to the players we have).
Report Abuse
21/09/2009 01:43:00

worrying view if we don't have any gears to step up voice, hope you are wrong, I have been trying to optimistic that things are going ok as we aren't playing well but are winning, if there is another gear, the season could get very interesting, if we don't have any further to improve/step up, then gulp.
The Fear
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21/09/2009 11:36:00

Glad to see i'm not the only one that was disgusted with Brown. He got away with 2 knees in the back on our players - one on Ash and another on (I think) Petrov. This is the sort of thing that in my mind should get referred to the authorities to do something about. Everyone gets on the 'diving' bandwagon, but surely attempting to hurt a fellow professional in such a manner warrants some investigation and punishment. Both incidents were clearly deliberate, and what makes it worse is that a knee in the wrong spot of the spine and you are looking at a serious injury. A true scumbag, and he deserves a ban.
Report Abuse
21/09/2009 11:39:00

Well said Yatesy.
Sheriff Kimbo
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21/09/2009 12:01:00

A good performance. Less so by Carew.
Report Abuse
21/09/2009 16:13:00

Good stuff Sheriff Kimbo, a very enjoyable read. Two successive Villa Park victories, two clean sheets, I think we're starting to get a little spoiled here. The real test will undoubtably come in our next two home games, when Manchester City and Chelsea roll into town. We certainly weren't really tested by Pompey, but from what we witnessed at St Andrews on Sunday the 13th, and then again against Portsmouth, our defence certainly looks considerably meaner and tighter following the inclusion of Stephen Warnock, Richard Dunne, and James Collins. Personally I still remain unconvinced about the merits of Carlos Cuellar, so I'll be happier when Luke Young is deemed fit enough to resume in the right back role. Whether our midfield and strike force has enough about themselves to terrorise the bigger boys, we shall have to wait and see, but you can after all only see off what is in front of you, and as of right now, Wigan Athletic apart, we are doing just that. Pompey were indeed poor, and Paul Hart or whoever is brought in to save the sinking ship, has one hell of a job to keep this club in the top flight. Disappointed with the attendance, I was hoping for much closer to 40,000 following the victory at Birmingham City, but I suppose in this day and age, Portsmouth are not on the fixture list of the pick and choose supporter.
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22/09/2009 01:47:00


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