Villa Thriller!!!!

Last updated : 07 April 2011 By deadbat_db

Elliott Whitehouse celebrates scoring his penaltyOverall United deserved the win and controlled the game for the most part. United were solid if not spectacular and whilst 3 or 4 did impress in particular it was more of a team performance. The thing that impressed me most is they kept their shape and discipline (right until the end – more later). They did not create a ton of chances but being 1-0 up they did not have to and more importantly they limited Villa to very few chances until the last 10-15 minutes when the game was effectively over.

The game was fairly even for the most part early on but Villa had a few positive moments with Kennedy denying Johnson and soon after Villa had a half chance that was blazed over when they were well placed after good build up. United had a few half chances too with McFadzean and also Martin probably panicking a bit when put into good areas. Villa were looking to get Johnson on the ball and he was clearly their talisman but they did not seem to possess much of a threat up front. However United were gradually getting on top and with Harriott influential and Maguire commanding at the back they were pushing Villa back if not creating many chances. They tried to keep the ball and were calm in possession.

United then were able to get the vital breakthrough when they scored just before half time after a well worked goal. The build up saw the centre back Maguire in an unfamiliar left wing position but he did very well to create space and sent over a terrific cross that was smartly headed back at the back post by the other centre back Kennedy and skipper Whitehouse was on the spot to coolly convert. It was obvious how important this goal was being just before the break and doubling United’s overall advantage.
Villa made a double substitution at the break but United continued to shade matters and Harriott and Kennedy were looking relatively comfortable at the back. United were not testing the Villa keeper despite a half chance for Whitehouse but still seemed to control matters and the game appeared comfortable. Long was taking crosses when needed and United were playing out the game comfortably.

A few tetchy moments kept the referee on his toes but it needed a major decision 20 minutes from the end. Ironside pushed the ball past the centre back and keeper Barratt clattered the striker as he pushed the ball onwards and past him. It was debatable whether the striker would have got to the ball but there was no question it was a penalty despite the referee waving it away even though he was only 10 yards away. Fortunately the linesman flagged and the penalty was given. The keeper was expectedly sent off but his replacement was powerless to stop skipper Whitehouse doubling the advantage. Stupidly the scorer took his shirt off in celebration and was booked incurring the wrath of coach Pemberton who made his feelings clear that he was not happy with his captain.

It was to prove costly as not long after a poor challenge from Johnson when he went over the ball saw a melee ensure. Determined to take his own retribution captain Whitehouse wildly dived in and was rightly booked. He was fortunate it was not a straight red. The situation had been completely mismanaged by the referee who should have blown for a bad foul and sent Johnson off. Remarkably Johnson escaped any action as did numerous other players that were involved in the incident. There were a few more poor challenges and the officials seemed to lose control.

One of Villa’s substitutes Graham was clearly becoming Villa’s best player and for the latter stages of the game he showed many brilliant pieces of skill with some excellent efforts on goal and was unlucky not to score. Terry Kennedy (r) and Connor Taylor battle for the ball.Carruthers moved forward into the box just before full time and was tripped by Maguirre. The penalty was soft bit probably right. Carruthers took the kick but wildy blazed over the bar at the Bramall Lane end. With both teams with 10 men; the game was now stretched and Martin broke through for United and his low shot hit the post via the keepers outstretched hand right at the end of stoppage time. The referee blew for time not long after this and United’s player celebrated the well deserved win over two legs and now wait to see if they play Manchester United or Chelsea in the final.

Players – I am not going to go through every single player but the spine of the team stood out. The goalkeeper, centre backs and centre midfield were very good (see below). Whilst the front two Martin and Ironside worked hard being ultra critical they did not hold the ball up enough for me and the two wide men Gregory and McFadzean did not get in the game enough. We lacked pace in these front areas and missed the suspended Slew. The full backs, Montgomery and Barry were steady enough and kept their shape. It was more of a team performance and the shape and organisation stood out but if I had to look at a few individuals;

GK - Long - Very impressive. Took a lot of crosses but also punched well when he had to when in a crowd of players. Came off his line well and his kicking is good too. Looks very assured and one to look out for.

CB – Maguire – Very good. He is 6’2’/3 easily and very well built. He does lack pace and mobility and that is a concern moving forward but he a real leader and commands the defence excellent. Won headers all game but used the ball well as shown by the goal. Also came out of the defence well and was able to pass the ball rather than lump it. He would be no worse than Collins in my opinion and may be worth a few games before the end of the season if we are pretty much doomed.

CB – Kennedy – May not have stood out quite as his partner but I felt he was quietly as effective and mopped up a lot around Maguire. They played well as a pair and gave Villa very few chances other than from long range or right at the end.

CM – Harriott – Our most effective midfielder. He passed the ball well and was able to link well. Kept it nice and simple and was calm and assure. He also was strong in the challenge and created time and room for himself.

CM – Whitehouse – Got up and down all game and was combative but also looked a threat getting into the box. A good athlete with an excellent engine. He scored two goals and led the team well as captain until two idiotic moments when the game was over; with a yellow for taking his shirt off and then an idiotic lunge when he should have just walked away. Pemberton looked furious with him and I think he will miss at least one leg of the two legged final now.

Excellent crowd (over 4,000) with most of South Stand full from what I looked. However a minor gripe was that they only opened the turnstiles at one end of the South Stand (the Kop end) and this made for queues right out and around Cherry Street. I know it was a cost decision but I had arrived 15 minutes before kick off so it was not like everyone had got there just before the game was due to kick off. Also when getting in the ground most people had decided to ignore their tickets/seat numbers and sit anywhere. This made for a ridiculous situation of people asking for people to move who were in their seats and them not moving as people were in their seats etc! Not good when adults had young kids with them and could not sit together in some cases. There were no stewards about and it just seemed badly organised. Still minor moan aside it was great to see so many there and the players clearly were delighted with the numbers there and the enthusiastic support. Hopefully we may be able to fill 2 stands (if enough get tickets) for the final but I believe they do show it on Sky too?

Blades: Long, Montgomery (Pomares 76), Barry, Harriott, Maguire, Kennedy, Gregory, Whitehouse, Ironside (Wilkinson 87), Martin, McFadzean (Anderson 67).
Unused: Willis, Ahmadi.

Villa: Barratt, Nelson-Addy, Caira, Carruthers, Jenkins, Williams, Robinson (Hill 74), Taylor, Drennan (Burke 45), Johnson, Cameron (Graham 45).
Unused: Serrano, Bryan.

Attendance: 4,016