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Reserves vs Hednesford Town Friendly Match - Report


NurembergVillan
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Well, it’s easier to get to than Toronto I’ll say that for it. Hednesford Towns ground is a modest affair with a main stand almost half a pitch long down one side, two rows of covered seats at one end and a covered standing enclosure on the other two sides.

I took the only team sheet they had and made my way to the standing area, where in a throwback to days of yore I could stand and smoke. Jealous?

Villa lined up in a 4-5-1 formation with Bevan in goal, a decent back four of Earls, O’Halloran, Lowry and Lund, Damien Bellon the holding midfielder, Hogg and Herd in the middle and Stieber and Yago Bellon playing wide of Mikaelsson.

Resplendent in our white away kit, we kicked off on glorious late afternoon sunshine. I’d hoped some of these youth players had spent the summer in the weight room; initially I was concerned they’d spent it in the tanning salon. Stieber looks a little bigger though and Barry Bannan has added a few pounds.

We started a little sluggishly and the poor pitch seemed to make it difficult to get things going. What chances there were fell to Stieber who was drifting in at the far post nicely, Mikaelsson was holding the ball up decently, but support wasn’t always forthcoming.

A late tackle off the ball on young Zoltan was the first bit of notable action, giving Kevin McDonald the chance to show our referee that he’d not spent the summer improving his vocabulary. Good for him.

Soon after, they scored. A cross from the left from Robinson (Their best player on the night.) finding their big lummox of a forward who battered a header past Bevan. Questions might be asked of our young keeper and also of Yago who might have offered Lund more support.

It fired us up and we replied with the best goal of the night. Hogg ran through the midfield and played a short ball to Herd. Herd played it on to Mikaelsson and got it back through a crowded area before smashing the ball into the top corner. The keeper’s chances: none.

The game was being played at a pedestrian pace; with frequent drinks breaks and we never seemed to find our flow. Hednesford in particular seemed to be in no hurry to take corners, leaving the linesman ample opportunity to show us his keepy-uppy skills.

Half time came and went and Villa made no changes for the second half, which started at a reasonable pace. We were keeping the ball well, but having difficulty in finding a rhythm, and we weren’t creating many chances. A couple of long range digs from Mikaelsson the biggest danger.

Hednesford woke us from our slumber on 70 minutes, as Earls got the wrong side of Ross Dyer who latched onto a loose ball and slotted home.

That was followed by a crunching tackle on Damien Bellon as legs tired and tempers briefly frayed. A high and dangerous tackle by obligatory lower league hard man Tom Ward would have a seen a red card in a competitive game, Chris Herd was no more impressed than Hogg who was stamped on by the same player a few minutes later.

The fracas was punctuated by a great chance for Hednesford, a cross from the left fell to the feet of Peter Knox (I think) who demonstrated why we’ve never heard of him by managing to miss the target by the slightest of margins.

McDonald waited until 10 minutes to go before unleashing the Bannan, and whilst I’m not sure Barry can take the credit for it, it seemed to help us produce our best football.

We started to play some neater short passes and worked one or two openings which invariably found their way to Mikaelsson with his back to goal. Still, pressure counted when big Mik finally found himself facing the right way, burst past a defender and was brought down.

Stieber took the ball and stepped up, scoring with confidence from a firmly hit strike after sending the keeper the wrong way.

We threatened to take an underserved victory home, but the final whistle reflected a fair 2-2 draw in which we’d never really got going.

A decent game though to impress the good number of Villa fans who’d made the journey.

Individually, O’Halloran and Lund stood out at the back with O’Halloran particularly impressive. He seems to enjoy playing against big forwards and was excellent aerially. Earls showed impressive energy and deserved more out of the game than he got, Hogg and Herd had good moments but never really got control of the game. Yago Bellon can be baffling and never looked comfortable and Zoltan Stieber flitted in and out. Mikaelsson tried hard as ever and held the ball up well; he desperately needs a burst of pace though.

Damien Bellon was the big plus for me, I haven’t seen him before but he looked good as a holding midfielder playing just in front of the back four. Almost a junior Mascherano at times, but without the bite as yet.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening; The reserves start their season soon after the first team start theirs, and games are usually played at either Villa Park or Bescot. It’s free to season ticket holders and I’m hoping the Holte Hotel will be open and quiet. I’ll see you all there.

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