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The Hawthorns


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Glensider At The Hawthorns

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, let It Snow.

So, was it a point gained fellow Vital Villans, or another two points needlessly tossed away? Sadly I have to go with the latter, as once again we failed to drive home our advantage, gained during the course of a fairly impressive first half performance. After the break we failed to shut up shop at the back, stopped working and chasing, allowing West Bromwich to get back into the game, press us back, and ultimately those all too familiar defensive lapses reared their ugly head yet again to cost us dear.

Sixteen Cup Finals. Yes, I accept that those words communicate an extremely well worn cliché, but sixteen such high pressure games are what lay ahead of us between now, and seasons end on Sunday May 19th. From The Hawthorns through to the DW Stadium, no quarter can be asked, no quarter will be given. Clubs who currently find themselves struggling at the wrong end of the premier league table, including of course, for the third successive campaign our good selves, will battle to secure the necessary points total to ensure that they will be playing premier league football when the new campaign kicks off next August. Sixteen Cup Finals. And I`m not including the two domestic cup competitions, in which of course we still maintain a varying degree of interest.

So, no time, room or place for faint hearts. It wont be easy, it wont be pretty, but now is the time for the talking to stop, the excuses to cease, because all that matters is the end result of each and every game, starting right now, at the home of our good friends and neighbours, West Bromwich Albion.

Situated at an altitude of 551 feet above sea level, The Hawthorns is the highest of all the Premier League and Football League grounds, with a ground capacity of just over 26,000. As per usual, the claret and blue faithful were housed in the Smethwick Road end, a stand which I first visited back in May 1963, to see us get beat by The Throstles, 1-0. In fact it wasn`t until the 1977-78 season that I saw our first victory there, a 3-0 success. Up until that point I`d visited The Hawthorns on ten occasions, eight league, two League Cup, seen us draw just the twice, and sadly lose the rest, including an extremely humiliating 6-1 reversal in September 1966, a second round League Cup tie.

Well it`s hardly an 'away` game is it, the two stadiums being just what? Four miles apart, if that. Still, my lot is to provide an away day match article whenever the situation demands, so with apologies for my somewhat condensed away-day version, and with the promise that normal service will be resumed on Friday next when we drive down to South Bermondsey for the fourth round F.A. Cup tie, lets get back to the weekend`s important business, Steve Clarke`s Baggies versus Paul Lambert`s Lions.

Might be just a mini away-day drive, but it`s still the same old four of us who hop into Gary`s jalopy for the scenic drive through my old stomping ground, Royal Great Barr, making a brief sojourn at The Towers public house on the Walsall Road, before hitting the Newton Road, exposing our passports to the authorities, and entering Sandwell.

We parked just down from the nature reserve, and joined the other hearty souls who had braved the elements to cheer on their favourites. Slipping and sliding was definitely the way to go, and Andy reminded us that the last time we had ventured to The Hawthorns in such conditions was for an F.A. Cup fifth round second replay against Wolverhampton Wanderers back in 1965. We lost 3-1, on a snow covered pitch, and from rather treacherous terraces that wouldn`t be o.k.`d nowadays. Hughie Mcllmoyle notched a hat-trick for the Wolves. Bobby Park replied for us. Not a good night.

Gary commented that he hadn`t ventured to The Hawthorns with such trepidation since the days of Albion hero`s Jeff Astle, Bomber Brown, Chippy Clark, Bobby Hope and John Kaye. I seconded that, while the ever optimistic Neil said, 'No, we`ll win today, convincingly too`.

Plenty of Villans to enter into conversation with, as we continued our trek through the winter wasteland, all expressing concern at our current predicament, all having varying degrees of optimism as to whether or not we`ll escape the plunge into the lower league. We even fell into step with friend Neil`s next door neighbour neighbour Mike, a Baggie, and his two sons, both young Villans, who were today attending their first Villa away game.

Following last weekend`s disappointing home reversal, Paul Lambert decided upon the following starting line-up, in a desperate attempt to strike upon that winning formula, and allow us to breathe new life into our season:-

Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Baker, Bennett, Westwood, Agbonlahor, Delph, N`Zogbia, and Benteke.

The reinforcements on the bench consisted of Marshall, Lichaj, Ireland, Bannan, Holman, Bowery, and Bent.

Before the kick-off both sets of players and fans paid their respects to Albion great Derek Kevan, a guy who really knew how to find the back of the net. He had passed away recently, something I had somehow missed, aged 77.

The game got underway on a biting, bitterly cold afternoon with our lads attacking the Brummie Road end, and we actually came out of the traps quite brightly. Gabby burst down the left, beat his man and swung the ball in. Unfortunately there was no one getting in on goal to meet his cross.

We suffered an early blow though when Baker injured himself as Odemwingie took the ball past him, earning the home lot a corner. Eric Lichaj came on for the unfortunate Baker, before the referee allowed the Albion corner to be taken.

For the Baggies Odemwingie and Jones linked up nicely on the right, but fortunately for us Jones ran the ball out for a goal kick.

With Albion starting to get into the game, we took the lead thanks to a superb Christian Benteke effort in the tenth minute.

Charles N'Zogbia slid the ball inside to the Belgian powerhouse, who with his back to goal, twisted, turned, and fired in a stunning effort from the edge of the box, which gave Ben Foster no chance to save.

A great start, just exactly what we had needed.

As The Throstles attempted to get back into the game, we failed to clear an Albion corner, and their on loan Belgian Lukaku was able to hook the ball over his shoulder, but we breathed again as the effort flew straight at Brad Guzan.

Olsson and Gabby exchanged phone numbers, as tempers got a little heated after Gabby had claimed for a handball against the West Brom defender. The incident earned them both a yellow card.

On the thirty minute mark we doubled our lead. The impressive N`Zogbia fed Gabby, who turned McAuley inside out, and slid the ball past Foster into the Brummie Road end goal. Celebrations up the Smethwick.

We were restricting the Baggies to little more than potshots. Odemwingie layed the ball off to Dorrans, who sent a woeful effort way over the bar.

Definitely a case of so far so good.

Just before the break we should scored goal number three. Charles N'Zogbia, enjoying a superb game, did brilliantly on the right before finding Eric Lichaj. Unfortunately he hit the ball straight at Ben Foster, when in truth he should have done much better. A golden chance wasted.

Lukaku then lost control of the ball and lunged in on Charlie- boy. From where we were it looked quite nasty, with plenty of studs showing.

It was definitely high, and N'Zogbia had to receive treatment for the lunge. The Chelsea striker was lucky to escape with a yellow. Many referee`s would have shown him red, and why Probert didn`t was something of a mystery.

So 2-0 at the interval, but as we have the nasty habit of conceding goals for fun after the break, we weren`t getting ahead of ourselves just yet. We had overcome the loss of Nathan Baker, and while I am personally not a big fan of Eric Lichaj, our defence had performed well, and looked quite relaxed and comfortable.

The Baggies came out of the blocks flying as the second period got underway, and within five minutes they were right back into the contest. Odemwingie did well out wide, and he found Lukaku. He squared the ball back to Brunt, who was pushing forward from midfield, and he tucked away a fine left footed effort which seemed to clip Brad`s right post as it flew in.

We were coming under pressure now, but the pace of N'Zogbia and Agbonlahor on the break was causing Albion problems. Indeed every time N`Zogbia collected the ball he was willing to run at and take on the opposition, something we haven`t been able to say all that often about Charles. He was looking quite a threat.

Barry Bannan came on for Fabian Delph, but Barry disappointed during his thirty five minutes or so on the pitch. He looked decidely sluggish, and just didn`t get involved.

Eric Lichaj committed one of his all too familiar cynical fouls and picked up a yellow, as the home team continued to push us back.

Gabby almost notched his second of the evening, after he and N'Zogbia found themselves two-on-two with home defenders. Gabby decided to go it alone, steamed past ex-Villan Ridgewell, but put his effort straight into the hands of Foster. Another opportunity lost.

Joe Bennett headed a McAuley effort of the line, and as a few niggly tackles started to fly in, Matty Lowton and the Baggies Dorran found themselves picking up unnecessary yellows.

Odemwingie wasted a great opportunity to tie things up. He got on the end of a long ball, and bearing down on Brad`s goal, he took the ball past our 'keeper, and pretty much had the goal at his mercy. From a tight angle though, he could only fire high into the Birmingham Road end.

Brett Holman came on for Charles N`Zogbia, a switch that didn`t go down too well with the travelling Villans, and immediately
Christian Benteke cleverly back-heeled the ball to the incoming Aussie. He wasted the opportunity though, by shooting wildly way over the bar. Another chance thrown away.

Finally the goal that Albion had been threatening arrived on the eighty minute mark. Gareth McAuley, with time and acres of space allowed him, knocked the ball down from a corner, and Odemwingie was first to react, hooking the ball home from close range. That defence of ours!

Disappointing. Frustrating. All the all too familiar emotions. I suppose though that we should be used to it by now.

In the end the result was probably fair. West Bromwich were the better team second half, but inspired showings from N'Zogbia, Benteke, and Agbonlahor during the first forty five ensured we were the better, more threatening team before the break.

So we hiked back to the car to make the short drive home, thankful that we were spared a long haul back to Brum on this wintery evening.

Most Villans were questioning N`Zogbia`s withdrawal, and the fact that second half again we failed to continue the form of the first half. We`d looked better with Ron Vlaar back in the team, but that defence is still far from adequate, even though of course the loss of young Baker was a blow.

So, thoughts now turn to the two domestic Cup competitions. Here`s hoping that we over-turn that two goal deficit on Tuesday evening, in what promises to be one of those very special Villa Park nights, and then yours truly will be back with you following our drive down to South Bermondsey for Friday nights F.A. Cup fourth round tie.

Have yourselves a great week guys. Keep warm. Up the Villa!

The Journalist

Writer: Glensider Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Saturday January 19 2013

Time: 10:50PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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Fine report as always GS. What a shame Lichaj didn't put his chance away.
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20/01/2013 09:08:00

Another Saturday night ruined by another Villa collapse. I am not sure what Lambert says to his boys but it seems not to be working. Thanks to GS and his fellow-mushers for the report.
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20/01/2013 09:41:00

was a rubbish result considering how much we dominated but two massive positives for me. vlaar being back will sort us out, dunno what happened 2nd half but first half we looked solid.second gabby looked the business. get him back on form and will help out immensly.
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20/01/2013 10:25:00

Great report GS. God, I was depressed after that second half. Lichaj was dreadful though on a positive note N'Zogbia was excellent in the hole.
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20/01/2013 10:27:00

You are so right Glensider about Bannan, not consistent enough for the premier league. Just hope we can pick up someone for the midfield this Jan.
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20/01/2013 10:48:00

Spot on Gs as always,fair result in the end as you say,should nave won it and it was two points lost.Glad to see Inzobia starting to pull his finger out,about time too.
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20/01/2013 10:55:00

Great credit to the Villans at the match. Watched on TV and I don't think I heard the West Brom fans at all. Fantastic noise! Think you guys sang Christian Benteke for 10 minutes straight!
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20/01/2013 10:58:00

Vlaar's role yesterday was akin to that of the fluffer on the porn industry, arousing a 'stiffer' response when it comes to 'getting into character'. N'Zog was great but was bullied out of it 2nd half, principally the Baggies got a lot closer. Yep, we need a defensive midfielder, 'poor Barry, his mom should really give him a not to be excused playing with the big boys' but signs, which have been intermittently there all season, are there.
Mervin King's Pocket
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20/01/2013 11:02:00

Thank Glensider - great report. I really enjoy how by going back in history, you put things in perspective. I would have taken a point before the game TBH. had we been 2:0 down and come back to 2:2 people would have been quite excited. Hope things go well for the team and fans in Bermondsey, another area which has been tarted up - sorry, 'gentrified'. The disappointing thing about Tuesday is that we will have to play our First XI, when, ideally, they should be getting a rest, especially Benteke who has played every game, and Vlaar, who has just come back. We need our strongest team for the game against the Geordies.
Forest Hill Villan
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20/01/2013 12:27:00

Great report again as usual Glensider. On such a short trip, you didn't have chance to play any music I note...Lol It was oe of those matches where we didn't want half time... we could of played straight though and won.... Two points lost, one gained as I expected Baggies to win TBH.
Pride of Lions
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20/01/2013 12:53:00

Lowton is a liability
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20/01/2013 13:01:00

Another quality report...
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20/01/2013 13:29:00

great report as always... disappointing two points dropped but onwards gents, onwards.
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20/01/2013 14:58:00

Great read GS, always enjoy the detail and honesty of these articles, And whilst im happy we did not lose otherwise my life would not be worth living as im surrounded by them baggies, i am so gutted we just can not defend and our midfield lacks steel, surely a defender and midfielder are needed before the transfer window shuts??? But hey i have been moaning for us to sign someone for ages so i will shut up, Glad to see NZog finally showing what he can do,and Gabby wow he looked like lightening lol great goals scored and poor conceeded
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20/01/2013 16:01:00

Who voted Bannan at MOTM? Is this some kind of sick joke, I hope it is.
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20/01/2013 19:32:00

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20/01/2013 19:32:00

* as ...Not sure why I put Bannan, sorry about the multiple posts.
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20/01/2013 19:52:00

The game became a quesion of survival, the very moment that Brunt brought the score back to 1-2 early in the second half. That shouldn't have been the case, but sadly all too often it is. We are not comfortable even with a two goal lead, and until Lambert remedies that failing, and my opinion is that he has just ten days to do just that, then relegation will remain a very real probability. Agree P.Avfc, anyone who voted for young Barry is clealy enjoying a rather unfunny joke, or is on the wind up. He was awful, little more than a passenger. At least up until the time of writing this note, no one has insulted our intelligence any further by nominating Eric Lichaj.
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20/01/2013 20:41:00

Thanks for all of the comments chaps. No Pride of Lions, sadly no time for musical in car entertainment yesterday. We shall though very much make up for its absence as we travel to and from Millwall on Friday next.
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20/01/2013 20:43:00

Glen that 1965 defeat in the cup to Wolves is one of my most painful memories but I have to say 1st half yesterday gives me some hope,so onwards and upwards with the villa and I think we will just make it,at this stage cups are irrelevent ,they are a bonus,lets stay up....we are the VILLA.
mc parland
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21/01/2013 01:05:00

Glad that that brought back the memories mc parland, and delighed that I wasn't the only Vital Villan at the snowy Hawthorns that night. I'd been to the two previous games, the 1-1 at Villa Park, and the 0-0 replay at the Molinuex, and in both games we'd had more than enough chances to secure progress to the quarter-finals, and a home tie against Manchester United. We were favourites to win the second replay, but it wasn't to be. Still cant believe that the game was played that night. The conditions were atrocious, with (as my American better half would say) 'snow out the wazoo'.
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21/01/2013 06:10:00

Good report as always Glensider hope you were well treated at "my local" Hope those 2 points along with the 2 at Swansea dont come back to haunt us.
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21/01/2013 11:20:00

Fantastic read Glen. I seem to remember well a FA cup tie against the baggies on a Wednesday night, in 1985/86 was it ? When we had to abandon the car at Sandwell Valley and trudge in the snow to get to the ground with the game started and hearing a goal going in whilst still at the turnstiles. If i remember well we won the game 2-1 and then signed the Baggies player who scored the goal in the following few weeks. Can't remember his name ....Steve somebody rings a bell. Maybe signed by graham turner who sent us down last time .... lets hope this is not an omen.
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21/01/2013 13:26:00

Thank you tvrwhitey. Off the top of my head you're talking about the League Cup tie at The Hawthorns, fourth round, late November 1985. We'd drawn 2-2 at Villa Park, and won the replay 2-1 at their place. Steve Hunt is the player you're thinking of. He started his career at Villa Park back in 1972 or 73, and left us for the first time probably around 77 or 78. He moved to America and the New York Cosmos, returning to England to join Covenry City. He returned to Villa Park in '86.
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21/01/2013 19:01:00


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