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Premiership
Sunday, 10th September 2006

West Ham United 1
Aston Villa 1

by Nick Bull


Thumbs up to Alan Pardew. His post match comments regarding how the Media frenzy at the Boleyn in the past week affected the players were spot on. Aston Villa in September 2006 were always going to be a totally different prospect to the divided and inept side that visited East London nigh on a year to the day. Martin O’Neill has installed a visible belief in his side, and tactically they were far superior to West Ham in yesterday’s encounter. All three points were what I would have preferred from the game, but in hindsight just one certainly is welcome.

I hate being negative, but the first-half display was awful. At times, it simply seemed as if we were playing a top-drawer outfit. By that, I mean a side who will contest the Premiership title this season. Mark my words, the Brummies will finish within the first six places, Championship contenders they currently are not.

Their fans will see the result as two points dropped. Rightly so. Particularly in the opening forty-five, the fluidity of Villa’s passing and movement, along with their positional awareness and sheer willingness to engage in a battle was something the Irons simply could not compete with. Their team spirit was undeniably strong too – all the press stories about a divided dressing room over the summer seem a mile off. I may be harping on a bit about yesterday’s opposition, but, last season, all of the above were evident more often than not in our side’s play. If I saw any of these things for more than ten minutes yesterday, my GCSE maths skills are severely lacking, regardless of my B grade. Saying that, most children in the country are the same.

This is what really annoyed me whilst at Upton Park, and on the subsequent journey home. The Sky Cameras were present, the ground was pretty much full. Mr. MSI was present. The effect – negative. Falling behind deflated the crowd, Harewood’s phenomenal miss agitated the masses even more, half-time was even met with the return of the boo-boys. Thank goodness for the arrival of Carlos Tevez at 17.20.

The mere arrival of him and his Argentinean friend will not improve this side overnight. Integration is needed, and this comes with time. From what the faithful saw, Tevez will definitely be a talent – his confidence on the ball, along with his movement will terrorise defences. However, he is lacking match practice, possibly a few pounds over his physical peak and, most importantly, he is only human. Even so, it seemed as if too many wearing the Claret and Blue just wanted to give him the ball, simply because of his World Class reputation. One memory I’ve got from the game was Roy Carroll’s quick clearance from a Villa corner to a lone Tevez, who was marked by two centre-halves. He had virtually no chance of winning the ball. I wonder if Carroll would have done this if Zamora was the lone man up top. That aside, he actually had a strong game in goal, I just wish he’d command the defence more during set pieces. Regardless, it looks as if Robert Green may have to wait a little longer to make his debut.

Mascherano may be different. I’m positive that he will make his debut on Thursday night, either making way for either Bowyer or Reo-Coker. I suspect the latter may stay in because he is the Skipper, but neither really shone for me. Benayoun was muted, the effect of Villa system which hindered the lack of width in the side. Etherington was bought on to improve this, but the gamble failed. The midfield was getting overrun frequently, so bringing on a player for his first action of the season was a risk. The best player in the middle was Mullins, a few stray passes aside. He knows he is under threat, and his performance showed this. If only others were as fired up.

Oh, I nearly forgot- Gabbidon was. He is no one-season-wonder. I really would love to see him as a skipper too, I think he deserves more than a Trophy for last year’s Hammer of the Year. His colleague Anton was sound, but lost his man on occasions – Angel hitting the bar in the first half is a good example. The full backs were similar, both a bit hit and miss. We urgently need Benayoun on the right and a fully-fit Etherington on the left. This could be the only way the dynamism up the flanks from all four sided players so clear last year returns.

Having mentioned Tevez, his equivalents up top had an eventful afternoon, with little to show from it. Zamora created more luck scoring his fifth of the season. This aside, it was probably his worst performance in four. The same, sadly, is true for Marlon. Every week, I big him up, because I rate him. He just needs to value himself at the minute; and the best way to achieve this is by supporting him. Sadly, I think this will happen from the substitutes bench when European football comes back to Upton Park.



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Player Ratings

Roy Carroll
His start was surprising, considering pre-match news. Made some good saves during a busy game for the Irish goalkeeper.


Tyrone Mears
The manager has been aware that his crossing needs to improve. A lot of fans are as well informed now. Great save to stop Petrov from putting Villa 2-1 up.


Paul Konchesky
A sound performance, albeit lacking anything noteworthy.


Anton Ferdinand
Mixed afternoon; cleared vitally off of the line, but also fell asleep at times.


Danny Gabbidon
Man of the match for me, solid and secure in the heart of the back four.


Hayden Mullins
Fired up, determined and did what Hayden Mullins does best.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Quiet, very unassuming performance.


Lee Bowyer
Sadly morelike the Bowyer of 2003, not the one that started the season so well.


Yossi Benayoun
Given more of a free role at times, which did not help the lack of width in the side. His threat was muted brilliantly by Villa.


Bobby Zamora
Important goal, but otherwise an average display by the Premiership’s leading scorer.


Marlon Harewood
Oh Marlon. I hope and pray your time will come. Aston Villa were good to you last year, and that should have been the case yesterday. Head up, old boy.


Substitutes


Carlos Tevez
(Replaced Harewood, 61) Promising debut showed how strong he is with the ball at his feet.


Matthew Etherington
(Replaced Bowyer, 72) Clearly lacking match fitness, sloppy on the ball.


Carlton Cole
(Replaced Zamora, 83) Did little of note.


Robert Green
Did not play.


Javier Mascherano
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: S.Bennett.

Attendance: 34,576.

Man of the Match: Danny Gabbidon.

West Ham United

Roy Carroll, Tyrone Mears, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Lee Bowyer, Yossi Benayoun, Bobby Zamora, Marlon Harewood.

Goals: Bobby Zamora 52                  .

Booked: Hayden Mullins 46 Bobby Zamora 58        .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Aston Villa

Sorensen; Ridgewell, Barry, Mellberg, Laursen; Davis, McCann, Agbonhalor, Petrov; Moore, Angel.

Substitutes: Baros (Angel 81).

Subs not used: Gardner, Whittingham, Taylor, Berger.

Goals: Ridgewell (4).

Booked: Barry (26), McCann (55).

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
Nick Bull's Man of the Match: Danny Gabbidon