Grandin stops the rot against 10-man Villa
Blackpool 1 Aston Villa 1
Sunday 13 February 2011
After five defeats on the trot, Blackpool will welcome this point with open arms, but their failure to put away an Aston Villa side down to 10 men after Jean Makoun's mindless sending off after 70 minutes will nag at Ian Holloway and his side this morning.
While on the face of it they did not do enough to win either in terms of overall performance or chances created – indeed they might well have lost had Villa showed a touch more prowess in front of goal in the first period – if they're to stay in this division Blackpool need to start picking up points at home, preferably in bunches of three.
As things stand, Hollway's side have collected 17 of their 29 points on their travels, a figure, admittedly,skewed by the fact that they've played 14 away games as opposed to 12 at home, but in those numbers lies a truth. Nobody in the division has collected fewer points at home than Blackpool this season and with seven of their remaining 12 games at Bloomfield Road, it is a record they will need to improve upon.
At least they cannot torment themselves with the memories of missed opportunities once Makoun left the pitch. Villa, who started brightly and threw considerable caution to the wind in an exciting first period, effectively shut up shop once their numbers were reduced. Blackpool hardly had a sniff, for which much of the credit must go to Richard Dunne and James Collins who defended like the old warriors that they are in those closing stages. "I was proud of the efforts of my players," said Gérard Houllier. "It's not easy to be down to 10 men away from home but we worked hard. I'm proud of them."
The Villa manager will probably view this as a game that should have been done and dusted by half time. In that first period he encouraged a liberal policy of throwing men forward and the strategy paid off with Gabriel Agbonlahor's opener. When a Blackpool attack broke down and the ball was cleared towards the halfway line, Agbonlahor and Darren Bent found themselves out-numbering Ian Evatt. Once Bent flicked the ball past the Blackpool centre-half on the halfway line, Agbonlahor was afforded a free run at goal from a good 40 yards out. Too much time can often cloud a striker's thinking, particularly Agbonlahor's, but the Villa striker rounded Richard Kingson with ease before slotting the ball home.
"I thought that was a brilliant goal and I felt they were capable of tearing us apart in the opening 15 minutes," said Holloway of the opening exchanges. However, a defensive lapse allowed his side back into the game. A Charlie Adam corner from the right was whipped in towards Villa's near post, a spot, you'd imagine, Houllier might have detailed somebody to occupy given the midfielder's prolific left foot. If he had, nobody listened and the unmarked Elliot Grandin was able to nod the ball downward past Brad Friedel without a defender coming within two yards of him.
After that, Villa had their chances. Ashley Young, who was a little off- colour following his efforts with England in midweek – as was Bent who was substituted on 57 minutes for not looking "lively" according to his manager – threaded a clever ball past David Carney on the edge of the box into Stewart Downing's path on 19 minutes. One-on-one with Kingson, however, the winger went for power rather than subtlety and the Blackpool goalkeeper deflected the ball clear with his feet. Downing would go on,before the interval, to put a ball across goal when he should have shot, and curl an effort off Kingson's right-hand post after cutting in from the right.
That, though, was as good as it got for Villa. Makoun was sent off for stupid tackle on DJ Campbell with at least one leg off the ground. Howard Webb's decision to show the red card wasn't disputed by Houllier, and the referee's assistant, Sian Massey, at the centre of the Gray-Keys storm, was handed praise by both managers. "She's good at what she does," said Houllier on the assistant referee's Premier League return.
Referee: Howard Webb
Man of the match: Adam
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