What a disappointing result. Over the course of 90 minutes Villa showed the best and worst of their season to date. Clumsy defending, poor decision making and our newly acquired skill of over playing all let us down in this fixture. And whilst all is not lost in what is another point towards safety, our recent resurgence appears to have lost its momentum.
Villa started positively and passed the ball well on a poor pitch. Makoun moved the play well and continued on recent form to impress with tidy link up play and precision passes all over the field. Downing and Walker also appeared to have the freedom of Blackpool’s right hand flank and picked and probed at will.
It was Agbonlahor who found the net to give us the lead, running onto a flicked Bent pass before rolling the ball into the far corner beyond two sliding Blackpool defenders. It wasn’t a clinical finish but it saw Gabby, who has been maligned in some quarters of late, back on the scoresheet – and with it – linking up well with Darren Bent in the process. All was largely positive to this point, cigars were in the process of being lit, legs outstretched, the corks on champagne loosened…
And then Villa once again conceded from a corner. Knocked in leisurely by Charlie Adam, the ball was headed in with total ease at the near post. Once again a goal from an opposition side that was effortless in terms of its craft. And not for the first time questions were being asked of our back line.
The puzzling thing is that Villa were under no pressure for the remainder of the first half, yet failed to capitalise. We picked and probed, the midfield continued to tick and Downing looked in better form than of late, clipping the outside of the post with a curling shot from the edge of the area after good solo work.
Stewart Downing, however, does continue to frustrate and for all of his positive runs, he too often chooses the wrong pass or opts to shoot instead of laying off. Downing soon found himself one on one with the keeper, the goal gaped, Bent lay open to his left – the ball was driven straight on Kingson. Hair was pulled out.
As the half time whistle went Villa went in at very much on top of the game, but once again ruing poor individual lapses of concentration. Blackpool looked like a team on a bad run – often going deep when pressed and playing hopeful passes straight back to us. In short, Villa were largely untroubled.
The teams returned and play resumed in a similar fashion. The fixture was hardly exhilarating but Villa seemed to be biding their time, confident that a chance would eventually come to seal the tie. And then things started to go wrong.
Jean Makoun make a clumsy late challenge on Blues reject DJ Campbell. Opinion appear to be divided between the old school and new school views on red cards. My take was that although Makoun used two feet it wasn’t reckless or with any intent. I am by no means saying it was harsh, but was the challenge any worse than the one made on Ashley Young later in the match – the difference being Young jumped the tackle and the defender took the ball. Nor indeed the challenge that Makoun himself won in the first half on the edge of the box.
However, the ins and outs of the increasingly blurry laws of the game aside, Howard Webb produced an instant red card and Villa lost their way thereafter. Heskey replaced Bent to raised eyebrows. Bradley made his debut and appeared to be thrown a little into the deep end and the game descended into the catagory of “shoulda, coulda, woulda…”
In fairness to Villa, we never looked like conceding even with ten men. But we had lost any sort of momentum. Heskey provided little when the problem had been service for his predecessor Bent all afternoon, Downing was largely anonymous for the second half and Young’s petulance again got the better of him.
For you see; Young is his own worst enemy. Constantly whining, going to ground too easily and a display of childish time-wasting when taking a corner – these things will not endear you to referees. He collected another pointless booking and was denied a potential penalty deep into injury time when on another day, who knows…perhaps if he hadn’t annoyed everyone, including referee Webb, it might have been given.
As the full time whistle went Villa fans were collectively left feeling disappointed. What had started as a promising showing had descended into a scrappy affair where once again we were the masters of our own downfall. And whilst the away point is welcome there can be no denying that we would have hoped for more than two to show from the Fulham and Blackpool fixtures.
Next up is Blackburn Rovers (yes…again!) in a fortnights time at Villa Park – and having looked at the table – all of a sudden three points look like a priority.
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