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Season 2001-02 
 Match Report 2001-02 - Aston Villa (a) 

This match report is brought to you by a 95% Fat Free Ham Salad - Like Villa's new striker, incredibly lean and surprisingly tasty....  
(Click food for details)

Tuesday 2nd April 2002,  

 Venue: Villa Park

 Conditions: Spitting on the way in,
 turned into a downpour second half.
 Some of us left spitting on the way
 out as well....


Aston Villa  1 - 1 Newcastle United


3 mins Dyer broke down the right and sent over a decent cross that Staunton nodded as far as Robert. The Frenchman has hit cleaner shots but his effort bobbled past Schmeichel and hit the post at the Holte end, falling invitingly for Shearer to tap in from close range.

25 mins A simple enough cross from the left but the delivery was good and Dabizas' marking poor, allowing Crouch to steer a decent header past Given. Similar scenarios earlier in the game had seen the big beanpole duck, so it was a shock to see such a good connection.

Half time:  Aston Villa 1 Newcastle 1

Full time:  Aston Villa 1 Newcastle 1

We Said

A not-too-disappointed Uncle Bobby said:  

"We always try and win and would have liked all three points but this was a valuable one in the circumstances.

"It is better than nothing in our quest to get into Europe and to be three points in front of Chelsea with a game in hand is still a good position for us.

"We don't want to slip up but it keeps us on course. Our destiny is still in our own hands.

"Villa caused problems in the first half with three midfielders against our two but we levelled that up in the second period and the game became less attractive.

"Shay Given made a couple of great saves for us but in the last minute Kieron Dyer could have won it for us so things levelled out."

On Crouch:

"I was pleased when he came off with 15 minutes to go. He scored a wonderful goal and caused us problems." 

They Said

Graham Taylor uttered:

"That was a bit closer to what I am looking for and Newcastle changed their formation more to stop us playing in the second half.

"That is credit to our players and the first 45 minutes is how I would like us to play - home and away if possible.

"Crouch did very well. People will be looking at his height but if you put the ball in the right areas he will cause problems.

"He has got to be assessed on how good a player he is - and not whether he is 5foot 6inches tall or 6ft 6in tall.

Match Stats

Shearer came closer to his 200th Premiership goal, now just one away. 87 of those 199 have been for the black and whites from a current Premiership total of 539 scored by the whole club. 

Aaron Hughes didn't have the best of nights on his 100th Premiership start, notably failing to find Dyer with the last kick of the first half. Great effort for the run though....

We're still inching towards our best-ever Premiership away record: 

31 points from 21 matches (9 wins, 4 draws, 8 defeats)
24 points from 21 matches (6 wins, 6 draws, 9 defeats)
1995/96: 26 points from 19 matches (7 wins, 5 draws, 7 defeats)
1996/97: 26 points from 19 matches (6 wins, 8 draws, 5 defeats)
1997/98: 15 points from 19 matches (3 wins, 6 draws, 10 defeats)
1998/99: 19 points from 19 matches (4 wins, 7 draws, 8 defeats)
1999/00: 17 points from 19 matches (4 wins, 5 draws, 10 defeats)
2000/01: 17 points from 19 matches (4 wins, 5 draws, 10 defeats)
2001/02: 28 points from 16 matches (8 wins, 4 draws, 4 defeats)***

*** 3 away matches remaining

And as for Premiership goalscoring:

82 from 42 matches (51 home, 31 away, failed to score in 5 matches)
67 from 42 matches (46 home, 21 away, failed to score in 11 matches)
1995/96: 66 from 38 matches (38 home, 28 away, failed to score in 6 matches)  
1996/97: 73 from 38 matches (54 home, 19 away, failed to score in 7 matches)  
1997/98: 35 from 38 matches (22 home, 13 away, failed to score in 14 matches)  
1998/99: 48 from 38 matches (26 home, 22 away, failed to score in 12 matches)  
1999/00: 63 from 38 matches (42 home, 21 away, failed to score in 8 matches)  
2000/01: 44 from 38 matches (26 home, 18 away, failed to score in 13 matches)  
2001/02: 61 from 32 matches (33 home, 28 away, failed to score in 6 matches)***

*** 6 matches remaining

Villa continues to be our most rewarding Premiership trip, but on a points-per-trip basis, it's those super soaraway smoggies who are the most generous hosts: 

Villa away: 9 games, 16 points.

1993/94 2-0 Allen (pen), Cole
1994/95 2-0 Lee, Cole
1995/96 1-1 Ferdinand
1996/97 2-2 Shearer, Clark
1997/98 1-0 Batty
1998/99 0-1 No Scorer
1999/00 1-0 Ferguson
2000/01 1-1 Solano
2001/02 1-1 Shearer

Boro away: 6 games, 14 points. 

1993/94 - no league game
1994/95 - no league game
1995/96 2-1 Watson, Ferdinand
1996/97 1-0 Ferdinand
1997/98 - no league game
1998/99 2-2 Charvet, Dabizas
1999/00 2-2 Speed, Pistone
2000/01 3-1 Shearer, Goma, Dyer
2001/02 4-1 Shearer 2, Dabizas, Robert


Speaking as an eternal pessimist, I'm usually pretty optimistic going to Villa Park.

We've had a few hiccups there recently - the Hendrie penalty and the Vassell cup ko with his knee - but otherwise there have been a number of cracking results and performances in this part of the West Midlands.

Given that, I fancied us to get a good result and put on a decent display against a side who are genuinely struggling under their new manager to find anything like a bit of form. Our thumping of the Toffees hadn't seen us hit the heights but it had certainly been comprehensive against a side not dissimilar to Villa, especially after they too recently acquired a tall centre-forward - the frighteningly gangly Peter Crouch.

I haven't seen much of the lad on the telly despite having ITV Digital (most of us daft enough to have it still don't watch much Nationwide...) but let me tell you, in the flesh this bloke is an absolute freak of nature. He was warming up when we got in and despite being 70 yards away you couldn't help but notice that he is one very tall individual.

Now, Big Dunc is no dwarf but at least he's got some meat on him. I wouldn't be surprised if the Villa man was the lightest player on the pitch. He can't possibly be a footballer. I know what I'm talking about here, I'm reasonably tall myself and although bits wobble nowadays, as a teenager I had a similar build. All limbs and ney backside. 

I was never the most gifted player in the world but good enough for Gosforth West Middle School. However, once the hormones kicked in and growth became upwards not outwards
the coordination cruelly deserted me. Gangle is without doubt the enemy of skill and close control. 

A low centre of gravity is worth its weight in goals on the football pitch and when you look like Peter Crouch your centre of gravity is actually somewhere above your head. It's like one of those weird focal points of mirrors which is somewhere behind the wall.... Basically this man can not be a footballer. It's impossible.

Ian Ormondroyd, George Reilly, Kevin Francis and Carlton Palmer were able to kid people for a while that they were worth paying silly money for, and fair play to all four for making the most of their God-given but we all knew they couldn't really play the game.

No, to be a footballer you need to be one of those nimble, quick-footed, well-balanced, lean people who is also sickeningly good at cross-country running.

So why then did this bloke, who could easily have been in with the bearded women at the Hoppings, do so much damage to our hopes of another victory in Brum? I have absolutely no idea. 

He got off to a poor start, ducking under a couple of great crosses and looking like he was playing on stilts. By that time we'd already taken the lead and looked reasonably comfortable against a side who were definitely lacking in confidence.

But then like a bolt from the blue came a great cross from Gareth Barry and a damn fine header from the Stretch-Armstrong lookalike. OK, Dabizas was floundering again but credit where credit's due it was a good goal. Even his celebration looked all wrong, flailing limbs and awkward long-finger pointing - totally at odds with his ecstatic colleagues.

From then on we disintegrated and the stick-insect and his teammates grew in stature (only metaphorically thankfully for Crouch). Happily for us, Shay Given again proved that he's a leading candidate for player of the year with three more good stops.

As my co-collaborator pointed out after the game, a midfield of Dyer, Jenas, Robert and Solano just might not work away from home. You can get Distin and Hughes to come forward all you like and even ask Cort to drop back a bit but that midfield foursome just looks to be too lightweight to compete on foreign soil.

Shame, because despite all four not being at their best they still created some good openings and we really should have nicked it when sub Bernard had the chance to put Dyer through on goal. 

This mirrored a first half chance in added time, when Hughes wriggled clear and hurried down the right touchline needing only to hit a half-decent cross to find Dyer bursting through the middle. However the ball was played way too deep and Aaron walked the 75 yards back towards the tunnel apologising to Dyer.

Add to that another great chance for our England "left-sided" player (is it just me or does anyone else wonder where the collective wisdom for Dyer to be played on the left comes from?) and we could still have gone in at the break in the lead.

The second half was a shambles.

Villa pressed home their advantage in the middle of the park, they always seemed half a yard quicker and to have acres more room in which to play than us. To be honest, our players looked absolutely knackered which begs the question how they would have faired with a Saturday-Monday Easter programme like most other Premiership footballers.

We seemed to lack ambition. Our most-used attacking option was a 40 yard ball back to our man in yellow to hoof up to Shearer who was forever outjumped. When Al did get a flick (and wasn't blown up for it) Cort was nowhere to be seen, presumably playing to team orders, and rather odd orders they must have been - "stand forlornly out on the right, do not approach the number 9". 

Inevitably one or two of our following took exception to Cort's display and grumbles were evident, which should really have been directed towards the away dugout. Cort couldn't have been less effective playing infield, while Solano by contrast would surely have achieved more on the flank, or been taken off if he reprised his non-existent first half performance. Robert also seemed to annoy some with his display, but once again claimed an assist for our goal and was even seen tackling back to good effect on our own byline - I don't recall Ginola doing that too often for either of the two sides playing here tonight.   

We were definitely on the ropes and a better team than Villa should have beaten us. But we still had three great chances to please the "Magpies Steal..." headline writers. 

Solano was gifted the ball and should have done better with only Schmeichel to beat. The big Dane saved it (ah, perhaps Crouch could be a keeper - he even looks a bit like Van der Sar...) and Dyer bizarrely appealed for something against Schmeichel - handball against the keeper well inside his own box would definitely have been a harsh decision....even if he once played for Man Utd.

Dyer himself put a header just over the bar and then Bernard had the chance to put Kieron in the clear in the last few minutes but made a hash of his pass. Had that gone in, the ever-more saturating rainstorm would have mattered as much as the luckiness of our consequent victory to the large toon contingent behind Schmeichel's goal, but it wasn't to be.  

So not a bad result and not the worst display I've ever seen, but it felt like a defeat walking away from the ground. I think the Crouch thing had unduly bothered me. The very fundamentals of life itself (gangly blurks cannot play foota) had been shaken and the chance to steal a march on chasing Chelsea had been missed, apparently through our own lack of adventure. 

Had that attitude prevailed in other away games this season we'd not have taken three points at White Hart Lane to mention just one fixture when we took the initiative and reaped a reward.

While everyone clamours for the return of Bellamy I wonder whether the Premiership's most experienced midfielder might be more use to us at the moment? Get well soon Gary.

Niall MacKenzie

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Page last updated 14 July, 2016