Date: 26th October 2008 at 7:17pm
Written by: Baskerville

Latics` lack of strength in depth was cruelly exposed by a professional Villa side as Latics fall down the Premier League continued.

Steve Bruce was forced into making two changes, replacing the injured Melchiot and the suspended Valencia with Boyce and the returning Heskey, switching back to a 4-4-2 formation with De Ridder retaining his place on the right wing.

Fans outside the ground walked past signs advertising a circus at the JJB and by the end of the game they could have believed that the clowns had arrived early so laughable was the home teams performance. Latics seemed incapable at times of stringing two passes together and up front Heskey and Zaki were once again starved of anything looking like quality ball. When they did receive the ball they found the Villa defence superbly marshalled by their captain Laursen.

Villa,fresh from their victory over Ajax in midweek and roared on by a vociferous travelling support started the brighter and it wasn`t until the eighth minute that Latics entered the Villa penalty area.

A corner was flicked on by Zaki but Heskey snatched at his shot firing into the side netting.

Latics pushed forward but the quality of the passing was poor and Heskey and Zaki were reduced to chasing for scraps.

The opening goal fitted the mood of the performance., Agbonlahor broke down the right hand side with Bramble tracking him, Agbonlahor appeared to be going away from the goal when Bramble lunged at him in the area, the referee quite rightly pointing to the spot.Barry coolly converted the chance and Latics were behind

Latics have only come from behind three times to win since entering the Premier League and as the first half went on it didn`t look likely that this statistic would be altered.

Latics pushed forward looking for an equiliser and appeared to have a good shout for a penalty but Mr Jones waved play on and then immeadately booked Palacios.

Most of Latics attacking play comes through Valencia and his replacement De Ridder had a terrible afternoon, creating very little and leaving Boyce exposed who was given a torrid time by Ashley Young. On the left hand side the Latics were no better with Kapo having a bad day at the office also.

Latics best chances of the first half fell to Scharner whose goal bound header was blocked on the line by Friedal`s legs leaving the big Austrian with his head in his hands and a Palacios shot from outside the area which Friedel saved but the rebound fell to Kapo who blazed over with the goal at his mercy.

The second half brought the welcome replacement of Kapo with Koumas who immediately set about driving Latics forward and a shot from outside the area could only be palmed away for a corner by Friedal. Latics buoyed by the prompting of Koumas and the tireless running of Cattermole pushed forward but Villa always looked dangerous on the break and from a Young corner the Agbonlahor scored the simplest of goals when the Latics defence appeared to just watch the ball roll over the line.

Latics kept pushing forwards but their lack of attacking players on the bench meant there was no plan B and with Heskey and Zaki well marshalled it seemed that any goals would have to come from set pieces. Bramble had two good efforts but Villa managed to deal with them .

Once again Villa stung Latics on the break with Carew heading home the third goal after Latics were caught short at the back. Latics lack of steel in midfield was further evidenced when Laursen was allowed to run from the edge of his penalty areas to the edge of the Latics penalty area and only his uncertainty of which Villa player to put in for the fourth goal allowed Latics to scramble the ball clear.

Villa weren`t to be outdone however and showed their strength in depth when Sidwell scored in the last minute. By now most of the Latics fans had had enough and the home crowd resembled a home gate at Springfield Park in the early nineties.

Player Ratings

Chris Kirkland…5.5/10
Was left exposed by the ten in front of him. Could have done better with a couple of the goals

Emerson Boyce…5/10
Was given a lesson in wing play by Young.

Maynor Figueroa…6.5/10
Kept going all afternoon which is not saying a great deal

Paul Scharner…5.5/10
Poor defending for the goals but unlucky not to score

Titus Bramble…5/10
His lunge to conceed the penalty put us on the back foot. Nearly scored but his mistakes always cost us a goal.

Lee Cattermole…5.5/10
Was in a midfield that was totally dominated by Villa but kept trying

Wilson Palacios…5.5/10
See Cattermole, was booked early on and it seemd to affect his game.

Olivier Kapo…4.5/10
Awful, a Birmingham old boy who isn’t good enough for this level

Daniel D eRidder…4/10
Even worse than Kapo, his inclusion shows our lack of depth

Emile Heskey…5/10
Snatched at the few half chances he had. Didnt look like scoring

Amr Zaki…5/10
A shadow of thr playert at Anfield last week. Was well shcakled by Laursen and showed his frustration at the lack of quality ball by taking the ball off Koumas’ foot when he was shaping to shoot

Jason Koumas…6/10
The most creative Latics player on the pitch

Michael Brown…5/10
Game was over when he came on.

Manager Rating
Steve Bruce…6/10

Should be credited for hauling Kapo off at half time and castigated for leaving De Ridder on.

His lack of depth in the squad exposed today by O’Neills Villa

Opponent Rating
O’Neill, did his homework , content to let Latics huff and puff and catch us on the break