Date: 6th March 2011 at 1:24pm
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Luck, for the most part, is like greatness. Some are born with it, some have it thrust upon them. But, unlike greatness, you can have good luck and bad luck. Whoever heard of someone having bad greatness? Unless they are St Owen Coyle.

I’m beginning to think that the Newcastle game and result is something that I am beginning to hang my coat on, but the inability to break down the ten men of Newcastle had something to do with keeping Muamba, Elmander and Petrov on the pitch for so long. Indeed, the manager failed to take Elmander off at all, leaving both Lee and Klasnic kicking their heels on the bench. With the original line up, Newcastle had had the best of the match and it wasn’t until Taylor had been shown the red card that we took control of the game.

So, on reading the line up for yesterday’s game, it was disappointing to find that the only change was the expected positional one of Gretar Steinsson coming in for Marcos Alonso, allowing Paul Robinson to return to left back. Even if Ivan Klasnic cannot expect to usurp SuperKevinDavies nor Danny Sturridge anytime soon, Elmander’s square peg-round hole position on the right and Muamba’s role in midfield should have been taken by Chung-Yong Lee and Mark Davies respectively.

Playing Muamba and Elmander essentially handed Villa the onus to try moving forward, which they did time and again. Kyle Walker and Marc Albrighton were allowed to run down the left wing to their hearts content, which, with Martin Petrov playing, meant that they would not have an easier time if there was no one playing left wing. This isn’t a go at Petrov, who has improved recently, but if you are going to play him, make sure it is in an attacking formation.

Paul Robinson had his worst game for a while, unable to deal with either left back or left winger and it was little surprise that both goals came from that outlet.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. The first chance of the half came within the first five minutes, Darren Bent timing his run perfectly and leaving Cahill and Wheater waving their arms retrospectively in the air for an offside. Bent? One on one? With a keeper? One result surely. Well, yes, if he hadn’t conspired to kick the ball with his left foot as he shaped with his right, leaving Jussi to collect the ball. A massive let off.

And one that we failed to move on from. Elmander had a contretemps with Ashley Young, forehead to forehead, that should have brought a booking for each. Then, and justly given their control of the game, Villa scored. Walker sold Robinson and Holden so that they are now looking for the deeds for the Brooklyn Bridge and put an excellent cross into the middle. It still should have been dealt with by either Cahill or Wheater but evaded the pair of them, hit Darren Bent on the knee and went in. 1-0 to Villa.

Soon after it could have been 2-0. Another cross came in, Bent rose, headed the ball against David Wheater which rebounded back off Bent’s face, against the post and out. Another massive let off and at the time it looked only a matter of time before Villa had the game dead and buried.

Bolton were offering next to nothing up front, where both Sturridge and SuperKev were willing but unable to do anything with the little service they were getting. A couple of free kicks and a couple of corners were all that we were getting. And then, suddenly, we were level. Petrov swung in a corner and a Villa defence, shorn of Dunne and Collins, had no height to deal with Gary Cahill, who flicked the ball off his head and past Friedel. Amazingly, despite the Villa dominance, we went in level.

The second half started off evenly, with both sides fashioning chances. Sturridge got up for a header but it went wide, before Bent beat the offside trap again, only to shoot straight at Jussi.

Ten minutes in, Villa had another chance, again coming in from their right. Albrighton skinned Robinson before putting in a ball that went across the goalmouth. The ball evaded Cahill, when it perhaps shouldn’t have, and it may have been the fact that he thought the Bolton defender was going to get it that meant Downing skewed his first time short wide. Another let off, followed shortly after by some ping pong in our area, Wheater blocking Bent’s shot before Ashley Young brought a good save from Jussi. Somehow, the scored remained level.

Changes came. Lee for Petrov and, finally thank heavens, Mark Davies for the wretched Muamba. This, obviously, meant that Villa scored almost immediately, the ball coming from their right, again. Downing putting the ball on a plate for Albrighton, who hit his shot into the ground, which bounced over Jussi who had already committed himself to the low shot. 2-1, and still probably deserved.

Almost immediately, Klasnic came on for Elmander. And almost immediately after that, Villa were given a penalty. And it was a penalty, David Wheater slipping in the area and falling into Ashley Young, who will go down on anything. Young picked himself up and, despite being told by Bent and Reo-Coker not to take it, stood over the ball with his eyes shut. Jussi, standing slightly to the left of the line, showed Young where he thought he was going to put the ball and when the Villa captain shot, he put it exactly where the Big Finn told him he would. Yet another reprieve.

Yes, it shouldn’t have been given as the ball had gone out of play further up the pitch, but that it didn’t go in became the turning point in the match. Just like Ali did to Foreman in the rope a dope, Bolton suddenly came to life and for the next twenty minutes there was only one team in it.

Five minutes after the miss, Bolton were level. Lee whipped in a corner and Cahill rose to head the ball powerfully. Friedel produced a good save but the ball fell straight back to the former Villa man, quickly shifting his feet to score his second of the game with his left, lifting it at above Friedel, who managed to get a hand to it. It was a finish of a striker, not a central defender who had only scored one goal in the rest of the season.

Almost straight away, Bolton had a pretty legitimate penalty shout turned down, as Nathan Baker handled inside the area, a shout Kevin Friend turned down. Not to worry. A few minutes later, Sturridge sent in a cross that Villa failed to deal with and Wheater headed the ball down for Klasnic. The Croat still had work to do but his turn and finish was something that we have come to expect from him and all that was left was to hang on.

History will show that we won 3-2. That we should have lost 8-1 won’t be. The substitutions arguably made a difference, Lee, Mark Davies and, especially, Klasnic all making their mark in a way that those they replaced didn’t. Again, it leaves one to wonder why the better, in form, players aren’t started and why Muamba is being consistently picked when he just is’t at the races at the moment.

So, bad greatness for starting with that team, good greatness for the substitutions, but bloody good luck for getting that result.

 

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