Date:Sunday December 11 2011
Attendance: 20 285
The working week certainly seems to pass by extremely quickly when you're not having too much fun football club supporting wise, and so there we were, before we knew it, another Saturday morning, and another away-day ahead of us.
This December day's away day obstacle came in the shape of The Trotters of Horwich, Greater Manchester, better known to the more football savvy amongst us, as Bolton Wanderers Football Club.
I must admit that we had wavered all week long as to whether or not we were going to hit the road to the north-west. All four of us having hardly been inspired by the performances this season to date, and all four of us, quite untypically lacking in enthusiasm and motivation. However, a round of phone calls on Friday evening, resulted in the decision being reached, probably the only decision that we ever would/could reach, that we'd give our loved one's another well earned and much needed break from us, and we'd leap out of our beds bright and early Saturday morning, jump in the shower, spruce ourselves up, boots duly blacked, and head off to The Reebok Stadium with springs in our step, and smiles upon our faces.
I must say, if I may, and I certainly hope that he's reading this, that PeterB from Yorkshire, who I 'met' on the 100% Villa forum on Friday afternoon, very much helped this individual to make up my mind to make the trip, with his kind and inspirational words. Peter, you told me to remember your post as we started our run of good results with a victory at The Reebok. How right you were sir. Thank you.
Well with friend Gary the day's designated driver, we knew that we were in for a diet of excellent sixties music to help speed us on our way, and Gary certainly didn't disappoint. The Rolling Stones, The Faces, Free, Family, and Jefferson Airplane helped make the journey northwards on our old adversary the M6 very enjoyable, and I must add that our rendition of the Airplane's White Rabbit as we passed the Stoke turn off, was probably the best version we've ever rendered. As a quartet,we really should audition for X-Factor. We certainly put Grace Slick to shame on this occasion.
The best thing about away trips in the north west, is our stop off at our regular watering hole, situated in the village of Lymm, Cheshire, always providing us with the opportunity to meet up with old friends and fellow traveling Villans, folk that we've met and spent time with down the years. Same old faces, same old characters. All Villa through and through. Well, aren't we all?
Its always good to discuss and debate with these good people, Villans who have been hitting the road to follow the claret and blues for as long as we have (some for even longer). Always some great memories revived and resurrected, although much time is also spent discussing everything and anything concerning and relating to present day Aston Villa. And did we have much to discuss and debate at this latest meet up!
So many different views, opinions, and observations were aired. Blame for our current 'situation' was apportioned on the shoulders of this individual, that individual, a number of individuals, although everyone certainly shared the same opinion in that what we had witnessed to date this season had not been acceptable, and what has gone on at Villa Park in the last sixteen months or so, was not what we the supporters had the right to expect.
Discussions surrounding today's possible starting eleven also brought various line-ups to the fore, and all in all our ninety minutes or so deliberations passed way too quickly, and it was time to go our separate ways, and continue our journey onto Burnden Way, and the modern, 28723 capacity all seater Reebok Stadium, which sadly looked to be around six thousand or so people short of a full house at kick-off.
The buzz on the street (I've always wanted to say/write that) as we arrived at the ground, was that both Marc Albrighton and Charles N'Zogbia were included in the starting line-up, and that fact certainly seemed to meet with the approval of most of the traveling support.
Inside the stadium the Big Eck's latest line up was confirmed:-
Brad Guzan, Alan Hutton, James Collins, Richard Dunne, Stephen Warnock, Charles N'Zogbia, Stan Petrov, Chris Herd, Marc Albrighton, Gabby Agbonlahor, Darren Bent.
On the bench, and waiting eagerly to be called into action we had:- Marshall, Ireland, Delfounso, Heskey, Clark, Bannan, Weimann.
Quite an adventurous, and attack minded starting line up and bench, selected there by the boss, a line up that suggested the prospect of a more attacking style from our favourites. As most agreed though, if we couldn't turn up at the home patch of a team that had lost six out of seven home games, and take the game to them, then when on earth could we?
As those of you who participate on the forums will be aware, I am most certainly not Marc Albrighton's biggest fan. And you can believe that I take some flak for my stance. I used to be. When I first watched Marc perform at Bodymoor Heath some four years or so back, progress through the youth and reserve team ranks, I was always praising his talent and effort on the site, alerting my fellow Vital Villans to keep an eye out for him, suggesting that he was one to watch.
However, over the past eighteen months or so I believe he has stood still, not improved or developed at all, and has indeed showed his limitations. While I still have reservations about him, it has become abundantly clear that he's a confidence player. When he has that commodity he looks the part, when his confidence drops, he looks out of his depth.
I must admit that at The Reebok he looked as if he might just be getting back on track. He certainly improved the overall team performance, enjoyed a good showing himself, and along with a much improved overall display from the talented Charles N'Zogbia, we at long last looked to have a couple of individuals at least, prepared to take on and beat their opponents, guys who when on their game can add that touch of flair that has been so sadly missing since the departures of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing.
It's early days in the revival of Marc and Charles, so I'm not getting overly carried away just yet, but suffice to say that the signs posted by these two against Owen Coyle's struggling outfit, was both positive and encouraging.
A minutes applause echoed around the ground pre kick-off as respects were paid to ex Bolton midfielder Gary Speed, and then we settled down to watch what was to hopefully turn into our first road victory of the campaign, after two near misses at The Stadium Of Light, and Loftus Road. We would be in a much healthier situation had we managed to hold on to, and bag those additional four points, points that had been needlessly tossed away through our all too regular failing of not being able to see a game out.
Unsurprisingly in view of recent results, both teams made a hesitant and cagey start, both teams looking extremely low in confidence, and it was obvious to all that the first goal would be very important.
Slowly but surely we started to get our act together, began to control the midfield, and pushed forward at will.
Bolton had fashioned the first opportunity of sorts, but Chris Eagles supplied a weak finish, and from then on we stepped up a notch, and gained the upper hand.
We wasted two clear cut opportunities to take the lead, both of which on another day, against a better team, could have proved costly.
Stan Petrov squandered an excellent chance, after Gabby Agbonlahor had dispossessed Cahill, and squared the ball to our skipper, who with time and space to put us ahead, sent his effort wide of Jaaskelainen's right hand post, when in truth it looked easier to score, and then shortly afterwards Darren Bent shot straight at the home keeper's legs from an equally clear-cut opening.
Just as we were starting to wonder whether it was going to be another one of those days when we would fail to convert our possession and domination into goals, and fall foul to a sucker punch, two goals within five minutes put us well in control.
The lively Gabby got in an inviting cross from the left, and, although it was just behind Darren Bent, it fell to Marc Albrighton, who cleverly tucked away his first goal of the campaign.
Stan Petrov made it two, when his twenty five yard effort took a slight deflection off Cahill, and swerved into the bottom corner past a well beaten Jussi Jaaskelainen. No argument that the deflection helped beat the Bolton 'keeper, but hey, if you dont shoot, you dont score. Full credit to Stan. He was prepared to take a shot, and he deserved his lucky break. That goal made it three for the season for our skipper. Isn't that his best tally for a campaign since moving to Brum B6? I think it might be, but I stand to be corrected on that one.
At this stage Bolton looked well beaten, and deservedly left the field at half time to the boos and jeers that have sadly become commonplace at Villa Park of late. We were two goals to the good, and the home team couldn't have complained had they gone in three or four goals behind, such was our dominance. They looked a very poor team, and while we all expected to see them step up their game in the second forty five, it was hard to envisage us failing to secure our first away success since last season's surprise victory at The Emirates, back in May.
They did indeed improve slightly in the second half. A rather clever back-heel from their best player Klasnic, set up Eagles for an effort which Brad pushed around the post, and from the resulting corner, a messy scramble and some poor Villa defending, saw Klasnic cut the deficit.
2-1, and even allowing for our claret and blue bias, it has to be said that Wanderers were back in the game, when in truth we should have been so far out of sight that Klasnic's effort should have been no more than a mere consolation effort.
Thankfully though the home team failed to really put any pressure on us, we defended stoutly, and while a couple of half chances fell to, and were wasted by, Mark Davies, we never really looked in any danger of conceding a second.
Indeed we should have extended our lead, with Darren Bent wasting a very good opportunity, which although being deflected wide by a desperate home defender, should really have been buried with ease. In injury time Marc Albrighton was played through on goal, but he had to take the chance with his weaker left foot, and Jaaskelainen made a very easy routine save.
So, overall a much better Villa performance, although without wishing to dampen our celebrations in any way, it was against the team that now sit at the very bottom of the table, and look to have a very tough job on their hands to keep themselves in the top flight for the 2012-13 season.
There were encouraging signs though from our lads, and that has to be a huge plus after recent showings. Marc Albrighton enjoyed a decent performance, as did Stan Petrov, Richard Dunne, Charles N'Zogbia, and Stevie Warnock. Brad Guzan too, despite spilling one Bolton effort in the first half looked confident and comfortable.
Tougher games lie ahead for us though, so lets not get over excited just yet. However my calll for calm shouldn't rule out us celebrating our first away win of the campaign.
The club needed the three points, and the regular away day crowd deserved to witness the Villa victory. Its been a long time coming.
Bring on Liverpool and Arsenal. Two games when hopefully we'll now give a very good account of ourselves, and hopefully surprise a few doubters in the process.
Thanks for taking the time and trouble to read my latest ramblings. Have yourselves a great week.
Date:Sunday December 11 2011
New Contracts? Better Deals? It's Only Money!! (Thursday May 23 2013)
Petrov Delighted With Assistant Coach Role (Wednesday May 22 2013)
Broadcasting Revenue For AVFC For 2012/13 Season (Wednesday May 22 2013)
N'Zogbia Exit And £5m Given To Keeper? (Wednesday May 22 2013)
Villa's Pre Season Schedule (Tuesday May 21 2013)
Vlaar Pleased With First Good Touch Of The Game (Tuesday May 21 2013)
Villa Season Ticket Help Sessions (Tuesday May 21 2013)
They Think It's All Over - Not Yet - Soccer Sevens (Tuesday May 21 2013)
Vital Villa Man Of The Match v Wigan (Tuesday May 21 2013)
The Aston Villa Summer Transfer Thread Pt 1 (Tuesday May 21 2013)
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