Monday, October 24, 2011

Derby Day Blues


On Saturday we went to the big Derby match of the weekend when Villa took on West Brom at Villa Park. All in all we had a good day out, although the result wasn't great and the refereeing from Phil Dowd would have embarrassed a referee at County League level.

Villa started off well enough and dominated the opening exchanges, although N'Zogbia and Hutton quite frankly looked out of their depth even when Villa were fully in control of the game. Villa duly took the lead when Gabby Agbonlahor was fouled in the box (the foul is shown at the top of the page) and Darren Bent popped the penalty away in style to make it 1-0 on 23 minutes.

Villa were looking comfortable, but seemed to lack the creativity of a wide man, whether N'Zogbia really is out of his depth or Mc.Leish and his disregard of the Villa tradition of exciting wing play is the problem only time will tell.

Baggies had felt aggrieved on 19 minutes when Shane Long limped off after a tackle from Alan Hutton, I think he got the ball, but it was a bit reckless and to be honest along with N'Zogbia he seemed like the weakest link as he seemed to panic every time Baggies were on the attack. That said Bannan and Petrov were controlling midfield and Dunne and Collins looked solid enough in defence; Agbonlahor was causing problems to the Baggies defence and Bent despite missing some good chances was at least in the right place.

All that changed though on 36 minutes when Chris Herd was sent off. As I was in the North Stand and it happened at the Holte End we presumed that he had done something diabolical, but as it happened Phil Dowd decided that he would send him off for apparently no reason at all and give the Baggies a penalty. It wasn't enough of a favour for Baggies though, well not yet, as Chris Brunt took probably one of the worst penalties I have ever seen and blasted the ball high and wide. You have to also remember that most weeks I watch Step 5 football at a club with the worst penalty conversions in their league and even some of their bloopers weren't as bad as Brunt's effort.

The sense of shadenfreude wasn't to last though as on 41 minutes Villa's Laurel and Hardy aka Hutton and N'Zogbia clumsily clashed heads. Some good came of it though as Carlos Cuellar replaced Hutton and it was great to see the Spaniard back and he did do a lot better job of being the right back for the remainder of the game. There was more pain to come though when Baggies equalised on the stroke of half time when left back Jonas Olsson, who is rapidly becoming one of my least favourite players out jumped the Villa defence and slotted home an equaliser.

I had thought that Villa if they could have held until half time might have regrouped and manage to battle on, but the equaliser and the sending off meant that it was always going to be hard. Solomen Tchoyi, who replaced the injured Shane Long was looking more effective than the man he had replaced and Shay Given was going to have to be on top form. Luckily Given was, but as the Olsson goal illustrated despite being one of the best shot stoppers in the game he is a bit dodgy on crosses.

The second half got under way and Villa were under the cosh from the off. The sending off meant that they started to bypass midfield and Barry Bannan and Stylian Petrov were clearly feeling the pressure. Tchoyi continued to press and Dunne, Collins and Cuellar, who despite playing really well was lacking match fitness were under constant pressure. Inevitably Baggies scored through a crossed ball to Paul Scharner on 57 minutes.

If Villa were going to get back into the game there was going to need to be a bit of creativity in midfield and a bit of play down the wings, luckily Marc Albrighton was warming up, but unluckily Mc.Leish decided to put Heskey on.

Villa did buck up a bit and Albrighton did come on on 78 minutes and made a difference after Barry Bannan had ran himself into the ground, but playing for the best part of the game with 10 men and Mc.Leish continuing to play without wingers meant that the result went to the Albion. Thanks Phil Dowd for ruining the game and Alex Mc.Leish, the wingless play may have got a result against Wigan, but it can't continue. N'Zogbia and Ireland, who have been so disappointing for Villa might stand a chance if we played to their strengths and why not use Albrighton more?

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