Vital Villa's Match Report - Villa v Ipswich
Attendance: 24 854
The 3rd Round 'Giant Killing' F.A. Cup match day, as experienced by your plucky match reporter, Villa_Grizzly. Happy New Year to all the readers on Vital.
The three or four whisky doubles I'd downed in the kitchen whilst the Mrs was upstairs put a bit of heat in the blood and had me singing on the train on the way in. This led to a) the Mrs being embarrassed and b) the painful realisation that the high notes are now, frankly, just too high.
There seemed to be a drop off in numbers as the train was short of a few Villa fans. The walk from Aston involves passing Aston Church. I asked the very friendly 'Missionaries' offering prayers if God could intercede and grant us a new midfielder...that and world peace. Aston seems an odd place to do missionary work but then again we are all quite desperate at the moment.
The clock on the concourse of Holte Lower is still wrong. In fact it's stopped. It really bugs me. I mean, if we can't fix a clock how will we fix a defence? I tell the Mrs I will phone someone at the club, Victor Meldrew style. When they fix the clock we will start winning, I moan. At this rate I may be single by tea-time. We head for our seats.
The game represents a New Year beginning and saw the return of experienced players in Bent and N'zogbia to the starting line up. Agbonlahor would begin the game on the bench. Baker returned to partner Clarke in the middle and Given was Goalkeeper for the day. New signing Bowery was given his first full competitive start at Villa Park. I am interested to see Aaron Cresswell as we were interested in him in the summer. Nigel Reo-Slowcooker was met on his return to B6 by a pocket of half-hearted applause mixed with pantomime boos. One more thing to note: Mick McCarthy looks better in blue than burnt orange and coal.
Villa set up in a bizarre 4-2-2-2. Bannan and Delph were holding and ticking things over in front of the back four with N'Zogbia and Albrighton in front of them. I'm sure that was not the plan though this is what it looked like from my seat. Bent and Bowery were up top. Eric Lichaj came in at right back.
Their was the usual stand-off between the stewards and the boys and gals at the top of Holte Lower L8. This is not unusual and happens every game now to cries of "It's not a crime to support your team." They are a top bunch and sing throughout the whole game though they stand continually. They bring loads of flags and banners with them and really make an effort. They also put balloons out today which was a nice touch. Last week it was confetti and streamers. This was of more interest to most than the first half itself. I got caught up in it as the team were pants. Sorry.
I thought that Charles N'Zogbia was Villa's best player for the first 45 minutes. He started as a left attacking midfielder though ended up as a floating creative player which seemed to suit him more. Perhaps there is life in the old Zog yet. He also won quite a few free kicks and set pieces. Good show Charles, even if it was Ipswich. Do enjoy your money this week by the way, it is yours after all. (I am so bitter on this point).
Mark Albrighton played mostly as a right attacking midfielder whilst wearing a cloak of invisibility. It is a cunning piece of trickery that he has employed before. As soon as the game started he completely disappeared. The Harry Potter theme was going off in my head as I ground my teeth
I spent a lot of time watching Bowery. He is not the quickest, though he's a big lug to be sure. He patrolled the left wing supported by Bennett and not up-top with Bent, where I expected him to be. Indeed, much of Villa's first half play involved first trying to release Bowery on the left which was odd. Then again, Eric and Albie were so dreadful on the right that the left side argument probably swung it. I also thought that Darren "DB9" Bent was mostly useless for the first 45 though playing at the top of this ragbag outfit, who wouldn't be. Through pass anyone?
Collectively, Villa were absolutely awful for the whole first half. They were a) disorganised b) sloppy c) using the ball badly, though after the Christmas we have all just had, I am sure that you are now sick of reading about it as much as I am writing it. Eric Lichaj had a particularly bad outing. His performance might well be described as an utter load of Hutton. Indeed, the versatile American looked as though he would be beaten all afternoon and would possibly have difficulty tracking a runner in led boots tied to him by rope.
Our best chance came from a Bent flick on and a Bowery shot, Loach making a top one handed save. Ipswich immediately broke on the counter down the right. Nathan Baker went to intercept Michael Chopra, got his run wrong, got his header wrong then sort of stumbled, allowing the Ipswich striker to send a low drive into the right corner, helped on its way by a flapping Lichaj. Chopra could have had a second if his far post volley had been better timed, though cat like Given stuck out a stretching palm to keep the game at 1-0. I was by now crying on the inside. It could be worse, I tell my self. The Mrs asks how. I mention two names: Enkleclown and Horsefield. Enough said.
Fabian Delph was as aerobic and agile as usual, demonstrating outstanding fitness throughout. Unfortunately his compass was off today as he was struggling to understand which way 'forward' was. (I'm starting to question it myself.) He also needed a few extra seconds to decide what to do which particularly annoyed the Mrs. As a result the ball went backward quite a lot to cries of 'Attack! Attack! Attack!' Maybe forward is a step too far for Fabian. Perhaps he should concentrate on sideways for a while and see how it goes. No rush son.
We went down to the concourse on 43 minutes as we couldn't take any more and I needed a wee, as did the Mrs though there was a massive cue for the ladies. Unlucky darts. No chips or beer today as we are now eating healthy. Half time snacks included a Special K red berry cereal bar and a banana (220 cal). Rubbish. The faithful half-time tea flask then came out in a bid to lighten flagging spirits. The Mrs and I looked at each other in a sort of moody silence whilst sipping away, at which point she blurted out "******* Ipswich, for God's Sake!" The betrayal of it all. [Note to head: I shall have to be more specific with the Aston Church Missionaries in future: Home Win, THEN a new midfielder.]
Something amazing then happened that has not been seen in these parts for some time. Charles N'Zogbia played a defence splitting through ball for DB9 51' seconds into the restart. Benty obliged by firing a pure perfect finish into the bottom right corner which caught just about everyone by surprise. A pattern though does seem to be emerging which consists of a) playing as rubbish as humanly possibly for around 30-45 minutes b) Coming out in the second half to try and save face/dig out a result. [delete as appropriate].
After the goal we then proceeded to batter Ipswich though we struggled to find the now proverbial 'cutting edge.' The work rate is as evident as ever though the forward runs were everywhere and nowhere with players failing to find the space, partly owing to the fact that they had pointed to the space they intended to run into or had sufficiently dithered enough with the ball, by which time the space 'did an Albrighton' and vanished, which left us relying on set pieces and corners, of which there were many.
Pluckmeister Bannan sent an array of balls toward Bowery at the back post though Villa couldn't make use of the knock backs or the scrambles that followed. Shots came from Bowery, Bennett and Agbonlahor who took the applause from the fans on his 62' minute return to action, replacing Bowery, who showed great potential. Good run out kid.
Immediately Agbonlahor's pace and penetration took Villa's game to a new level as Ipswich struggled to adjust. The tractor boys were by now pinned completely in the final third. Cries of "sit down shut up, sit down, shut up" from the Villa faithful (I salute all ye 24, 854 souls) had now been heeded by the Ipswich fans who were busy calculating how long it was going to take them to get home with that sinking feeling in their stomachs. [I approximate it's around a 3 hour drive in good traffic]
I was starting to think that the winner wouldn't come when Andi Weimann (who'd replaced injured Albrighton on 43' minutes) rescued the win. Having met Bennett's inviting cross he sent a looping header over Loach, grabbing the winner in the process. Huge relief went round the ground as the Austrian hitman took his pistol celebration to the corner flag. Villa had won a game in front of the Holte End for the first time since forever. Oh, Paul Lambert gave us a wave as well. I say wave though he really just sticks his arm in the air. Anyway, bloody good win.
Left the ground with a spring in my sneakers. Villa and I are friends all over again. The love is never in doubt but some times - well Villa drives me crazy. We headed home to a calorie controlled 'feast' and the Victory play list, on a clean and punctual train. Fingers crossed for either Aldershot or Barnsley at home in the 4th round.
Thanks for reading. UTV
Room for Improvement: Lichaj
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