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Aston Villa vs. Arsenal: FA Youth Cup 3rd Round


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A cold winters night at Villa Park saw Arsenal come from behind to knock Villa out of the Cup, in an exciting but ultimately disappointing game with lessons a-plenty for the learning.

A quick pint in the Holte Hotel and then on to a surprisingly sparsely populated Villa Park; the club were hoping for a crowd of four of five thousand tonight, but at kick off I think we were struggling for a thousand. The crowd thickened out a bit during the first half but never came near to reaching the levels that were hoped for.

Villa lined up with Conor Devlin, on loan from Manchester United in goal, a back four (l-r) of Dyer, Baker, Flanagan and Bradley and a midfield quartet of Forrester, Blythe, Hofbauer and Weimann, with James Collins and Nathan Delfouneso forming a formidable looking partnership up front.

No sign of Gary Gardner unfortunately, and he’s one I was hoping to see, but a decent line up nonetheless.

Arsenal brought their own stars in Henry Lansbury, Luke Ayling, and Emmanuel Frimpong in the starting line up and a very decent supporting cast.

It was Villa that started brightest, forcing Arsenal onto the back foot right from the off, and it took just four minutes for us to open the scoring. A good ball in from the left from Forrester led to a Weimann challenge on the keeper, which he flapped at, the ball dropped to Collins who volleyed into the empty net from just behind the penalty spot.

We continued to press with Collins looking particularly threatening. Another volley forced a decent save out of James Shea in the Arsenal goal, and we played a number of clever balls into the Arsenal area without ever quite getting onto the end of them.

We had a hopeful penalty shout after ten minutes and looked in complete control of the game, with a second goal surely inevitable.

Arsenal scored on 13 minutes, Sunu’s shot saved well by Devlin, who also produced an excellent save from Murphy on the rebound, however the striker made no mistake with his second bite of the cherry and put the ball into the roof of the net.

Tony McAndrew responded by switching things around a little, moving Weimann up front and pushing Delfouneso to the right wing. A strange choice, but it seemed to work.

The tide had turned though, with Arsenal finding confidence and starting to play, but Villa upped their work rate too, and we had a really good twenty minutes of football with both sides creating chances.

Collins shot wide from around twenty-five yards out, whilst Villa’s back four were troubled by the pace of Sunu and the constant bleating of the immensely dislikeable Lansbury.

When a goal came, it came unexpectedly, a tackle by Forrester forcing the ball forward to Collins who ran at the Arsenal back four, shimmied and swayed then placed a left foot shot across the keeper and into the bottom left hand corner.

2-1 and game on with 40 minutes on the clock!

Half time came and Villa could be very pleased with their efforts, we were just about deserving of our lead too.

From the first minute of the second half, Arsenal looked a different side, they’d shortened everything up and added some patience to their passing, and Villa were under threat right from the off.

They had two or three efforts in the opening five minutes of the half, although thankfully all were reasonably comfortable for Devlin.

Villa looked a little panicked and we’d started to hit a lot of long hopeful balls up to players who were distinctly smaller than their opposite numbers. It wasn’t working and Arsenal were starting to dominate possession.

Harry Forrester did manage to shoot well over on a rare break, but for the most part the second half was becoming about our efforts in keeping Arsenal at bay.

Chief obstacle to the Arsenal front line was Devlin, who added to an increasingly long list of good saves by flinging an especially impressive hand at a drive by Murphy, then keeping the same player’s header out from the resulting corner.

We couldn’t keep them out forever though, and despite another good save from Frimpong’s shot, Murphy beat Devlin to the rebound for the second time on the night for two all.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Nathan Baker was injured in trying to prevent the equaliser and had to be substituted with Grocott coming on.

It looked grim and our fears were confirmed when Jay Thomas tucked away a pull back to give Arsenal the lead with just ten minutes to go.

A tired Villa side somehow managed to galvanise themselves for a big finish, and the pace and energy of Kofi Poyser on as a sub for Weimann seemed to lift us.

Delfouneso was almost in as Villa threw men forward, winning a corner that saw Devlin up from the back and joining a packed box. A couple of half chances and penalty area scrambles were the best we could muster though and Arsenal did enough to see the game out and earn the victory that their second half performance merited.

Bugger.

A fair nights entertainment and a good learning experience for our youngsters, don’t be at all surprised to see Arsenal go all the way in this competition, they’re a quality outfit, but they won’t face a tougher game than this.

Some ratings;

Devlin (9) A very impressive performance from the youngster, he’s an excellent shot stopper, looked good on crosses, distributed the ball well and was calm under fire. It’s a shame he belongs to the people he belongs to. He didn’t deserve to be on the losing side tonight.

Bradley (6) A patchy performance I thought, at times he looked composed and bright, at others a little rash. That could be a good thing I think, and if he finds consistency in the next couple of years he could be a decent prospect.

Baker (6) Looked a little less assured tonight, Arsenal are a tall side, and even though they don’t play on their physical strengths Nathan looked like he was struggling to impose himself on them.

Flanagan (6) worked his socks off, and for the most part did an excellent job on the impressive Murphy, but he tired towards the end and could do with a little work on his distribution.

Dyer (6) Tired as the game went on, but impressed in the opening twenty minutes. A determined battler, who will need to work on his composure and passing, but defends very well.

Forrester (7) everything he did had a touch of class about it, but he needs to find ways to bring himself into the heart of games. He has excellent control, a good touch, vision and passing ability, but isn’t as involved as you’d like from the left of midfield.

Blythe (6) Not sure about him, he put everything into it, but I’m not sure about his ability on the ball. I’d like to see him again as I may be doing him a disservice. He went a long way towards keeping Frimpong quiet for an hour, but couldn’t keep up with him after that.

Hofbauer (6) what he did was good, and he put himself about a bit, but couldn’t really take the game by the scruff of the neck and make it his.

Weimann (7) Worked the Arsenal back four very hard with very little to show for it, he was Captain tonight and played like it. It’s just a shame he never got into a position to get a shot on goal.

Delfouneso (6) The touch was there, and he showed flashes of his talent, but this was a little bit of an after the lord mayors show sort of performance. He was probably less effective tonight than he was against Zilina.

Collins (8.) He hustled, bustled, harried and hassled and Arsenal hated it. I thought he had a very good game and scored with a couple of excellent finishes. He’s continued his excellent goalscoring form from last season and might just be a little bit better than I’ve previously given him credit for.

Of the subs, Poyser caught the eye with pace and direct running, he has a slightly hunched running style reminiscent of Gabby, Grocott was busy in the middle of the park and livened us up a bit and Andreas Stieber wasn’t really on long enough to make an impression.

So we’re out at the first hurdle, just like the real FA Cup but I think anyone that went tonight will agree it was excellent entertainment, especially since the club provided it free of charge.

It’s a shame this game was so early in the competition and I’ve no doubt Arsenal are capable of winning it, good luck to em.

We’ll be back next year for another tilt at it no doubt.

Bah humbug.

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Very very disappointing result, but a brilliant report as usual, OBE, thank you very much :) BTW, as I'm a bit of nerd and like to keep stats on these sort of things, can you tell me when Poyer came on for Weimann? Presumably shortly after Arse scored in the 80th minute? Also, who did Stieber come on for and when? Cheers

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Poyser came on for Weimann I think with about eight or nine minutes left. Stieber came on for either Blythe or Bradley with around two minutes to go. (I think it was Blythe, but I'll be honest I'm none to sure as to that one.)

Banned for H&V, we only have one keeper on our books who's eligible for this competition, Thomas Dau. Thomas suffered a very serious back injury a couple of weeks ago and had to airlifted to hospital from the pitch at Bristol City.

The FA allows special dispensation for keepers to come in on loan, so we were allowed to play Devlin. I only wish we could keep him.

According to the FA, the attendance was 1060, which is disappointing.

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