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24 April 2012
• Villa Park, Birmingham
Referee: C. Foy
• Attendance: 32263
Well folks, for those of you that weren't too enamoured by the Barcelona-Chelsea match tonight and fancied joining us here for the purists choice, congratulations! It's a huge result in the context of the relegation scrap and Aston Villa are just three points off the drop now. Worrying times at Villa Park for all concerned and on that happy note, I shall have to love you and leave you. Stick around on site for some post-match reaction. Sayonara.
Full credit must go to Owen Coyle for turning things around at half-time, though. He obviously saw the team's shape simply wasn't working and pushed another man up top which helped turn the game. In effect, he out-thought his opposite number and they have a real fighting chance of beating the drop after tonight's result.
Whatever happens at the end of the season, I think we can all agree on one thing, Alex McLeish simply won't be Aston Villa boss next season. Why I hear you cry? Well after Villa fell behind, they still had just under half an hour to find a way back into the match, but the dull, negative, long-ball football that's thrived under the Scottish manager's regime meant they merely played hit-and-hope football rather than trying to get the ball on the deck like they did in the first half and carve open the opposition.
Well Aston Villa are well and truly in a relegation dogfight now. Tonight's result is absolutely huge in the context of both clubs Premier League futures. Bolton are still in the relegation zone but they have that crucial game in hand on their rivals to look forward to. Villa simply capitualted in the second half after they took the lead. They lost their concentration and composure at a crucial time and they've been punished to the fullest by goals from Petrov and N'Gog, cancelling out the opener from Stephen Warnock.
90' + 1'
Yellow Card Eric Lichaj
Barry Bannan goes close right at the death with an effort from the edge of the box that zips just wide of Adam Bogdan's left-hand post. The final whistle is then blown from the resulting goal-kick and Bolton have the win. The home crowd are voicing their discontent and then some.
Nathan Delfouneso does extremely well beating three Bolton men and earning a throw-in deep in the Bolton half out of nothing. The crowd boos when Eric Lichaj's long throw is delivered, though. It's percentages stuff, the sort of mantra that's come to represent everything that's wrong with Alex McLeish as a manager.
This would a quite simply HUGE result were it to stay the same for both clubs. Villa do look in real trouble don't they?
Bolton finally get their foot on the ball and it's all about wasting time now and running down the lock. They're still knocking it about pretty neatly, though. Four minutes of injury time for Villa to get a goal back.
Bolton are just about clinging on here and every time that Villa pour forward, it's hoofed high up the pitch. It's coming straight back, but not with much quality behind it, it has to be said.
Decent ball in from the left by N'Zogbia but is misses both Bannan and Agbonlahor in the box. Villa are pressing hard for an equaliser.
Bolton on a rare break forward with Wheater playing in Eagles down the right, whose zipped in cross just fails to fins Kevin Davies.
Wiemann tries backing into Ream in the area and desperately flings himself to the ground. Nothing given and too right an' all.
This is tantamount to an aerial assault from Villa at the moment but Bolton are showing some good resolve to hold on. The hosts look like they're running out of steam. Very worrying result for them if it stays liks this.
Bolton are firmly camped in their own half now as Given launches another long ball forward. N'Zogbia latches onto a Warnock pass but has to settle for a corner as Ream knocks his cross behind.
Villa are just about on top but they just seem to lack any real product in the final third. They also seem short of ideas other than to lump it long.
Barry Bannan is on for Villa, with McLeish often using the little Scot as his idea of a positive, attacking sub. Will be interesting to see if it changes anything.
Some real scrappy stuff as Villa keep looking to launch the ball forward with no particular target in mind and Bolton lack the nous to get the ball down properly and play out from the back.
The recent spate of subs seems to have taken the tempo out of this game somewhat. That'll sort Owen Coyle right down to the ground.
Yellow Card Tim Ream
Bolton knocking the ball around nicely in the Villa half once more and you sense that on the ball, they feel confident, but when put under pressure at the back, they may crack.
N'Zogbia shows some fabulous feet beating two Bolton men on the run in the middle and as he realises he's all alone, he blazes high over the bar with a vicious looking left-foot strike. Villa are creeping back into it now and Bolton are showing some nerves.
Carlos Cueller heads the ball at goal from the edge of the box with Bolton failing to get the ball clear. The Spaniard was never going to trouble Bogdan from that far out.
Bolton knocking the ball around more freely in the Villa half now and they look well on top. McLeish may have to make a change soon.
Credit must all go to Owen Coyle for changing things around at half-time and switching to 4-4-2. The pressure that it's put on the Villa back four has been the big difference and Villa are struggling to clear their lines now and get some sort of fluency going again.
To say that Alex McLeish looks shellshocked on the touchline now would be something of an understatement. I am too to be fair.
Bolton are making all the going of it now and Eagles and N'Gog are at the heart of it. The latter sees his header fly just wide from the corner that N'Gog won after his deflected effort from just inside the box went out for a corner.
Assist Chris Eagles
Goal David Ngog
GOALLL!!! Bolton have the lead to complete a dramatic turnaround. David N'Gog has got the goal after some excellent and unselfish work in the box from Chris Eagles who lays it on a plate after beating two men inside the six-yard box. What a flurry of action.
Assist Mark Davies
Penalty Goal Martin Petrov
GOALLLL!!!! Well, well, well, Botlon are level almost straight from kick-off. Carlos Cueller fells Mark Davies in the box after being caught on his heels and the Bulgarian steps up and curls a left-foot effort past the outstretched Shay Given. Game on.
Assist Charles N'Zogbia
Goal Stephen Warnock
GOALLL!!!! Curse of the commentator strikes again! Stephen Warnock is the man who has grabbed the opener after some terrific work by Charles N'Zogbia down the Villa right. The winger beats two men for pace on the outside before drilling a great ball across that the onrushing Warnock finishes on the slide.
Cueller remains alert to slide in and knock behind a decent looking Bolton move and the hosts clear the resulting corner. Bolton really going for it now.
Bolton survive another Villa corner. The hosts looking a lot more disjointed this period. Curious.
Bolton are a much-changed side this half and as Steinsson finally plays the ball to Mark Davies on the edge of the box after a neatly worked move, N'Gog sees a shot blocked by Cueller. Lively stuff from both sides at the moment.
Is Kevin Davies the strongest player in the top flight? I can't think of many stronger. He wins a free-kick after being pushed around inside the Villa half, and Eagles works Given from way out with a deflected free-kick but it's tipped away and Villa survive.
After a spell of head-tennis, Bolton work the ball to Eagles, who beats Lichaj for pace before drilling a left-foot shot from the edge of the box straight at Given.
Carlos Cueller heads well over from a Stephern Warnock cross from the left after Davies helped clear a Charles N'Zogbia corner.
Petrov flings in a high ball from the left and while it's not the best looking ball, Kevin Davies towers above Lichaj at the back post and wins the header that N'Gog just fails to get something on and it bounces gratefully into Given's arms.
Heskey is down in a heap after following through (not in that way) on Wheater and taking a knock to the ankle after a volley from the edge of the box. He's alright, though.
So Bolton have switched to 4-4-2 and already it looks better. They're getting the ball forward early up to Davies and every opportunity. The Villa backline may not have the second half go as easy as the first just did by the looks of things.
Bolton have made one change at half-time with Ryo Miyaichi going off and Kevin Davies coming on in his place. The change obviously made in mind with putting more pressure on the Villa defence up top as Coyle's side chase the win. After that tactical switch, Villa get things going from kick-off.
Villa are certainly playing with a degree of freedom tonight. It gets even more bizarre when you realise that this side is managed by Alex McLeish. 'It'll never last' as the old saying goes.
So what do Villa need to do in the second half? The answer is quite simple really, just stick the ball in the back of the net. They've been well on top and it's time their supremacy was reflected in the scoreline.
Owen Coyle may have to re-jig things about at half-time because they can't and probably won't survive another half like that. There just isn't any shape to them at all. There's no real pressure on the ball in the middle despite playing a five-man midfield and Heskey has had the beating in the air of both Wheater and Ream every single time Villa come forward.
Chris Foy brings an end to a half full of promise but which still sees the scores remain level at 0-0. Aston Villa have been by far the better side at present, and I think that it's safe to say that if they'd played at this tempo for the entire campaign, then they wouldn't even be thinking about a relegation battle. Stephen Warnock has gone closest after striking the bar with a drilled effort from just inside the box and Emile Heskey has proved himself a real nuisance. Bolton, though, have offered very little going forward and they're just holding on at the moment.
It's N'Zogbia that steps up to take it and it's a brilliant effort that curls over the wall and just shaves the left-hand post with Bogdan rooted to the spot.
Heskey wins a free-kick after being brought down by Wheater after another long punt by Given. Decent position this, about 30 yards out from goal dead centre.
Emile Heskey is proving a real handful this half as he wins a header from a Given goal-kick that Bogdan gets to just before Wiemann. It may be route-one, but it works.
Villa take a short corner quickly and N'Zogbia bursts into the box before laying the ball back to Herd who sees his shot well blocked by Wheater. Botlon then break up the other end and Eagles goes close to connecting with Petrov's sensational whipped cross from the left. Very open game now.
Villa have looked full of confidence going forward tonight and they've bossed things up until this point. Where has this side been all season?
Excellent move by the hosts. Herd plays the ball out wide to Hutton as he charges into the box and his low cross is rolled at pace right across the Bolton box before Warnock emerges to drive the ball but it smashes off the bar with Bogdan beaten. So close.
N'Zogbia turns Gretar Steinsson inside and out down the left before cutting back on his right, and his cross is then nodded over at the near post by Heskey.
Yellow Card Sam Ricketts
Heskey wins a header and nods it to N'Zogbia, who drives at the Bolton back four before playing it inside to Heskey once again, and the former England striker's balletic turn completely does the sliding Ricketts, but his low drive is yet again straight at Bogdan.
Andreas Wiemann does well to work himself a yard of space on the edge of the box away from Tim Ream, but his vicious looking effort is straight at Bogdan.
Bolton work the ball well across midfield at pace, but Miyaichi's shot from the edge of the box on the right is easily held by Shay Given.
Alex McLeish looks a nervous man on the touchline after the ref doesn't give a free-kick for a hefty looking challenge by Reo Coker on Wiemnann. lichaj then puts the ball and Miyaichi into touch as Bolton break. Bit of an argument between Villa assistant Kevin McDonald and Bolton boss Owen Coyle there - neither looked like backing down and they had to be seperated by the fourth official.
The game finally appears to have calmed down a touch, with both sets of players trying to catch their breath after some purposeful end-to-end action. Warnock's impressed me so far in an unfamiliar central midfield role.
Chris Eagles gives away a free-kick by pushing Eric Lichaj to the ground high up on the left of the Villa half.
Villa stroking the ball around nicely, with real tempo and intent about their play, but the move breaks down when Heskey's pass into Herd's feet proves too strong for the midfielder.
Bolton really do look all over the place in terms of shape this evening. The just seem to lack any sort of presence in midfield to combat the forceful Warnock and Herd at the minute.
Villa are putting Bolton under all sorts of pressure. Wiemann chucks in a high, looping cross from the right with Heskey the only man in the box, but as Bolton head clear, Herd nods it back into the box to Heskey, who brings it down on his chest and volleys striahgt at Bogdan. Heskey looked a good yard offside there.
As the whole ground stands for a minute's applause for Aston Villa skipper Stiliyan Petrov, the hosts break at pace from a Bolton corner, but Martin Petrov gets back well to cut off Albrighton, who plays the ball inside to N'Zogbia, who then sees his effort blocked from outside the area by Sam Ricketts.
Bolton are carved open yet again and it's Adam Bogdan to the rescue as he clear a Villa through ball in behind to Wiemann.
Well that is ambitious. Chris Eagles has a crack from all of 45 yards and rather preditcably, it goes miles high and wide. He had nothing on, mind you, so why not?
Warnock and Herd are harrying absolutely everything down in the middle of the park at the moment as Herd blazes over from outside the box after winning the ball from Mark Davies. Looked a foul, that.
Much better from Bolton, as Eagles and Miyaichi play a fabulous one-two down the right, but Nathan Baker blocks the young winger's low centre and Villa get the ball away. Frantic stuff at the minute.
Villa are certainly looking to get the ball wide early as Bolton lose the ball in the hosts half and Albrighton is away down the right with numbers in the box to find, but his low cross is knocked behind for a corner and Bolton survive that with ease when it comes in.
Excellent driving run by Marc Albrighton down the middle sees him beat two men, but the ball is knocked out by Tim Ream for throw-in with the Bolton defence all over the shop.
Bolton feel aggrieved when N'Gog goes down on the right wing after an Alan Hutton challenge, but there's nothing given by referee Chris Foy and that looks the right decision to me.
Just so you know what a win for the hosts tonight would mean - Villa are currently without a league win in their last six and they've only got one victory in their last twelve. Very poor indeed.
Bolton beginning to knock the ball around for the first time in the match but Warnock intercepts and his through ball out wide on the right to Albrighton is cut out by Ricketts.
Both sets of fans undergo a minute's applause during the match for Botlon's Fabrice Muamba.
Bolton finally break their way into the Aston Villa half courtesy of a long punt forward from a free-kick given away by Warnock, but Shay Given collects a Miyaichi cross from the right with ease.
Villa break down the left after N'Zogbia latches onto Herd's ball over the top and the winger crosses first time into the box on the volley, but Weimann can only nod wide and over stretching for the ball. Bright start by the hosts so far.
Emile Heskey goes close with a sliding effort on the stretch that he can't keep underneath the bar. Bolton struggling with balls being hoiked into the box already and their backline looks all over the place.
N'Zogbia's ball in finds Chris Herd who has lost David N'Gog at the back post, but his powerful header flies just over the bar. Villa close to taking the lead already.
Bolton get us underway, with Villa quick out of the blocks closing them down. Albrighton wins an early corner.
We're just moments away from kick-off now and there's just enough time to tell you that this evening's referee is Chris Foy.
Bolton on the other hand make just one change from their previous match against Swansea, with David N'Gog replacing Kevin Davies in attack, with the veteran striker dropping to the bench.
Aston Villa make three changes from the side that drew with Sunderland. James Collins, Stephen Ireland and Gabriel Agbonlahor are all ruled out while Alan Hutton, Stephen Warnock and Emile Heskey come in to replace them.
The Bolton line-up this evening looks a little something like this: Bogdan, Steinsson, Ream, Wheater, Ricketts, Miyaichi, Reo-Coker, Mark Davies, Petrov, Eagles, Ngog. Subs: Jaaskelainen, Alonso, Knight, Kevin Davies, Klasnic, Sordell, Vela
The Aston Villa line-up tonight is: Given, Hutton, Cuellar, Baker, Lichaj, Albrighton, Herd, Warnock, N'Zogbia, Heskey, Weimann. Subs: Guzan, Agbonlahor, Delfouneso, Clark, Bannan, Gardner, Carruthers
So will a win tonight be enough to keep Aston Villa in the top flight for next season? Probably is the answer. Three points will see the side move ever closer to the 40-point mark with 39. Still, it's simply not good enough is it?
A few facts about the game to bring you then. Alex McLeish's relegated Birmingham side had two points more than Aston Villa by this stage last season and the Scot has presided over just nine victories in 38 games as manager of Aston Villa. Ivan Klasnic is Bolton's top league scorer this term with eight goals, while Darren Bent remains Villa's with nine, despite a prolonged injury lay-off.
Good evening folks, my name is James McManus and I shall be running you through tonight's game between Aston Villa and Bolton. It's not quite a six-pointer, but it's without a doubt a relegation clash between a Bolton side undergoing a relative upturn in fortunes recently and a woefully underachieveing Aston Villa outfit managed, or rather should I say, mismanaged, by Alex McLeish.
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