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Villa Reserves vs. West Ham – Match Report


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A triumph for patience, persistence and the indomitable spirit of youth as Villa left it very late indeed to snatch a 2-1 victory over an experienced West Ham team.

A cold but clear night at Bescot and a hard pitch that looked a little worse than it played greeted both teams at kick off.

Villa lined up with Taylor in goal, a back four of Earls, O’Halloran, Clark and Lund, a midfield with Hogg and Salifou at its centre with Herd and Hofbauer out wide and Mikaelsson partnered with Harewood up front.

A big night this for Harewood against old friends and colleagues, West Hams dressing room wasn’t a very happy place last season it’s rumoured but I can tell you that Marlon is still very well liked given the welcomes he received in the warm up.

The Hammers brought a strong team, including Richard Wright in goal, Calum Davenport, James Collins, Christian Dailly, Luis Boa Morte and big money summer signing Julien Faubert and it looked like we faced a tough task as the whistle blew to start the game.

It was still echoing around the Floors 2 Go stand when West Ham went 1-0 up.

40 seconds gone, and Faubert had scored, making a lighting quick run between O’Halloran and Earls and hitting a firm shot that Taylor got something on but couldn’t stop.

It didn’t look good, and for the next fifteen minutes, our play was sloppy with some awful passing. West Ham were pressuring us and Faubert was giving Earls a torrid evening on the right. They created a couple of good chances but couldn’t take advantage of their momentum, and gradually we started to creep into it.

O’Halloran had our first effort on 15 minutes with a volley from a corner that resulting in a simple enough save for Wright, Harewood fired a blistering drive straight at him on 19. Our passing was still poor, but Harewood, Mikaelsson and Herd were doing a good job of chasing down lost causes and we gradually got ourselves on top.

Half chances came and went for Clark, Harewood and Hogg, but a clear-cut opening eluded us. Our passing had spread to our corners and Salifou put in a succession of poor balls.

An error by Clark almost let Boa Morte in just before half time, but Taylor did really well in getting out quickly and diving at his feet to keep us just one down.

Earls was no doubt pleased to see Faubert replaced for the second half. If he’s that good half fit, West Ham have a got themselves a very good player.

His replacement was a lad called Zavon with a ponytail and wearing white gloves.

The second half started much the same way the first had ended, though we were a little sharper, and carried the fight to them with a series of balls into their box that they struggled to deal with.

They were defending stoutly though and nothing was quite falling for us. When we could get a shot in, there always seemed to be a body in the way.

Delfouneso came on just after the hour to replace Hofbauer who had struggled to make an impact and looked a little nervous.

With three strikers we still couldn’t find an opening though, until with quarter of an hour gone Salifou poked a lovely through ball to Marlon Harewood who turned his man in the box and was fouled.

Penalty.

Bizarrely not given.

Marlon took a knock in the challenge and was replaced by Barry Bannan immediately afterwards. Judging by his language as he disappeared down the tunnel, I’m pretty sure he agrees that he had a decent shout for a pen.

Barry brought energy and enthusiasm, and he created a chance for himself almost immediately, his rasping shot forcing a good save from Wright.

The game had slowed right down with the overly fussy referee constantly treating us to his odd interpretation of the laws of the game, and West Ham running the clock.

With just four minutes left it looked like we’d have nothing to show for our pressure and might have to relinquish our grip on the title race.

The Bannan however does not know defeat.

A deflected Mikaelsson shot came out to him four or five yards outside the box and he hammered it home to rescue a point. No chance for the keeper and we’d finally made the breakthrough.

We weren’t done though, Clark had a header cleared off the line a minute later, with shots from Hogg and Mikaelsson blocked in the chaos that followed.

Then Herd allowed a ball to slip under his foot, the defender picked it up and Herd pounced on him, regaining the ball and playing it calmly across the box for Delfouneso. Wright could only parry his shot, and there was Mikaelsson, alone in front of the net a yard out. He absolutely lashed it home and promptly disappeared under a mound of happy Villans.

2-1 with 92 minutes on the clock, West Ham had one more dangerous free kick, but Taylor dealt with it well and we’d achieved a remarkable comeback.

A crowd of 358 (seemingly made up of managers and coaches) were delighted and our push to be champions continues. If the team can continue to show this sort of determination there’s no reason why they shouldn’t achieve that aim.

Some ratings;

Taylor (7) Very solid, made a couple of decent saves and got a hand to their goal. Marshalled a young defence well.

Earls (5) Struggled with Faubert and looked short of pace, this wasn’t the kind of swashbuckling display we saw earlier in the season and though he battled away it wasn’t quite his night.

O’Halloran (6) A gritty display but he let himself down with his passing from time to time. A good test for him tonight and he defended well.

Clark (6) Looks to be very athletic, I think this is only his second or third start for the reserves but he made several confident runs through the middle with the ball and showed great pace to chase down a striker late on. He’s promising but raw.

Lund (6) Solid enough, he rarely has a bad game and did a decent job all night.

Herd (7) worked his socks off and finally got his reward at the end by creating the winner, a good display.

Salifou (6) Neat and tidy and worked hard, but couldn’t quite produce the magic that he’s shown in previous reserve games. Some good passing, some poor corners, lots of effort, but wasn’t allowed much room.

Hogg (5) His passing was woeful in the first half, but credit to him he kept his chin up and kept soldiering on. Had a couple of half chances but was always up against it with West Hams midfield.

Hofbauer (5) I think this is his first start for the reserves and he looked nervous, not involved enough early on, and though he seemed to have good technique and passed it reasonably he was always on the periphery.

Harewood (6) A mixed bag for Marlon, it was clear that he wanted to impress, but we struggled to create the kind of chances strikers need. He chased everything and caused plenty of problems, but it just didn’t fall for him. The referee didn’t help. I nearly gave him a 7 for saying hello on his way into the ground.

Mikaelsson (8) Mikaelsson would have been our best player even without his last minute goal. Held the ball up really well and sometimes looks like you’d struggle to get it off him in a phone box. A really good link-man with very good feet, he’s come on leaps and bounds. Looked like he thoroughly enjoyed the winner and was still smiling as he came off.

Subs.

Bannan (8) He’s a pint in a half pint pot. Makes good decisions, is perpetual motion, can pass, can create, scores goals, brave, he’s a fantastic prospect. I’ve seen the future and it’s tiny. Could be the next Peter Beardsley or the next Stephen Cooke, I’m not sure which he’ll end up as, but enjoy him while you can.

Delfouneso (6) Still finding his feet, he was busy and dangerous and could have notched the winner. In a years time he could be winning games like this.

That’s your lot, the reserves go marching on and next up it’ll be Derby away on the 21st before we’re back at the Bescot on the 11th February when Portsmouth are the visitors.

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my favourite bit?

"Mikaelsson. Held the ball up really well and sometimes looks like you’d struggle to get it off him in a phone box."

:lol: lovely piece of writing, I have a funny picture in my head of a Crouch like figure doing lots of stepovers in a confined space.

Thanks for the report!

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