Aston Villa 1 Toon 0
James Collins eased Aston Villa's relegation worries, but Newcastle looked relegation candidates themselves in a shocker at Villa Park. ASTON VILLA 1 NEWCASTLE UTD 0 ASTON VILLA: Friedel, Walker (Cuellar 78), Dunne, Collins, Luke Young, Downing, Petrov, Makoun (Reo-Coker 67), Ashley Young, Agbonlahor (Pires 86), Bent.Subs Not Used: Marshall, Albrighton, Heskey, Clark. NEWCASTLE: Harper, Simpson, Steven Taylor (Ryan Taylor 63), Williamson, Jose Enrique, Barton, Guthrie, Coloccini, Gutierrez, Ranger (Kuqi 83), Lovenkrands.Subs Not Used: Krul, Ferguson, Donaldson, Tavernier, Richardson. Att: 37,090 Villa charged Toon fans more than £40 a ticket, but this was a game that was not worth 40p admission charges. Villa looked relegation fodder - lacking in spark, guile and leadership - we were ten miles back in the rear view mirror - looking far worse. The Welsh international defender headed home an Ashley Young free-kick midway through the first half to give Villa the points, but we were a pale shadow of the team that hammered them 6-0 at St James' Park earlier in the season.. Villa had dropped 23 points from winning positions this season, showing they struggle to get over the finish line. But Alan Pardew's ramshackle formation, looking more like a dog's hind leg than a football formation, never got out of first gear. Ex-Smoggy Stewart Downing was obviously out to impress, trying to justify his current favour with the England manager, but I ask the question: "Is he REALLY international material?" A dangerous left-wing cross from Jose Enrique found Joey Barton unmarked at the far post. But he made a right hash of it, making himself look rather average after telling the football world he was "the best midfielder in England at the moment." Rule No 1 in sport - you let OTHERS hand out the praise - you don't praise yourself. Colloccini was stuck in midfield in a position I personally don't think suits him. He is a central defender, and Pardew was grasping at straws suggesting he can be a Kevin Nolan. I couldn't take any positives out of the game ... it was seriously that bad. Nile Ranger finally made it into the starting line-up but he never looked a Premiership player at any point. Jonas Gutierrez, on the other hand, did - but United looked clueless up front with Ranger and Peter Lovenkrands poor targets to aim for. Mike Williamson was booked for bringing down Gabriel Agbonlahor in full flight and, soon afterwards, Collins put Villa ahead. Barton was upset at being penalised for bringing down Ashley Young. Young took the free-kick himself and Collins' glancing header flew past goalkeeper Steve Harper into the far corner of the net. It was his third goal of the campaign. Barton (as usual) was the target for abuse from the opposing players, and he was constantly berating referee Stuart Attwell and was spoken to by the official. It was the same old story, the opposing side would take turns in winding-up the former Man City midfielder. Light the blue touchpaper and stand well back. And Barton - being Barton - bit every time. Young had a shot deflected wide after finding plenty of space 20 yards out, then a goalbound header from Richard Dunne was blocked from the resulting corner by the influential Young. Downing delivered an inviting cross after skipping past the challenge of Danny Simpson but Darren Bent could not keep his header down. Bent had the ball in the net a minute before half-time but was ruled offside. Villa started the second period on the offensive and a mistake by Barton allowed Stiliyan Petrov to find Agbonlahor in space on the left flank. He had time to make ground into the Newcastle box and his curling shot was parried aside by Harper. Young had a low shot turned around the post by Harper, even though referee Attwell awarded a goal-kick. Villa were now in the ascendancy and Harper went down to cling on to Agbonlahor's low shot on the turn. The home side appealed in vain for a penalty when Steven Taylor barged into Bent after an hour. It was Taylor's last contribution before he was replaced by namesake Ryan. Villa were still searching for the second goal and Collins had a goalbound header cleared from a Young corner. Petrov was booked after bringing down Barton, who was then yellow carded for a challenge on Villa substitute Nigel Reo-Coker. Friedel clung on to a Peter Lovenkrands header and then blocked a low drive from the same player in injury-time.
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