Monday, January 16, 2006

Aston Smartin' V2

Last time I was at Villa Park back in the autumn of 2002 West Ham were on the receiving end of a humbling 4-1 reverse that forced me to contemplate the realistic prospect of relegation (a prediction that was sadly and cruelly realised). Back in the division where they belong and over three years on, the omens weren't looking promising for Saturday's clash - after a tepid start to the season the Villans had tapped into a rich vein of form, while the visiting Hammers were on their worst run this term following three successive Premiership defeats. Meeting up with some of the Hammers faithful in The Wellington before the game, we all gloomily agreed that at home, and with revenge on their minds following their 4-0 humiliation at Upton Park earlier in the season, Villa were clear favourites for a comfortable victory.

Despite never really taking command of the game, Villa indeed sneaked into the lead thanks to a glancing header from Lee Hendrie completely bamboozling a flat-footed Roy Carroll in the West Ham goal. If the game threatened to peter out into a facile home victory, this was clearly what the Villa players were hoping for as they came out for the second half in cruise mode, allowing the Hammers to step up the gears and ease past their opponents with a Bobby Zamora header and a Marlon Harewood penalty during a period in which Villa gaffer David O'Leary conceded his men were comprehensively 'outfought'. The sizeable away contingent of West Ham fans went absolutely crazy at an unexpected win, arguably their most important of the season (apart from the opening day comeback against Blackburn Rovers) in that the three points has stopped the rot of successive defeats and now sees us twelve points away from the dropzone with over half the season gone.

Still smiling from the game, stayed on in Brum to seek out The Truth, a new British movie starring Elaine Cassidy (the soft-nosed Irish actress from Fingersmith and The Ghost Squad) as a wheelchair user who signs up to a self-help group in a remote location but finds more than psychobabble and tofu on the menu when a fellow guest is found strangled and it emerges there's a murderer in the group. It's an unusual film, with good performances and an intermittingly gripping plot, but as is often the case The Truth ultimately proves unsatisfactory. As a satire on therapy groups it's about twenty years too late aside from the fact it's just not very funny, while the excessive length and strained attempts at comedy of embarrassment means writer/director George Milton can never quite sustain the level of tension needed to make this a truly effective thriller/whodunnit. An intriguing misfire, however, and it's good to see the underused Elizabeth McGovern back in something approaching a leading role.


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