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Villa Reserves vs. Portsmouth


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In the last of the early evening light, with a full moon rising over the Holte End is there anywhere you’d rather be than Villa Park?

Certainly not tonight or you’d have missed a trouncing of Portsmouth by our reserves who wound up on the right end of a 6-1 score line.

These top against bottom clashes never seem to be quite what you expect at reserve level, and I expected a tight nervy game with Villa having one eye on the title.

As I say, they’re never quite what you expect.

Villa lined up with Taylor in goal, a back four (l-r) of Nicky Shorey, Lowry, Clark and Lichaj with Hofbauer, Bannan, Hogg and Albrighton strung across the middle and Delfouneso and Weimann up front.

The game started at a quick, chaotic and alarmingly enjoyable pace.

Delfouneso shot over the bar when he might have done better after Lichaj had broken free of his marker and headed straight up in the air from six yards out.

Portsmouth’s Marlon Pack tried to chip Taylor from distance but put his effort over before a delightful Delfouneso back heel sent Shorey through in the box for a cross that the keeper did well to get to.

Delfouneso charged down the keepers kick and nearly fashioned a chance for Hogg, before a Portsmouth player volleyed over the bar unmarked from the penalty spot on the break.

Weimann’s fierce cross-come-shot then almost deceived the keeper who made a great save to tip it over the bar and from the resulting short corner Bannan drifted a ball in that just eluded Clark on the back post.

Pompey broke and had a three on one, but Hogg did very well and when the shot eventually came it was deflected over for a corner.

Three minutes gone and I’d gotten the idea that this wasn’t going to be a nil-nil.

Thankfully the game settled after the opening ten minutes although Villa struggled to find a pattern. We were at times a little too direct and a little impatient, but when we got the ball down and played it we looked threatening.

Marc Albrighton threatened to take the game by the scruff of the neck though and a drive from a good way out wasn’t far over.

A moment later he was at the full back again, this time winning a corner, a short one from Bannan played in to him allowed him to float a ball to the far post where Hofbauer cleverly nodded it towards Lowry who hammered home a volley and celebrated like only a goalscoring centre half can! I think it’s fair to say he enjoyed it.

Albrighton was still at it and managed a run from one box to the other to force another corner, this time it was Hofbauer’s chance to volley but he could only put it over the bar.

Villa were starting to turn it on and Bannan’s clever quick free kick found Shorey on a run into the box, but he couldn’t quite squeeze out a shot and the keeper smothered the chance.

Next up was a cross from Albrighton that found Weimann unmarked at the back post for a free header from four yards out which he managed to put right across the goal. The onrushing Hogg almost put it away.

We were getting very close to half time and starting to wonder how we were only one nil up, when suddenly we weren’t.

First came a corner which was cleared by the defence to the edge of the box where Hogg met it with a fierce first time volley that never looked like it was heading anywhere other than the back of the net for 2-0.

Then Lichaj finally showed that it is possible to score with a free header six yards out and put us three up from another excellent Bannan delivery.

Three nil up at half time, they say it’s true you get what you deserve and we were good value for our lead.

I’m not sure what the owner of the green estate who’d left it in the North Stand car park with the engine running deserved, but I hope he managed to get to it while it was still there and I’m disappointed to report I couldn’t spot him sneaking out when the announcement came over the tannoy.

Portsmouth started the second period very brightly and for about five minutes we looked a little vulnerable at the back, managing to concede in the end from a free kick headed back across goal for the elaborately named Paris Cowan Hall to nod in from close range. There followed a period of Portsmouth pressure that lasted around five minutes before blowing itself out.

Defensive assurance retained, Shane Lowry went on a little adventure upfield from where he had a little jink and a little shimmy before lifting a ball into the box where Albrighton lurked, poised to put it away.

Weimann nipped in first however, leaving his better-placed colleague flat footed. The crowd let out a small noise of frustration. It quickly turned into a satisfied cheer as Weimann proved he knows a bit more about these things than we do, burying his header into the bottom corner for our fourth.

He should have had a second a few minutes later, side footing wide from eight yards out after good work from Bannan down the left.

The crowd were enjoying this, and there was an outbreak of singing in the Trinity Road, a rarity at reserve games.

Lichaj was next to have a go and headed wide from a good position as we looked to make it a thrashing.

Gary Gardner came on for the hardworking Hofbauer and was quickly involved, starting a move that saw Shorey overlapping really well down the left and crossing for Hogg whose excellent run ended with him heading past the now deflated Liam O’Brien in Portsmouth goal.

James Collins came on for Weimann with a quarter of an hour to go, and quickly went looking to add his name to the scorers, he should have added his 25th of the season almost immediately but shot wide.

Albrighton shot over from the edge of the box after a little altercation with Jerome Thomas who had gone over the top of the ball in a challenge in the middle of the park that he was lucky not to be booked for.

We saved the best ‘til last however, with some good work in midfield releasing Delfouneso who drew a defender or two towards him before playing in Gardner. Without further ado, Gardner curled the ball expertly passed O’Brien and into the top corner from fully 25 yards, a beautiful finish that I’m sure his brother would have been proud of if he’d been there. (It wasn’t free this week.)

There was still time for Thomas to make a horrid looking lunge through the back of Clark, and in fairness even he looked disappointed that the ref didn’t send him off for it. He’d definitely had enough, and when he was leaving Charlton for the bright lights of the Premiership I don’t think a 6-1 reserves thrashing at Villa Park was quite what he had in mind; never trust a Redknapp young man.

Finally the referee showed the mercy of the full time whistle, and probably the most impressive thing about this victory was that I think there’s a lot more in the tank. We scored six, should have scored another four and I don’t think we were at 100%.

Next up at Villa Park are Stoke on the 23rd March, it’s cheap, it’s great to watch and it’s on a Monday night. What’s stopping you?

Some ratings:

Taylor (7) Two or three good stops and he looked really confident on crosses tonight. Solid as a rock, although to be honest he could have played in a blindfold and we’d still have outscored them.

Lichaj (7) A good goal and should have had another, struggled at times with their nippy winger, but never let him go and defended doggedly. He’s looked a lot more of a player this season and he’s clearly more comfortable in his ability.

Shorey (7) Rock solid and got forward very well, he’s another who could have scored and his support play and crossing was excellent. Defended well too and whilst he looked a little rusty you can tell there’s a player here.

Clark (7) Assured, calm and confident.

Lowry (8.) A goal and an assist from the centre half in a game he’ll remember. I thought he was excellent. He didn’t half look pleased with his volley, and rightly so.

Hogg (8.) Another all action display; he’s brave, industrious and makes great runs from deep, add that to a fantastic dipping volley and he’ll be very proud of his performance. He doesn’t look like a player that’s just back from a very serious injury.

Bannan (8.) He worked his socks off, kept us ticking, and provided some fantastic dead ball delivery. On another day he’d have had five assists.

Albrighton (7.) Lively throughout, he drove us forward whenever we started to flag. His first touch is always aimed at getting at the full back and he’s great to watch. Still has a tendency to get a bit excited in possession and hold on to the ball too long, but it’s hard to criticise when he’s able to do so much with it.

Hofbauer (7) He grafted tonight, and showed some very good touches. He just lacks the bit of explosiveness that Albrighton has. His work rate is excellent though and he can pass a ball very well.

Weimann (7) He’s a good finisher and quick, but sometimes looks like he doesn’t realise it. His goal was good and he could have had at least one more, he links play well and seems to work with Delfouneso.

Delfouneso (7) we scored six and Delfouneso didn’t get one. In truth, after the opening five minutes, he never really had a chance; don’t be fooled though, this was a very good performance, he dropped deep and dragged defenders with him, won balls and played passes, he has the ability to influence defenders and a presence that I’m not sure you can learn.

Subs

Gardner (8.) A really good goal and a decent performance from the young un. He’s taller than Craig and not so evil. In fact, there’s something about him that reminds me of the eighties. I’m not sure why.

Collins (6) He missed a couple of chances to add to his goal tally and will be disappointed not to have done so. He’s got 44 goals now in the last two seasons, and I reckon he might just make it fifty by the end of the term.

Blythe – Not really on long enough for a mark, but I’ll say this for him; he’s a skinny beggar.

There’s you go, and I don’t think I’ve missed anyone out this week.

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Great review as always – many thanks. Interesting how you see and point out things that I miss even though I was at the game too!

The ‘Boss Hogg’ wonder goal was a superb strike from a good 25-30 yards. Very impressive all round.

I think some of these players are going to make many regular appearances for Villa First XI. Others are going to have good careers in the lower leagues and I dare say some will make return trips to Villa Park in the future playing for other teams as they help them to promotion. I was really impressed with last night’s performance and I’m looking forward to 23rd March already!

Enjoyable football, cheap or free entry, sit where you want and none of the gnawing-worry-dread-and-tension of watching the First XI. Maybe this is preferable to what we put ourselves through watching the ‘big lads’?

On another positive note, Shorey looked comfortable and solid. I think he may be another ‘Confidence Jockey’ like Petrov, needing to be confident and feel he is being perceived positively before he can deliver his best. I hope that he is able to be given the chance to prove his worth without people getting on his back.

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Great report OBE

On another positive note, Shorey looked comfortable and solid. I think he may be another ‘Confidence Jockey’ like Petrov, needing to be confident and feel he is being perceived positively before he can deliver his best. I hope that he is able to be given the chance to prove his worth without people getting on his back.

That is a very good point indeed.
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Great report, as Faust said, much appreciated by one who doesn't have the chance to see these youngsters developing.

You'd hope that a decent percentage of these players will develop into first team squad members.

The club has such a good platform for academy players now, the law of averages should ensure a steady supply of lads breaking into the senior team.

From this report, perhaps MON will bring Storey back, move Luke Young to his proper position and Cuellar to partner Knight, as Davies seems to need a break.

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