No apologies for banging on about the Carling Cup defeat. It was a big night for us and we blew it, our own self-destruct tendencies combining in critical fashion with the accomplished versatility of a keeper from overseas. Pete Sixsmith feels he has been there before and is so cross he even has second thoughts about liking Villa and their fans …
Sixteen years ago, almost to the day, Aston Villa won a League Cup tie at Roker Park, thanks to a fantastic goalkeeping performance by Mark Bosnich.
A Sunderland side containing such luminaries as Martin Gray, Alec Chamberlain and David Rush battered the allegedly superior visitors, before falling to a couple of late and thoroughly undeserved goals. I remember talking to Gordon Armstrong the next day at Sedgefield Races and he was still shaking his head in disbelief at what had happened.
Last night, as I left the East Stand in a temper so foul that even Malcolm Tucker would have been frightened of a tongue lashing from me, I thought that we had suffered an undeserved defeat at the hands of a side who struck me as nothing special. We spurned two wonderful chances to win the game at the end of normal time and at the end of extra time and we then fell prey to another inspired goalkeeping display in the penalty shoot out.
Of the two sides out there last night, Villa had the strongest one on paper. The only changes were in goal where Guzan replaced Friedl, (one yank for another), up front where Heskey replaced Carew (one plank for another) and in midfield, where Battling Reo-Coker replaced Ginger Tom Sidwell. Apart from Ganza for Friedl, not appreciably weaker and Guzan showed that he is a good as his mentor.
We had an interesting selection, a kind of Christmas tree formation, with Jones at the apex and Campbell and Murphy supporting wide with three in central midfield and rare games at the back for Nosworthy and Da Silva. No Bent, no Cattermole, no Reid, no Malbranque, all regulars this season. If nothing else, it proves that Bruce and Black are prepared to experiment. Not really their fault if the players can’t hit a cow’s backside with a banjo.
There were some very good performances. Henderson was probably the best midfield player on view and he is settling into senior football very well. He has a good engine, spots gaps and once he realises that you don’t have as much time as he would like to control or release the ball, he will be a real asset.
Nozza effectively marked two World Cup centre forwards out of the game; Heskey fell down a lot and looked about as mobile as a block of flats, while Carew was just clueless. Da Silva read the game well. He tackled impressively and looks a sound acquisition.
Unfortunately, we may have witnessed the final performances of two players. Darryl Murphy did nothing wrong, but equally he did nothing of note. The Championship beckons for a player who hardly deserves the insults heaped on him.
George McCartney would walk away with the award for The Premier League Player Who Has Lost The Most Confidence (closely followed by Ashley Young). He constantly turns in on himself, and those strong runs that we saw from him a few years ago are, like the dawn of a new Labour government and the permanent demise of the Tories, a distant and wistful dream. It looked as if he and Bruce exchanged words as he was substituted.
“Two glorious chances spurned” said the Sixer’s Seven verdict and both Jones and Richardson should stay in the house today for allowing Brad Guzan to make a name for himself. The penalty was not a good one, either from the referee or Kenwyne’s point of view, and Richardson should have beaten the keeper comfortably. I thought he made the right decision in shooting rather than passing to Malbranque, but he really should have scored. I was just a little agitated by this.
As I was by the shoot out. Our penalties were poor and Lorik Cana, who had a good game on the whole, showed that he is from the Jeff Whitley school of penalty kickers. His was the defining miss and allowed the Villa fans to be even more irritating than they had been all evening
They had annoyed me throughout the evening with their silly choreographed songs which were almost as boring as the ones that MUFC trot out and shows that they are really a set of wanabes who think they are something special. They aren’t. I look forward to giving them a good hiding in December.