Date:Monday April 9 2012
When I write these match reports, I normally aim to do around about 800 words, I think that`s about right considering that a lot of people will read match reports in other forms too, not too short and not too long, but I`ve got to tell you that I really am struggling to fulfil that number for this game.
I gave a bit of instant reaction on my Twitter account earlier saying along the lines that the draw was disappointing, but it`s no less than you can expect if the limit of your ambitions is going to be to play for the draw against a team that are so easily capable of physically dominating you.
This was an absolutely dire game, but it was made worse by the fact that we were playing the one side who quite possibly play worse football than us in Stoke City. In the past, I`ve been keen to try not to fall for the 'Stoke always play terrible football` stereotype, as they do have some very good players like Etherington and Crouch. But today it was abundantly clear that Stoke were going to hoof the ball up the pitch at any opportunity and stop us playing simply by barging us out of the way.
But, of more concern to us is McLeish`s persistence in trying to play a direct, at best, game when it`s obvious to anyone who is blessed with sight that it just will not work. Us sitting back after we scored today merely served to give Stoke a platform to get back into the game. This was because of the fact that we have a lot of small, slightly built players who are young and still developing their respective games. So, with their style of play it just became ridiculously easy for them to boss us around, and I can see that with almost zilch experience of playing, so why can`t McLeish?
We weren`t helped by a terrible performance by the officials that denied us some obvious free kicks that could potentially have relieved the pressure, but the problem with that is that all referees are now poor, and it`s easy to see why managers themselves are losing confidence in their performances. I`ve never seen such an obvious foul as the final sliding challenge on Gabby. He scissor kicked his legs away from him for god`s sake! T***ty Tony really does do a good job of intimidating the officials with his Olympic high jumping and shouting act though, so I don`t suppose we should be too surprised.
Anyway, I`m digressing slightly. To their credit, there were only two things that lifted the terrible stench of mediocrity from between the claret and blue seats today, and they were Andy Weimann, with his brilliant long-range curler after a lovely neat one-two with Stephen Ireland, and us, the fans, for once again being brilliant in our support for Stan. I hope that another round of support can give him an extra lift ahead of the news that I heard when I got home, that he`s starting his chemotherapy treatment tomorrow, if that is indeed true of course.
Aside from Weimann`s brilliant goal, I genuinely can`t remember anything else of note happening in the first half. ESPN Goals reminded me of the header Walters had in first half stoppage time after Given failed to claim the ball when he came off his line, but that was about it, and I had a thoroughly enjoyable time tucking into the burger and chips I had for my tea. Yes, you read that right; I really have been reduced to talking about what I had to eat.
The second half wasn`t much better either. We could have made something of the opportunity that Gabby had when wee Bannan sent him through, but his shot wasn`t really either that or a cross.
Then the inevitable happened, in thanks part to that vile ex-Bluenose Mr Prison Tag who swung over a free kick to once again show our increasingly annoying vulnerability at set pieces.
For all my criticism of the officials earlier, they did manage to get something right between them as what would have been a winning goal by Ryan Shawcross was correctly ruled out after Mr Prison Tag`s corner had curled out of play.
At the end of that paragraph, that was 716 words, which I think is enough without bringing on any cases of post-traumatic disorder. I`ll see you guys again in little under a fortnight after all the excitement of Martin O`Neill`s return to Villa Park. Up The Villa!
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Date:Monday April 9 2012
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