Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Sunday November 30 2008
If you`re a soccer pundit it`s a right old glass half full or glass half empty scenario.
Those looking to pour scorn on our achievements will hark on about Fulham still only having scored two gaols away from home all season and still not having won on the road.
Those supporting the club will point to the fact we`re now up to eighth in the table and we`ve put together a fine little unbeaten run including victories against Newcastle and Spurs at home and we`ve ground out decent points at two very difficult places to go, Anfield and Villa Park.
I may have a slight hangover but, this morning, I`m a happy man.
For the trip to Villa Park, Roy Hodgson, as we predicted, kept the same starting eleven that had done so well at Anfield. On the bench though was Dickson Etuhu, a sign that the midfield enforcer had recovered from his recent injury problems.
For the home side there was no giant striker John Carew, to lead the line and there was no combative Nigel Reo-Coker to unsettle Jimmy Bullard and Danny Murphy in the heart of our midfield.
After a quiet start to the first half, whereby both teams seemed to be sizing each other up it was the home side that began to stamp their authority on proceedings with Ashley Young being the chief tormenter.
The speedy winger began to give John Pantsil a torrid time and created chances for Steve Sidwell and Gareth Barry as well as unleashing a shot of his own to test Mark Schwarzer.
At the other end a couple of speculative efforts from Clint Dempsey tested the record breaking Brad Freidel but without looking like giving us that opening goal we needed although I must admit to hoping Freidel wouldn`t quite tip one of Dempsey`s effort over the bar.
As the half wore on we appeared to have weathered the storm and the game started to disintegrate into a match where misplaced passes became the norm.
The second half saw our hosts up the ante and at one point we faced corner after corner as we resolutely defended. Looking at the action it seemed only a matter of time before Villa got that breakthrough but then one incident, and one incident alone, convinced me this was not going to be their day.
It came as Villa launched another wave of attacks and from close range the ball struck the forwardly out-stretched hands of Schwarzer, ballooned up, hit the bar and bounced to safety.
As the final whistle sounded, Villa Park resounded to a chorus of boos, at times like that you know, as the away side, you`ve done your job. Eight points out of twelve after going so long without a win, suddenly things are starting to look up aren`t they?
Date:Sunday November 30 2008
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