Sunday, October 07, 2007

Villa Filler

Aston Villa 1 West Ham 0, Villa Park, Birmingham, Saturday October 6 2007, 3pm.

It's a sign of the times that this fixture was the only 3pm kick-off on the Saturday of a weekend of Premiership football, and your busy blogger only just squeezed it into his schedule between beers with friends watching the first half of the England rugby game and the Maps gig at Carling Academy 2. Didn't feel optimistic about the outcome of the game right from the getgo, and was proved right with a second successive 1-0 reverse at Villa Park in a game that neither side could really argue they deserved to win.

Our group got to the ground a bit late so we missed West Ham's disallowed goal, but it would have been against the run of play in a first half which Villa edged with their sharper forward play. Danny Gabbidon made his first Premiership start of the season but was harshly adjudged to have given a foul just outside the penalty area and his misery was compounded when he deflected Craig Gardner's resulting setpiece beyond the despairing reach of keeper Robert Green.

The second half was busy and competitive with the Hammers dominating possession but neither side having much joy creating clear-cut chances. Mark Noble was rested on the bench today but Hayden Mullins and Lee Bowyer toiled to little effect in the middle of the park and in the absence of Dyer and Bellamy we're not in the position of luxury to leave out the one remaining player who can provide a creative spark, particularly on an afternoon where the wide players were undistinguished and our forwards lacked mobility (Dean Ashton, it transpires, was carrying yet another injury and will almost certainly miss the upcoming England games).

The major plus was the Hammers support, who again did the team proud with constant boisterousness that put the lifeless home crowd to shame. Nigel Reo-Coker came in for particularly harsh treatment against his old club following his troubled term at the Boleyn Ground last year - 'Paul Ince! You're just a small Paul Ince! You're just a small Paul Ince!' proving the refrain of choice in the away end. The fact the little twerp wound up on the winning side proved to be a real Reo-Choker in the end however.

West Ham United player ratings: Green 7; Neill 5, Gabbidon 6, Upson 6, McCartney 6; Ljungberg 5, Mullins 6, Bowyer 6, Etherington 5; Ashton 6, Camara 5 (Cole 5). Noble and Boa Morte came on as late subs for Mullins and Etherington but weren't on long enough to properly assess performance.

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