Post-mortem: A draw isn't that bad and there are lots of positives

I don't fall into the category of football fan that says a goalkeeper should come for all crosses. I actually fall into the category of football fan that things a goalkeeper should trust his defenders and be in the best position possible should a shot come.

That doesn't always mean things work out the way they should, but more often than not they do. What I'm saying is, Brad Friedel isn't to blame for the late goal on Saturday and actually, without Brad Friedel, we could have lost, so I think, all things considered, we were just unlucky.

So, I'm not going to dwell on the reasons we didn't win, but I am going to bang the drum that this is a transitional season again.

The manager is changing the way we play football and at the same time, giving opportunities to some of the brightest prospects we have had at the club for a long time. Nobody can expect things to happen overnight and we were not going to finish sixth again this season with the previous manager, without a miracle or a very drastic change in how we played football and that was never going to happen.

What the Papers Say

David Lacey, The Guardian
Another youngster, Barry Bannan, 20, playing in central midfield for the injured Stilian Petrov, provided the inspired crossfield pass which found Marc Albrighton, 21 this month, sprinting clear of Carlos Salcido to beat Mark Schwarzer four minutes before half-time. By then Villa had lost Nigel Reo-Coker with a knee injury but this merely brought on the 21-year-old Ciaran Clark, normally a defender, to show impressive pace, strength and vision alongside Bannan.

All the other papers that I read seem to be focusing on the John Carew saga from the weekend. I don't want to get involved in that as it is turning into a spat and I can tell you how it is going to play out.

Carew will not get another contract but he will play again. On the face of things we will all think that things are okay, but simmering under that facade will be a hatred towards each other. Houllier will win and Carew will end his career in Turkey or Greece or somewhere else quite warm. This assumes Houllier sees out the season, which I fully expect he will, but stranger things have happened.

The Manager

Gerard Houllier
We had enough chances to seal the game. That is the only thing we could blame ourselves for - we maybe at times had the chance to finish it off. The overall performance was good. We sometimes played some very good football. Take into account that two players haven't started in the Premier League this season. We knew that at some stage the young players would become a bit tired. In fairness I told the boys I am extremely unhappy with the result but the performance was outstanding in terms of effort and discipline.

The Players

Brad Friedel, Luke Young, Stephen Warnock, Richard Dunne, James Collins, Stewart Downing, Ashley Young, Marc Albrighton, Nigel Reo-Coker (Ciaran Clark, 34), Barry Bannan and Nathan Delfouneso (Stephen Ireland, 88).

Man of the Match

Nobody will be surprised by this, but the award has gone to Barry Bannan with just over 70% of the vote and if he walked into my small corner office right now, I'd stand up and applaud him. It really was a fantastic performance and factor in that for most of the match he played in the middle of the park with Ciaran Clark, I think the performance just goes to show that there is bags and bags of potential and things can only get better with those two. Marc Albrighton came second and Clark third - impressive that.

Final Analysis

The manager touched on it when he said we had enough chances. There was one notable one for The Fonz when he was played in by Albrighton and he almost had too much time and instead of using instinct, he took that time and shot quite weekly straight at the Fulham keeper. He was also maybe a little too far out, a few yards closer and with a defender closer, things might have been different.

But I'm pointing out that because The Fonz needs time and I'm not talking about a season or two, but a few games. He needs a run and he needs to figure out the pace of the game and to find his feet.

Playing as a striker is a little different to every other position in the team, mostly because you are ultimately judged on the goals you score and you are not involved in the game to the same extent as defenders or midfielders. The Fonz is a goal scorer and I believe it will come if he is given the games, I really do.

But at the end of the day, the result wasn't that bad either, it was how it happened. Fulham had a better home record than us last season and the season before and imagine for a moment that it was us who scored four minutes into added on time - we'd be elated now, so I'm moving on from the result and I'm looking at the positives as we have quite a few of those for the match.

I know this goes both ways, but we are only two points from sixth place and four from fifth - the position we find ourselves in is nothing to be overly concerned with especially when you accept this is a transitional season and things are going to get better week after week.