Villa scored four goals at home for the second time in four days yesterday despite making 11 changes from the team that defeated Norwich on Saturday.
Our League 1 table-topping visitors also made the same number of changes. It seems clear from this that both clubs are prioritising promotion rather than cup glory this season although a visit to Wembley might yet be needed to secure promotion for both teams via the play-offs.
This was a much better game than I had anticipated it would be and it was free for season ticket holders! It has often been said that “you don’t get anything for nothing” this phrase was recently used by the new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for example but we season ticket holders did get something for nothing last night we got to witness another goal fest at B6 for free!
Scoring four goals in consecutive games for the first time since 2008 (when we scored 4, 6 & 5 goals in 3 successive games the first and last of which were home games) could well lead to Villa Park soon becoming known once again as fortress Villa Park. Make it so Villa!
It was nice to see youth getting a chance in the first team again last night and it paid off once again. Most players that would be expected to be called upon on Friday for the visit to Bristol City got a game off. The young players that replaced them impressed and that can only be good for both them and for our football club.
We might not win this cup or go much further in this competition but we have not yet embarrassed ourselves with the sort of inept performances we have produced in losing to lower league opponents in the recent past. For a second time within a week we performed well for 90 minutes and scored goals for fun. A third win on Friday might suggest that we really have turned the corner after what was an unexpectedly poor start to this season.
My player ratings from a game that took us into the last 16 of the League Cup that we last won way back in 1996 are:
Jed Steer – 6 – Looks an able deputy for Johnstone. Was fortunate late on when an 89th minute effort from Hunt struck his legs rather than the back of the net.
James Bree – 6 – My primary concern with James being selected tonight as well as De Laet is that this suggests Hutton might be being saved to start on Friday night for some reason that is beyond me! James looked confident and competent last night both at full back in the first half and then when switched to the centre of our defence in the second.
Ritchie De Laet - 6 – Looked as adaptable as Bree did when he changed position with him from playing as a central defender alongside Elphick in the first half to playing as a full back in the second during which he made a couple of decent runs forward. Was beaten a little too easily by Colclough who then ran on to slot the ball into the corner of the net past Steer for their 43rd minute goal but he then claimed a big assist for our fourth goal.
Tommy Elphick – 6 – Gave a steady and solid enough central defensive performance working alongside two defenders who would not be expected to feature too often in the centre of our defence. Hit a speculative 30 yard shot on 58 minutes that went wide of the post.
Mitchell Clark – 6 – Did well on his debut looking solid and comfortable in his role throughout. Hit a 10th minute shot from the edge of the box after an Adomah corner had been partially cleared that Jones pushed out for a corner at his right-hand post.
Albert Adomah – 7 – Performed at a level above what we have seen from him of late and sustained a good performance throughout the game rather than for say 45 minutes or less as has sometimes been the case previously. Hit our second goal on 36 minutes when he connected sweetly and first time with a cross from Bjarnason to send it rocketing into the roof of the net.
Gary Gardner – 5 – Below his best last night as he has been for a while now. This may well be the last that we see of him in our shirt. Injury problems have hindered his development as I think has the holding midfield role he has often been asked to play as was the case last night. Gary looked to have a bright future with us showing an early ability to pick a pass (as he did last night in the build up to our first goal) and to find the back of the net himself but he is now looking to move on to play first team football more regularly. I hope this will soon see him performing at the sort of level he did when on loan at Forest for example (but not against us).
Jake Doyle-Hayes – 8 – MOTM – We might well have witnessed the emergence of a second significant young talent within less than a week yesterday. Jake did the simple things well, made some good strong challenges, has the happy habit of finding one of his own players more often than not and pretty much dominated the midfield until his 78th minute substitution. A very impressive performance that will surely see him start our next cup tie and challenge for a place on the bench in future league games in the same way as O’Hare has.
Birkir Bjarnason – 7 – Looked a lot more up for this game than he had done in recent appearances. Needs to get as involved in future games as he was in this one on a consistent basis in order to challenge for a starting place. Might have added a third on the 42nd minute when Hogan found him inside the box but he took a touch which enabled Jones to claim the ball. Scored our fourth on 74 minutes. De Laet made a good run from within his own half before hitting a cross that hurried behind Hogan but Bikir made a determined run that put him in front of a defender and he hit the ball home well. He also had a decent header kept out by Jones 10 minutes later.
Callum O’Hare – 7 – Showed signs of promise as he did in his previous appearance in this cup competition. Worked tirelessly and showed some nice touches. Got down where it hurts on the 40th minute when trying to get the ball in after a De Laet header from a corner. Hit a good cross on 45 minutes that Hogan was not quite able to stretch enough to be able to turn it into the net.
Scott Hogan – 8 – O’Hare played a ball to Scott on 8 minutes that he took into the box before wrong footing a defender and seeing his shot blocked by Jones at the near post. Gardner headed a 12th minute corner forward that Scott headed onto the crossbar. Opened the scoring on 19 minutes when a nicely weighted ball from Gardner found Adomah whose low cross into the box was turned in with his outstretched right foot. Scored his second and our third of the night on 44 minutes to restore our 2-goal cushion when he picked up a loose ball on the edge of the box turned and lashed the ball into the corner of the net. Headed a ball into the box from Adomah straight at Jones on 65 minutes. Scott was substituted on 81 minutes to put an end to his search for a third goal.
Ross McCormack – 6 – Replaced O’Hare on 73 minutes for a very rare Villa appearance. Was he in the shop window? Most likely but if so he did himself no harm showing he retains the ability to bring others into play in the final third as well as an awareness of the need to find space for himself in the box.
Jordan Lyden – Replaced Doyle-Hayes on 78 minutes. A welcome return to first team action but he was not on quite long enough to gather a rating.
Easah Suliman – Replaced Hogan on 81 minutes and bravely blocked a fierce Burgess shot on 94 minutes. Our England U-19 UEFA European Championship winner was not on long enough to earn a rating.
Up the Villa!