A Fan's View: Albion 0 Villa 0
By Site Editor
Updated Monday, 30th April 2012
Mickd1961 gives his verdict on Albion's draw
The big build up
Or not as the case may have been as I'll explain. For as long as I can remember the excitement and anticipation of the fixture versus Villa has had the adrenalin pumping days, nay weeks, before the big day, but this time around it didn't seem as intense to me. I think our successive victories over our big city rivals and our position of superiority above them (for once!) had perhaps taken the edge off the fixture – certainly it had for me, and indeed our very own WBA-MAD messageboard had been pretty quiet with few visits from those who inhabit the "darkest" of sides.
On the Friday night before the match I trolled through YouTube looking at some classic derby matches vs the Villa going back to the early 70s, as I fought to get myself "up" for the match. By Saturday morning I was looking forward to it and hoping we could repeat Albion's 1959 performance that relegated our opponents!
Hodgson surprised nobody by naming the side that had pulled off the miracle at Liverpool the week before. Personally I was disappointed to see Fortune only sat on the bench – I thought that with Villa naming Richard Dunne in their side, MAF's hold-up play would have been a better choice than Long's fitful performances.
I though Villa did us a favour by playing Heskey – I have a sideboard that is more mobile than this perennial under achiever and I was grateful to see him in residence, rather than the nippy young Weimann, who I thought could have caused us trouble.
Villa also included their lucky charm Alan Hutton, a bloke with more lives than a cat, but I'll come to that later in the piece.
During the warm up I happened to find myself next to the guys who unfurled the "McLeish must stay " banner which caused much hilarity... nice touch boys!
Once the action started, it was a rather "bitty" affair with neither side showing much in the way of quality and Albion's best chance falling to Odemwingie, who's improvised back-heeled effort was blocked in front of the line by the covering defender.
After the first few minutes in which Albion had looked the most threatening, Villa gradually grew into the match and they started to pass the ball around better than Albion and retained possession better than us as well. At one point I thought JP had offered a bonus to the Albion player who could misplace the most passes, a task Mulumbu took up with relish. Our resident "water carrier" didn't have his best day, but as always he worked his guts out to rectify his many passing errors.
Within a few minutes the superb Ben Foster had made two excellent one-on-one saves from Agbonlahor and also saved well from the impressive Chris Heard as Villa started to look the more threatening.
Albion also had an escape when Brunt handled in the area. It was probably accidentally but certainly we have all seen these types of errors punished, especially by the "poser" type referee's such as Clattenburg, who I thought had a dreadful game.
Albion started more brightly and started to apply some pressure, but Thomas was continually frustrating with his inability/unwillingness to go past his full back. But eventually we fashioned a chance when Ridgewell headed towards goal and saw his effort scooped over the bar by arch villain Alan Hutton – a clearer penalty you could not wish to see, yet missed by the awful match officials.
Thomas finally created something with the resulting effort headed off the line Cuellar.
Villa then took over possession and had a few near misses with N’Zogbia shooting weakly, which Foster saved and then a scramble which resulted from Foster's one piece of poor judgment on the day when he collided with his own player.
Albion also escaped another scramble in which Olsson clearly handled the ball whist sliding in to block a goal bound effort – this was another poor refereeing decision in all fairness to Villa.
In injury time the excellent Shay Given pulled off a world-class save to block a volley from Odemwingie that looked for all the World was a goal: A season-saving effort from this great keeper.
The various substitutions for both sides didn't really change the direction or flow of the match, even though Fortune replaced the ineffective Shane Long.
An end to end second half with the teams goalless in a reasonably exciting, yet lacking in quality match.
Albion huffed and puffed but never much looked like blowing down Villa’s house.
In truth, Villa did not look like a relegation bound side to me. They looked compact and retained the ball pretty well but looked woefully short of confidence in attacking areas. I don't think for one minute that they'll be relegated, and with some good youngsters on show, I think that a new manager will comfortably keep them in mid-table next season.
But what of Albion in what looks to be the "post Hodgson" era?
Roy has certainly created a base on which we can build. This season's tenth clean sheet totally dwarfs last season's pitiful two shut-outs. It is to be hoped our new manager starts from this same base but finds a way to make us a little more pleasing on the eye than our present quite rigid outlook on the game.
Hopefully the new man will also get the best out of Shane Long, who looks like a square peg in a round hole in this Albion side.
Overall, it was a fair result in my opinion against a Villa side who are nowhere near as bad as being portrayed in the media at present.
Have your say on Albion's draw here at Baggies Banter.