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Saturday, 7th April 2001

Aston Villa 2
West Ham United 2

by Liam Tyrell

One point won or two points lost ? Certainly the latter when you look at Di Canio's miss that would have made the game safe for us at 2-0. Whatever it's stopped the rot and was a display that should have convinced the large loyal travelling Irons that the unthinkable threat of relegation will easily be avoided.

As expected changes were made and a 4-4-2 formation saw Mad Moncs start at the expense of Joe Cole whilst the Foxe was back in Oz before he's had time to settle in. We started well enough with our main attacking threat coming from Schemmel but he was caught offside too often out on the right. Freddie was doing a great job holding it up dropping off and spinning away on his runs but once again lacked real support. The first half ended without either side creating any goalmouth action of any note. There was plenty of endeavour and passing in midfield but some poor final balls. The absolute disgrace of a referee, Rob Harris, was doing his bit to spoil the game however. He gave
no consideration for the wet surface and blowing up for nothing challenges. I'm convinced he booked Moncs early on but no mention on any teletext pages so perhaps he messed that up too.

At half time Harry Redknapp may well have instructed the troops to step
up a gear as Villa were clearly there for the taking. Straight from the off
we progressed down the right, Kanoute Schemmel and Lampard worked it neatly to the byeline before Lampard advanced and delivered a fine cross for Freddie to steer in confidently. 1-0 to the Cockney Boys with our first goal in 6 hours 46 minutes of league action.

We were buzzing now and well on top, the game should have been sown up when Moncurs cross again from the right was deflected by James to Paolo who inexplicably steered it over the bar from 7 yards out. A crucial miss, at 2-0 it would have been game over.

That and a series of shockers by Rolf Harris stopped us from taking
complete control. Twice he and his incompetent assistants denied us blatant corners. One shot diverted wide off two Villa defenders, Moncurs close range effort also took a big deflection off Delaney over the bar but again no corner.

All the more infuriating then when Villa went on to level and lead within
the space of 10 minutes.Hammer of the Year Psycho was at fault for both . He needlessly dived in on the edge of the box to concede the free kick from which Ginola scored then the Frenhmans cross was deflected by Pearce into the path of an unmarked Hendrie. After all the hard work and being in control we were staring at another sad defeat. We threatened to collapse at this stage, unable to keep possession Villa took the initative and came close to sealing things. However great spirit and character was shown and the introduction of Cole for the unlucky Schemmel certainly helped.

Harris was up to his tricks still though, Di Canio cleanly won the ball, free kick. Song and Cole both booked for nothing challenges then he showed his complete lack of control when we were awarded a free kick after dwarfman passed back to Calamity. It was level with the penalty spot yet Harris was happy to let the Villa wall stand on the 6 yard line. Maths was clearly not on the curriculum at Harris' Dumbtown High School. How the hell is he still in charge at Premiership level after the lengthy list of Harris howlers continues to grow?

His next mistake was not booking the Villa man as Cole was hacked down en route to the penalty area. Pearce was able to make up or his earlier errors by sending over a perfect cross from which Stimac hit the foot of the post, fortunately Frank Lamp was in the right place to steer home a deserved leveller. Three minutes from time with five added left we were back in control and looking to win it.

So shame about the Di Canio miss as that would have secured a much needed win, but some encouraging signs especially the fightback at the end and the strong influence Frank Lampard had on the game.

Player Ratings

Hislop 6 - Little to do, still not commanding enough, doesn't look
happy.

Song 7 - Contained Ginola well for most of the game. Let himself
down with some panicky rushed clearances though, only downside to a good display.

Stimac 7 - Solid, no big man to mark, prevented nippy Joachim racing
away several times with tidy last ditch blocks.

Pearce S 6 - Spoilt a fairly solid display by costing us dearly with another unneccesary foul for Ginola free kick and didn't get enough on
cross for the 2nd either.

Winterburn 7 - Yet another busy tidy game , subdued the subbed Stone.My Hammer of the Year, the probable runner up of the award.

Schemmel 7 - Our main attacking threat, very neat again with his link
up play, offsides let him down. Also managed to double up with Song to snuff out the French diving champ. Didn't deserve to be subbed.

LAMPARD 8 - A real 10m plus display. Leeds keep your filthy scummy hands off, what are we their nursery side or something ? Tireless energetic display from Frank, he was everywhere, goal and assist just reward. Knockers take note.

Carrick 7 - Impressive, composed always finding space and winning tackles.

Moncur 7 - Busy too like Michael and Frank, kept the ball moving in
the middle and managed to get forward well too, not sure if he was meant to do that though.

Di Canio 6 - Still struggling for form, gave the ball away far too easily. Did try to do his bit tracking back but unable to support Freddie boy
much. Sure to have nightmares about that miss , I know I will.

Kanoute 8 - Had his dribbling boots on. Manfully worked away on his lonesome, holding the ball up spinning off on his mazy runs. Took goal
well, needs and deserves more support.

Subs

Soma for Di Canio (90 mins)

Cole for Schemmel (79). Looked drained versus Everton so no
surprise to be bench warming. Vital introduction though and did the trick with plenty of probing and won the free kick for the deserved equalizer.

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