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Player Match Ratings: Boro’s reserves beat our own!


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We made 11 changes from the team that won 3-0 at Barnsley on Saturday and paid the penalty for that with a cup exit (our first ever League Cup defeat against yesterday’s opponents). Not that we are alone in making significant changes in this cup competition and resting first team players at the drop of a hat as Middlesbrough made 10 changes themselves.

The League Cup was a really important trophy for around 40 years from the mid 60’s but it’s importance has faded to the extent that only 11,197 supporters attended this game. This game reminded me of those old Central League games that were played between reserve sides comprising of players who were out of favour, coming back from injury or potential first team players of the future. Crowds did not particularly flock in to see those games either.

Clubs mostly play teams that are pretty much unrecognisable from their first-team line ups until the last eight of the League Cup at least. We no longer have replays so that players do not face too many games in a season but those players do not play in the League Cup now anyway! The name of the competition has now become anyone’s guess with the sponsors having changed with great regularity since 1982 when the League Cup became the Milk Cup before morphing into a trophy that no club really makes a priority at the start of each season. It is a pity to see its demise.    

This game turned on the 57th minute when we conceded a penalty and the first goal from the spot. We also lost Elphick who was given a second yellow which brought us down to ten men for the rest of the game (this referee was far less determined to even things up than the one had been last week). Up until then there had been little to choose between these two second string outfits neither of whom seemed desperate to want to win this game.

Both teams produced a lack lustre performance last night and it could be argued that we didn’t really play much at all. The game seemed to be drifting towards a tame goalless draw, extra time and penalties until the penalty was awarded. That gave Boro the impetus and the place in the next round on a day few Villa players did anything significant to advance their case for a first team call-up. We are now left free to concentrate on the league and to bring on the first team.  

My player ratings from a game that extended the number of years we have gone without a League Cup Final appearance and a League Cup Final win beyond 8 and 22 years respectively are:

Jed Steer – 5 – Could only watch with relief when Bamford’s 26th minute header from a cross struck the bar with Hutton standing statuesque alongside the striker. Saved well low at his right-hand post to keep out a 30-yard shot from Forshaw on 36 minutes. Went left and Bamford struck his 58th minute spot kick down the middle. Caught in no-man’s land for their second when Bamford headed home a Tavernier cross at the near post that Bjarnason seemed to be trying to avoid making any contact with.

Ritchie De Laet – 5 – Made a good late run from well inside this own half on 92 minutes but his finish was high, wide and not very handsome. Headed the ball off the line on 89 minutes from a Taverier header or was it already marginally over?               

Tommy Elphick - 4 – Started comfortably enough and headed in from a Lansbury free-kick but was flagged offside. Earned a second yellow card and cost us the game on 57 minutes when he rashly brought down Bamford inside the box and reduced us to 10 men.    

Chris Samba – 6 – Did the simple things well enough and plays to his strengths.       

Alan Hutton - 6 – Started very well.  

Henri Lansbury – 6 – Sent off against these same opponents last Tuesday but was available to play having had his red card correctly rescinded. Went off with an injury on 41 minutes and we missed his experience.           

Jake Doyle-Hayes - 6 – Not as effective as he was in his last cup outing but he was very, very good on that day.   

Josh Onomah – 5 – Not at his best last night but few were. Had a 44th minute effort kept out at the far post by Konstantopoulos.

Calum O’Hare – 6 – MOTM – Make another good impression last night. Chased down apparently lost causes such as in the 34th minute when he went after a Hutton cross that seemed destined to go out of play and turned it back towards goal to force Konstantopoulos to stretch out a hand to avert the danger. Worked hard throughout just needs to try to add a cutting edge to his game.         

Birkir Bjarnason – 4 – Another disappointing display and he is clearly no full back.     

Scott Hogan – 5 – Could not quite turn a ball into the box in from close range on the hour mark. More was expected from him but he did not get a lot of service. Looked understandably unhappy to be substituted as were we to see him go given the match situation.            


Ross McCormack – 5 – Replaced Lansbury on 41 minutes. Showed a couple of nice touches and looked like he might have turned home a 65th minute Samba header from a corner. Is it time to re-think bringing him back in from the cold?

Jordan Lyden – 5 - Replaced Hogan on 60 minutes. Made no particularly noticeable impression on the game in the time he had available.

Corey Blackett-Taylor – Replaced Onomah on 81 minutes. Not on long enough to earn a rating.     

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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