Filed: Tuesday, 3rd November 2009
By: Preview Percy
Preview Percy recovers from his trip to Wearside with a few words about Wednesday's visit from Aston Villa.....
And so to a home match against Aston Villa for a 7.45pm kick-off this Wednesday. The match represents the game in hand we have over much of the league, having been postponed due to our opponents’ European commitments at the start of the season.
This time last season they were flying high and the punditry was full of “top four” talk. The season tailed off a bit in the second half and they ended up in 6th place. There were a few ins and outs over the summer. The biggest signing of the window was the £12m arrival of Stuart Downing from Boro’. His impact thus far this season has been diminished however, by the injury he sustained at the back end of last season which has precluded his participation thus far this season. They also nicked Habib Beye from Championship-bound Newcastle as well as Fabian Delph from Leeds and Stephen Warnock from Blackburn.
They’ve had a solid, if unspectacular, start to the season. They currently lie in 7th place and their 18 points from their ten games sees them just behind Liverpool on goal difference. Their last outing saw them take a point away from Goodison in a hard fought 1-1 draw against Everton when, by all accounts, they seemed a bit knackered following their League Cup extra-time exertions against Sunderland. On the road they’ve won two, drawn two and lost just the once, that defeat coming rather surprisingly at Blackburn where they went down 2-1. Their other away results have included wins at Liverpool and Birmingham City and draws at Wolves and Everton last week.
In goal they will start with Brad Friedel who will be making his 201st consecutive Premier League match. That streak was in danger of coming to a premature end back in March when the American was red carded in a match against Liverpool for a “denial of goalscoring opportunity”. However the club’s appeal was successful and he lived to fight another day.
They’ll be without Cuellar who O’Neill has been playing at right-back of late. Cuellar picked up a second yellow at the end of the Everton match and will be suspended for Wednesday night. The options to replace him include Luke Young or Beye. Other doubts for the match include Stilian Petrov who has a shin problem, and England midfielder James Milner, who has a calf injury. These injuries are likely to see a return to the starting line-up for Nigel Reo-Coker. NRC is likely to get a mixed response on his return to the Boleyn, having committed the cardinal sin for departing players of shooting his mouth off in the press about what a rotten club his former employers had been. So rotten that they made him one of the youngest skippers in the club’s history. Reo-Coker’s time at the club is remembered in these parts for his tendency to take the wrong option so often. The number of times he would shoot when a pass was the better option or vice-versa was a standing joke in our part of the ground.
Up front there have been mutterings from Emile Heskey about a lack of first-team starts, though he did start up at Goodison. Heskey’s concerns owe much to the fact that there is a World Cup next summer (or winter as it will be in SA). The continued improvement in the form of Carlton Cole will have Heskey looking over his shoulder. O’Neill’s alternative up front has been Norwegian target man John Carew. Carew came off the bench at half-time to score the equaliser at Everton which may persuade O’Neill to give him a run-out from kick-off.
Of course in addition to NRC we will also be bidding welcome back to James Collins. Ginge has been much missed at the back since his move to the Midlands and it’ll be interesting to compare and contrast the welcome he gets with that afforded to the former skipper. Collins appears to have struck up a decent defensive partnership with Richard Dunne who found himself surplus to requirements at Man City following the arrival of Lescott. Dunne had problems in his earlier years at City. It seemed that there was a perennial problem with his alarm clock and fines for sleeping in rather than training were a frequent occurrence. At one point it appeared that he was on his way out for a “serious breach of club discipline”, believed to have included turning up for training in a less than sober state. However, he was given another chance and settled down so that his became one of the first names on the teamsheet at Eastlands prior to the Arab takeover.
One former Hammer we won’t be seeing this time round is Marlon Harewood. Harewood’s chances at Villa Park have been rather limited and he spent time at loan at Wolves last season. Opportunities have been non-existent this term and he is currently up on Tyneside on loan at Newcastle where he has one goal in 8 to date.
How about us? Well I suppose the first thing to hope and pray that the opposition keep eleven men on the pitch as Fulham and Sunderland showed that we haven’t a clue in how to exploit the extra space that the extra man should bring. Actually, that’s not quite true. Once Sunderland had equalised last weekend we appeared to finally twig what was supposed to happen with eleven against ten. So much so that Bruce elected to replace an attacking midfielder in Malbranque with a defender – McCartney - in order to protect the point that they had worked so hard for. However, it was disappointing that it took over 30 minutes and an equaliser for this change to take place. The performance of Spector at right-back has me convinced that this is somewhere that we need to look at if, by some strange miracle, there is a bit of cash floating about on New Year’s Day.
Although Kovac’s suspension was the result of some shockingly incompetent refereeing, few who were at the Stadium Of Light will be too upset to see Parker return to the midfield and it is to be hoped that the slight knock that saw the substitution of Behrami on Saturday will prove to be nothing more than a minor niggle. Although I’d suggest that Noble is more than overdue for a rest, the management don’t appear to agree and, subject to other injuries, I’d expect Parker for Kovac to be the sole change come 7:45 on Wednesday evening.
Predictions? Well there were spells on Saturday when the football on display was superb. Carlton Cole will have an interesting time up against Ginge and there have been signs that Franco and he are beginning to combine well. The problems we will face will be the likes of Ashley Young whose pace is likely to cause Spector a few problems, especially if Behrami isn’t about to give him a hand. However, for some strange reason I have a good feeling about this one. I cannot tell you why but I fancy us to nick the three points with a 2-1 win.
Enjoy the game!
Last season: Lost 0-1 Lucas Neill’s late own goal gave Villa a fortunate three points.
Danger man: Ashley Young – has the pace to cause problems down our right.
Referee: Steve Bennett: Was due to ref the Arsenal match that cried off through illness.
Look out for: An empty kitbag. Legend has it that we got our claret and blue colours in 1899 when a player/coach called Billy Dove took on a few Villa players in a sprint. The kit was supposedly “donated” in lieu of the money that was due for the bet. It’s one of those stories that you kinda wish were true but almost certainly isn’t!
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
by Oxford Fred the Saint
01:23PM 5th Nov 2009
Myself and East Stand Martin have a habit of backing the Irons 2-1 although mostly in away games, and I did the same for this with a score matching your Nostradamus-like prediction on at 9-1.
Happy Birthday and Come On You Irons.''
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