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Villa Reserves vs. Derby: Match Report.


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Tonight OutByEaster? decided to give it a miss and stay in to watch the Champions league instead.

Yeah right!

Villa came from behind and took the Rams to the slaughter, winning 4-1 on an evening of much promise at Villa Park.

A very pleasant evening at Villa Park saw Villa Line up with Taylor in goal, Earls, Lowry, Davies and Lund across the back, Stieber, Osbourne, Hogg and Yago Bellon in midfield and Patrick Berger playing behind Mikaelsson up front. No place for Stephen O’Halloran, Christopher Herd or Damian Bellon and I suspect we might see O’Halloran out on loan before too long.

In opposition, Derby fielded an experienced group, including Marc Edworthy, Michael Johnson, Mo Camara and Jon Macken.

A touch of comedy before kick off, as Derby’s players and staff took up their seats in the Home dugout. Villa’s subs seemed happy enough to occupy the away bench until Kevin McDonald appeared and cleared Derby out with little more than a glare.

The game kicked off as the teams changed benches and Villa started brightly with the left side looking particularly bright with Earls bombing on. Captain Berger could have done better with an attempt he put well over the bar.

Conditions seemed a little slippery underfoot and players from both sides suffered early on with their footing.

Villa moved the ball around very well for the opening half hour, without threatening the Derby keeper enough. At times it looked like twenty men having a kickabout while the two keepers engaged in a shouting contest. Obviously top shouter Taylor triumphed, with an excellent running commentary that was almost entirely unsuitable for children.

Villa appeared very much in control with Hogg and in particular Osbourne dominating the middle of the park. Isaiah had a really good first half, driving forward through the midfield on innumerable occasions and proving difficult to get the ball off in tight situations.

Earls stepped forward with a surging run from the left through the middle of the field and unleashed a pile driver of a shot from around thirty yards that Price in the Derby goal did well to reach. The opening goal was surely not far away.

It came almost immediately, and it came for Derby. Davies fluffing an attempt to head the ball back to the keeper and Johnson scoring from the resulting corner. His celebration seemed to cause a little unhappiness in the crowd which unfortunately I didn’t see as I couldn’t bring myself to look at him.

This seemed to rouse the visiting fans, and all four of them engaged in a brief round of signing. They’d barely begun their bleating however before Osbourne found Mikaelsson with a ball over the top and he planted his shot past the keeper to level things up. Villa Park resonated with the notable silence of the Rams.

Tails up we went at them, Berger next to have a go with a free kick that needed a good save to push it over. From the resulting corner, Davies headed in for his first goal in a decent shirt. He looked delighted.

There was time for a particularly delightful little jinking run from Mikaelsson just before half time, but after working his way through the Derby defence he managed to chop his shot into the side netting.

At half time, I was shaken by the realisation in the queue for refreshments that the young fellow in the other queue was Barry Bannan, and worse that he seemed to be almost the same height as me. He must have grown.

It was good to see so many of the unused Reserve and Youth players in attendance, and there seems to be a good camaraderie in the group.

The second half opened in much the same way as the first had ended with Mikaelsson looking very lively. He almost added a third for Villa after a good run down the left and Derby were struggling to deal with him.

Stieber and Earls were still having a degree of success down that left hand side, and when the industrious Hogg released Stieber, he played a peach of a ball across the box for Mikaelsson’s second of the game.

Villa rampant once more and Curtis Davies created our fourth. A confident run from the back saw him play a little ball into feet on the edge of the box before running onto the return and shooting from the right side of the area. It had too much on it for the keeper who could only parry it to the feet of Big Mik. He gleefully tucked it away for his hat trick.

Berger shot just wide as we began to take our foot off the pedal, and both he and Stieber received a richly deserved round of applause as they were replace with a quarter of an hour to go by Delfouneso and Weimann.

Both the subs showed promise, with Weimann showing a tigerish determination to get the ball and a good touch to keep it. Soon afterward it was Mikaelsson’s turn for the applause as James Collins replaced him and Villa played out the remaining time without much in the way of incident.

Some ratings;

Taylor (7) – Didn’t have to do an enourmous amount, and Derby’s strikers seemed to aim pretty much everything straight at him, but he made one excellent save from Camara, looked solid all evening and marshalled the back line very well.

Lund (6) – it was a quiet evening for the floppy haired Viking. He defended our right side pretty well throughout, but struggled to get involved further up the field.

Lowry (7) – Another rugged if unspectacular display from the rugged if unspectacular centre half. You don’t worry when Shane is about.

Davies (8.) – Well, he’s big, quick, composed, his positioning is good, and he’s good in the air. He can pass and tackle and he looked a threat from every corner without ever really looking threatened at the back. The only time he ever looked the slightest bit uncomfortable was when isolated against a left-winger, I wouldn’t want to see him at right back.

Earls (8.) – At times tonight it was the Danny Earls show, the bow legged scruffy full back treated us to several 30 yard howitzers, stepovers, non-stop effort, tackling, a good range of passing and a demonstration of how an attacking full back should play.

I’m thinking of founding a fan club.

Yago Bellon (6) – Sometimes looks like he’s a cracking footballer but he’s never played before. He’s an occasionally infuriating yet very talented player who got better as the game went on and got stuck in a bit more than I’ve seen before.

Hogg (8.) – Mikaelsson got a hat trick, Earls caught the eye and Berger and Stieber had the tricks. Behind them was Jonathon Hogg, he tackled everything that moved, won balls he had no right to, ran tirelessly, passed the ball simply and supported every attack. He tired towards then end but frankly it was no wonder.

Osbourne (8.) – With Hogg he controlled the midfield, winning balls, passing well and most impressively setting off on a number of gallops through the middle of the park. His lolloping running style sometimes disguises the amount of ground he covers, but he worked very hard tonight. I think he’s improving.

Stieber (7) – Derby had a plan for Stieber. Kick him, or threaten to, and I think he allowed himself to be intimidated. He was a little introverted tonight, but still did well and created a goal. There were lessons to be learned for Zoltan tonight.

Berger (7) – Did well, but didn’t look quite sharp yet. The usual collection of excellent passing, flicks, vision and long distance shooting we’ve come to expect. I hope he plays a few more reserve games this season, at his best he’s an absolute joy to watch at this level.

Mikaelsson (9) – Who are you and what have you done with last years Tobias Mikaelsson? The Mikaelsson of this season has been a different creature to last season’s insipid striker. He still holds the ball up well, but he’s developed a liking for taking a player in and finding spaces where there are none. If his finishing continues to improve then good times are ahead for Tobias. There’s a new vibrancy about him.

So, that’s three games and three wins. I’ve said before that I think this group of players can win this league, and I think they are showing they’ve a real chance to do that. Away games at Portsmouth and Reading will go some way towards showing us if they can.

The next home game is on the 22nd October against Chelsea.

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Davies : Well, he’s big, quick, composed, his positioning is good, and he’s good in the air. He can pass and tackle and he looked a threat from every corner without ever really looking threatened at the back.

Sounds good enough to me :)

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