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Season 2002-03 
Match Report 2002-03 - Aston Villa (h) 

Monday 21st April 2003, 3.00pm.

St. James' Park

Conditions: Implosive. Poor start to the day  gave way to sunshine by kick-off. And a fat lot of good that did us.


Newcastle United 1 - 1 Aston Villa


37 mins Gareth Barry held back Dyer and Jeff Winter awarded us the free-kick. Barry booted the ball away, was promptly booked and that show of dissent saw the free-kick advanced ten yards towards the Gallowgate end. Cue Nobby who fancied his chances and promptly curled it over the wall and into the opposite corner to the one Enckelman was protecting. Perfect. 1-0

Half time:  Newcastle  1  Aston Villa  0

69 mins The recently-arrived Dublin wriggled free of his marker from a free-kick and had an unchallenged header that he did well to steer into the far corner. Repeated reviews of the goal don't confirm who should have been marking Dion, but Andy Townsend pointed the finger at Bramble on "the Premiership." 1-1

Full time:  Newcastle  1  Aston Villa  1

We Said

Sir Bobby said:

"I said two weeks ago that we needed three victories and a draw from the next five games to ensure it. Well, we've got one point, so it would appear that we need three victories from the last three games.

"On paper, we've got a team that's capable of doing it - but we don't play on paper. Yes, we've dropped two points and it's disappointing, but it's gone and we just have to look forward to the next three games.

"Nine points will do it, but it might be less because I'm saying nine points on the basis that all the other teams pick up maximum points as well.

"But they might not do that, so nine points might not be what is required. But that's what we've got to set ourselves as a target, and that's the agenda.

"It was a clever free-kick by Nobby, but it was never easy. Their victory against Chelsea obviously motivated them and they were up for it and they fought very hard.

"We lost Dublin on the back post, the one dangerous header of all that they could have mustered against us, which is hard to take, really.

"Everybody has voiced their opinion in the dressing room as to what went wrong and we will watch the video with interest. There's a lot of anxiety around the place and a few nerves are frayed.

"There's tension in the air and we can't hide it or hide from it. It won't be possible to reduce the tension with a derby coming up, but we've been through it before and we must come through it again"

"But it's over now and we must move on. We had lost Alan and Jonathan so there were a few changes which had to be made at set-pieces but it was still a poor goal to concede. Alan has had to have four stitches and may be required to wear some kind of protection against Sunderland, but he should be OK for the derby.

"I'm glad we can't put Mick McCarthy's side down because I wouldn't have wanted to do that. But we have to be ruthless and make sure we win on Wearside." 

They Said

Graham Taylor said:

"I have great respect, like most people do, for Bobby. I've known him all of my life - even when I started out he was there.

"I can understand the frustration here. Everybody at this club is wanting to push on and push upwards. It's taken major strides forward, this club, the stadium.

"They have done so, so well - but with that comes the weight of expectancy.

"I thought it was a good point for us, one that we never looked like we were going to get in the first half.".

"The 90 minutes today has pretty well represented our very inconsistent season. In the first half, we played as though we were very much letting things happen and in the second half, we played to make things happen.

"The inconsistency of our season has been a major disappointment. We've taken points off all of the six top teams now and we're in 13th position and have been looking over our shoulders.

"We were getting dragged into a relegation battle - it's crazy. It's been crazy because we shouldn't be down there.

"Twelve games ago, we won at Middlesbrough - which still remains our only league win away from home, so that tells you our problem.

“Dion took it very well. I couldn’t necessarily see us getting back into it, but we just wanted to change it a little bit and tried to make Dion the focus of our attack.

“We thought we might get some joy and it was a well worked free-kick.

“At one stage I wondered how we were going to get back in it because one away win all season isn’t going to get you anywhere but the bottom half of the table.

“I thought we might be put under more pressure by Newcastle and that’s what disappointed me about giving the goal away. It was self-inflicted.”

Talking about the Barry incident that led to our goal:

"It was an absolutely crazy lack of discipline. There’s no excuse for professional footballers not knowing that if a referee gives a decision and you show dissent, you are going to be cautioned and they are going to walk the ball 10 yards further to your goal.

“It was a completely unnecessary caution and I see it as a lack of professionalism. People say they don’t mean those things, but I’m sorry it’s a lack of professionalism.

“I thought it was best to leave Barry in the dressing room because he’d given the goal away, had to have his cut seen to and is suspended anyway for the next two games.

“Plus Peter Whittingham is only 18 and has potential.”

Match Stats

Our 500th draw at St.James' Park in all competitions.

Season stats (Premiership):

Bellamy: 25 starts, 7 goals, 1 goal in last 12.
Dyer: 30 starts, 2 goals, 2 goals in last 36.
Solano: 26 starts, 6 goals, 4 goals in last 13.
Viana: 8 starts, 0 goals.

Non combatants:
Jenas: 20 starts, 5 goals.
Speed: 23 starts, 2 goals.
Robert: 25 starts, 5 goals.

We failed to beat Villa for only the second time at SJP in the Premiership: 

2002/03: Drew 1-1 Solano
2001/02: Won 3-0 Bellamy 2, Shearer
2000/01: Won 3-1 Glass, Cort, og
1999/00: Lost 0-1 No scorer
1998/99: Won 2-1 Shearer, Ketsbaia
Won 1-0 Beresford
1996/97: Won 4-3 Ferdinand 2, Shearer, Howey
1995/96: Won 1-0 Ferdinand
1994/95: Won 3-1 Venison, Beardsley 2
1993/94: Won 5-1 Bracewell, Beardsley 2, Cole, Sellars.

Our second home draw of the season, the first coming against Arsenal, also 1-1. With one game to play on our own ground our record is W14 L2 D2. That compares to last season's tally of W12 L4 D3. However in winning those extra games we've scored less goals - 35 this season against 40 last time. A hatful against Birmingham City would put that right, and let me reduce my medication.........


This was the most nervy ninety minutes against this lot since the championship season that never was. 

Almost seven years ago to the day we edged past Villa 1-0 before a vastly relieved SJP crowd to keep our title hopes alive, and although it was far short of a classic we pressed until Ferdinand's goal came, and then kept the Villans out by any means.

Fast forward to 2003, and a season in which we've habitually triumphed on home soil and served up win after win, even if on occasions the performance was less than memorable.

However, all that came crashing down last weekend when the men from Old Trafford came to toon, and suddenly our air of invincibility has gone. We may have been winning home games without quite knowing how sometimes, but crucially we've lost that knack and are now floundering. 

Despite being a goal up after some daftness from the opposition and application of the rules by the tangoman put a chance within Nobby's range, we never worked ourselves into position to get that killer second goal. Unconvincing is the word.

And just like Saturday's depressing afternoon at Loftus Road, we were again made to pay by a team on the verges of trouble in the league, but hardly scrapping for their lives.

One looked across the pitch for big personalities, big hearts, big performers to win this game for us. Unfortunately there wasn't much that took the eye....

Clad in bandages, Shearer was looking groggy and not at his best. Bellamy had once again descended into a sulk after Winter failed to penalise a Villa player for upending him just outside the area. Dyer somehow managed to fill in 90 minutes doing something totally unmemorable in the middle, Solano never got down the channels into cross-delivering range and as for Viana...words fail.

The perennially popular Portuguese player was given his treasured start in a central position, on a sunny day at St.James' with the prospect of some space to work in. He responded by claiming some early possession, but then proceeded to drop deeper and deeper down the field, unable to get involved at all.

By the end he was a forlorn figure, lacking only a Yorkshire accent and a pudding bowl haircut from being a facsimile of Batty - that's Batty the incisive passer, not Batty the midfield destroyer. On this evidence frankly, Viana could do with following Chopra to Watford to learn how to play football in this country in the same way Bernard got his wake-up call at Feethams - the difference is we got Olivier for nowt, while Hugo cost a packet.

Maybe we'd have held on for a win, had Woodgate not been forced off him a hamstring pull and the defence not been crucially weakened at that set piece. Maybe we'd have done better than a late Lua effort against the post if we'd given him some of the damn ball after bringing him on, rather leaving him stuck out wide, unmarked.

Even though a 1-0 win would have been as important and lustily celebrated as that 1996 victory, the cracks that have appeared in our squad would only have been papered over. 

But it wouldn't have mattered to be honest- at this time of the season it's not only the teams in the relegation scrap that need to a adopt a win at any costs mentality. Our lot have failed to impose their will on two inferior clubs in succession, and not even had the good grace to look that bothered about it. There has to be a middle ground between the idle dawdlings of Bellamy or Dyer and the regrettable daftness of Griffin against Fulham.

A few months ago we laughed about how the day of reckoning on April 26th was coming, amid talk of screwing down the mackem coffin lid. We just assumed our forward progression would continue, but now suddenly we're the ones in the spotlight. 

Champs league qualification failure is unthinkable (both in on-field prestige and off-field finance) but denying us that is the only thing McCarthy's motley crew have left to cling to, having failed even to drag themselves off rock bottom.

Please don't give the bastards the satisfaction lads. And stop feeling sorry for yourselves - if you believe the world is against you, it probably is. 


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Page last updated 14 July, 2016