Post-mortem: Aston Villa take three points from Pompey

I must apologise before I do anything else today. You see, there are still some that think we can finish fourth but I am afraid, I don't. I think fourth has gone and I think, while it is possible mathematically, we are hoping for too much from other teams and from our team, even though the football was better yesterday.

I still do believe it is possible for Aston Villa to finish fifth though and Wednesday against Hull is a vital match in that quest.

Fifth would be progress and would give O'Neill a great claim for even more money this summer, but there are still four games over the next three weeks to play and a lot can happen between now and then although much isn't going to happen between the end of the season and the 2010 World Cup apart from speculation.

What the Papers Say

Matt Butler, The Independent
The exotically-named Nathan Delfouneso was the man to score the winner that put Villa back in the top six and in the European places. O'Neill had said before this fixture that if they were to stand any chance of getting into Europe – he's gone from "Champions League" just to "Europe" – they would have to win their five remaining games. Not that he has given up entirely on catching fourth place because, mathematically at least, they are still in with a shout.
Jeremy Wilson, The Telegraph
It is not just the race for the Premier League that has caught light this weekend. The contest for the final Champions League place has also been reinvigorated, with Aston Villa maintaining their distant interest this afternoon thanks to an 82nd minute winner from 19-year-old substitute Nathan Delfouneso.

The Manager

Mart O'Neill, Club Site
I'm very pleased for Nathan. I think he is an exceptional talent and given a bit of luck he can become a very good player. I think in the not-too-distant future he will be a real player for us.

The Players and Some Stats

Big Brad, King Carlos, Ricardo Dunne, The Ginger One, Stephen Warnock; Webcam, Milly, Stiliyan Petrov, Stewart Downing, John Carew (Heskey, 72) and Gabby Agbonlahor (Delfouneso, 80) all played today and they got the result. Little Brad, Steve Sidwell, Nigel Reo-Coker, Habib Beye and Ciaran Clark were on the bench and didn't feature.

I'm doing this next bit too early, I know I am, but does anyone think the football has looked a little bit better the last couple of games? I do, so I am going to look at the passing stats again. Remember, I stopped looking and said I would when I thought the football looked better.

Well, the passing number was a huge 418 yesterday. If we go back a month and look at Stoke (a post when I gave up on passing numbers), the number was 287 - a very big difference and I think you can see that in the football - it is moving in the right direction. I hope it continues, because it has to and I hope it continues to progress.

Man of the Match

This goes to The Fonz with 32.1% of the vote. In second place was Milly, who got 28.2% and Webcam with 17.3% of the vote was third. John Carew came in fourth but it was a low number.

I'm happy for The Fonz. He didn't get long but he certainly made an impression and when you don't get long it is made even harder for you. Nobody can say he hasn't done exactly what he was supposed to when he has been called upon this season.

Final Analysis

I apologised in the first paragraph because I don't think we can get fourth and there will be some today that will say we can and yes, we can mathematically and in their defence, they also thought we would before beating Pompey, but beating Pompey isn't a surprise is it. It was one of the banker bets of the weekend.

Hull will be more difficult on Wednesday, because Hull are actually still playing for something, but again, I expect us to win, only because we should have more to offer and these are the type of matches that suit us - Hull will come at us. Every game is very much like the last ten minutes of the FA Cup final for teams like Hull now - they will throw everything at us and that will play right into how we like it and will create an open end to end game.

We do need to start taking our chances though and when we start to do that and if we continue to play football with the ball, we will organically get better. Football, is about scoring more than them, but they won't score if we have the ball and I will tentatively say that we do seem to be passing more - the football looks better and the numbers confirm it.

I just hope we continue down this road and don't revert back to the retro football O'Neill is so well known for and I also hope this isn't just something that is happening because of something out of our control.