Match Report 2002-03 - Aston Villa (a)
Half time: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 0
82 mins Robert failed to deliver the ball with any great conviction from the left an d the ball made its way out to Griffin on the right. From our corner Giff's cross seemed to take a definite deflection that helped it loop up but it doesn't seem detectable on TV replays. Whatever, it had the right trajectory to reach Alan Shearer and for once he didn't make a clean contact but the ball still ended up in the back of the net via his shoulder as Big Al admitted later. 1-0
Full time: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 1
Sir Bobby said about his match-winner:
"It has only just come out that Alan wants to carry on playing past 2004. At 32 he is in prime condition, still a good goalscorer and the club will look at that situation. He's got 18 months to go of his current contract and we will wait for further developments."
"Sooner or later we would have had to speak to Alan about it but we are delighted he is feeling the way he is and we will have to look at that as well.
"He has been a terrific bye for this club and he certainly responded to our chairman saying he is the greatest player this club has ever had in typical style.
"He got a goal by getting in between two players when I didn't think he would be able to head the ball."
"That was a big victory for us because Villa have been playing much better than six weeks ago and scoring regularly at home.
"It was the sort of game that
could have finished 3-3 but the first goal was always going to be
important and I thought we might have just edged the game."
"I felt we deserved a minimum of a draw but you will pay the price if you don't take chances when on top and then leave the most prolific goalscorer in the Premiership in the position he found himself.
"He scored that sort of goal so many times, climbing over the back defender and attacking the ball like that.
"We were very good in the first half and should have scored twice and in the second half. Juan Pablo Angel would have been disappointed not to put his chance away."
This was our 500th league win on our travels, 356 in the top flight, 144 in the division below.
win Yet another win at Villa Park which makes it: P10 W5 D4 L1 in the Premiership (plus one FA Cup defeat in that time).
Alan Shearer has now scored 10 goals in
the Premiership this season, more than the whole mackem side (who have
managed precisely 8 so far).
I have heard and read dozens of wildly differing views on this game - some thought Villa should have won easily, some thought that we were well worth the three points. Some of the broadsheets seemed to think it was an entertaining affair, while the radio reported otherwise. Writing this some time after the final whistle blew, I suppose I'm bound to take some middle ground but this is how I saw it.
On a day when the first cold snap of the winter was just taking grip of the Midlands, it seemed there were several players on both sides who froze and never really got warmed up. Neither side took control of the game with Villa probably shading the first half before fading and seeing us control the second. Thankfully we made the most of our dominant period and got a well-timed winner, while Villa squandered their best chances earlier in the game.
Villa Park is rapidly becoming one of our favourite Premiership venues and attacking the North Stand in the second half has been particularly fruitful for us. So it proved again with Shearer's winner coming right in front of the away fans who looked to have filled their section again. Other parts of the crowd had gaping holes with swathes of empty blue seating visible. However, to be 8,000 down on capacity was still a surprise and a game that used to attract a capacity crowd is now obviously less appealing to the Villa public under the stewardship of Graham Taylor.
It would be hard to blame it on ridiculous Premiership prices, like at Chelsea or Spurs, with Villa still being one of the best value grounds in the Premiership. £21 for an adult ticket with £11 concessions is just about what we get charged for friendlies or Worthless Cup games.
The omens were good from the start. In the 90s Villa would take the field to Queen singing, "We will rock you". The accompanying clapping and stamping of feet carried as much threat and menace as a church choir singing Christmas carols but despite beating them time and time again they persisted. This year it was Tom Harks by the Piranhas which as everyone soon found out was right up our street. "We hate Sunderland" boomed out from the away contingent as the home crowd failed to find any voice at all.
Villa's early approach play carried more threat than ours and Dion Dublin was possibly their chief tormenter. Their little munchkin, Lee Hendrie, was also busy but we seemed to survive some scares and make it to half-time goalless. Two far-post chances were thumped into the hoardings and Shay Given twice had to come and smother when they only had the keeper to beat. Once was when Dyer left a backpass well short. Presumably Shay reminded him of this fater the game - the Irishman was already nursing a whack on the shin when Dyer left him in trouble a second time.
At the other end we probably had the clearest chances when Enckelman dropped a cross right in front of Bellamy who spun but scuffed the loose ball wide. TV replays showed why the Holte End took the opportunity to celebrate with the goal gaping more widely than it looked from our end of the ground. A fantastic run by Dyer almost put us in front but once again his choice to place the ball rather than go for power was the wrong one.
All in all it wasn't the best of halves but one where we held our own and rode our luck when Villa got through. Their most productive channel was down our left - the combination of Bernard and Robert looks particularly frail at times and given the amount of times our no.32 loses the ball our temporary left-back looked horribly exposed at times. Hughes and O'Brien looked reasonably solid with O'Brien possibly benefiting from not having arm-waving histrionics by his side....
Batty and Big Dunc sprung to mind as we came out for the second half - both had previously grabbed winners in the North Stand goal to steal three points and in a moment of hopeless optimism I dared to imagine another. Whatever Bobby said to our lot it worked better than Taylor's half-time team talk as we took the game to them. Villa seemed to give up the fight at an early stage and for me the substitution of Dublin - who Shay was doing his best to gift a goal with wayward clearances - for Angel was good news.
I've never seen the Colombian look anything other than thoroughly rotten, although Villa fans seem to think he's well worth the £9.5m that was or wasn't paid to his former club and agent. So he was in this encounter and although a header scraped our bar it looked like Bennett had signalled a foul by the striker had the ball gone in.
At our end we were coming forward with some purpose but the whole team seemed to be suffering from jigsaw-itis and we would fall to pieces in their box. Our delivery of crosses was also poor with Robert again unable to justify is selection with that killer ball which makes up for the rest of his flouncing.
So it was up to Andy Griffin to deliver the cross that won us the game whipping in a ball from the right corner flag which appeared to take a slight deflection from the covering defender. No matter, Shearer wanted to make contact with it more than his marker and although the contact wasn't clean it was enough to beat Enckelman and bulge the back of the net to the delight of Al and the fans he lorded it in front of.
There were a couple of moments where we managed to turn attack into defence and put ourselves under pressure but the wait for the whistle wasn't as anxious as it could have been with the Villa fans seemingly resigned to another defeat at our hands.
It was another massive three points for us and once we get our tenth Champions League game out of the way at the Nou Camp we have a real chance to nestle amongst the top six as they all seem to be struggling for consistency.
I didn't think either team deserved to win it and far too often possession was relinquished by both sides far too easily. Perhaps a bit of passing practice wouldn't go amiss for both sides. Of the 33,446 who bothered to turn up, there would be many in the claret and blue who might decide to give it a miss next time. That's obviously not an option we can easily understand, especially when Villa Park seems only too happy to offer up three points to us season after season.