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Villa Reserves vs. Stoke


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With two players on international duty and five out on loan, we couldn’t possibly be expected to beat a Stoke side that featured no less than ten players who’ve played for their first team could we?

We could you know.

No Delfouneso tonight and no Gary Gardner, both off preparing to represent England at U19 and U17 level respectively, no Taylor in goal, he’s away at Cardiff, Osbourne is on loan at Forest, Bannan at Derby, Williams at Brentford, and Marlon over in Wolverhampton, so it was always going to be an experimental line up.

The problem with this club is that we’ve got too many left backs.

We overcame that tonight by playing Shorey in the centre of midfield with Jon Hogg, Hofbauer down the left and Albrighton down the right.

Behind them, Freddie Bouma played his natural role, with Clark and Baker the centre halves and Lichaj at right back.

Parish was charged with keeping goals out of the net and James Collins and Andy Weimann with putting them in at the other end.

Stoke’s line up looked very familiar, with Griffin, Cort, Sonko, Tonge, Olofinjana, and Pugh all starting.

Unfortunately, Mamady Sidibe didn’t make it through the warm up, going down with what seemed like a pretty serious knee injury in the warm up. He looked in a great deal of pain and I wish him well.

In recent weeks, reserve games have been packed full of goals and excitement. It was pretty clear from the outset that this one would be a bit different. Stoke were bigger, stronger and more experienced than anyone our youngsters have played before. To be fair this Stoke team is bigger, stronger and more experienced than most teams in the Premiership.

We looked the better footballing side throughout, but looked like we were trying to figure out how to beat our opposition rather than just getting on with it.

The opening fifteen minutes were cagey; the players struggled in the conditions, the ball rarely strayed from midfield, the wind howled like a hammer, and the game settled slowly.

The one moment of quality in the opening fifteen minutes came from Albrighton’s long run down the right hand side. Weimann met his cross firmly on the half volley, but the keeper tipped it over his bar acrobatically.

As the half wore on, Stoke began to exert some pressure, but it was Villa who looked the more dangerous of the two sides on the break with Hofbauer and Weimann looking particularly lively.

On 38 minutes, good work on the left from the Hoff allowed Collins to play a ball in to Weimann which he controlled well, skipping passed Cort and unleashing a fierce shot which struck the foot of the post with Simonsen stranded.

It seemed to lift our spirits, and a moment later, Bouma burst down the left wing and into space before looking up and finding Collins with a lovely pass that begged him to put it past the keeper. Jimmy the goal made no mistake and put us one nil up with just a few minutes until half time.

Tails up, and Lichaj was next to show, going on one of his now familiar lung busting gallops from the back and slaloming his way around a couple of defenders before being hacked down on the edge of the box.

Tonight’s poor referee decided no foul was committed and that we’d had enough excitement; half time.

In the second half, Villa took a great deal more control of the game with the two Austrians busy, Collins menacing and our back four performing particularly well.

Half chances came and went throughout the half, and Clark might have made the evening more comfortable as early as the 49th minute when a flighted Albrighton ball was headed across the box by Collins, alas he could only head over from two yards out.

Weimann shot wide, Hofbauer shot over. In midfield, the tigerish Hogg and the gritty Shorey were winning battles; Albrighton too was getting stuck in and had the wounds to prove it. He took a knock in the face and spent the majority of the second half bleeding all over the park, running round with a hanky pressed into his face and stuffing cotton wool up his nose.

He was all over the bleeding park too, picking up a Hogg ball and putting Weimann through but his finish was just wide.

At the other end, a Stoke cross was blocked and Parish rushed along his line to prevent a corner, reaching the ball just outside his six yard box and a couple of feet infield. He was as surprised as anyone when the ref gave a corner.

From it Stoke had possibly their best chance with Cort trying a somewhat ambitious overhead kick that ended up being a simple catch for the keeper. A moment later the same man almost managed an own goal, slicing a clearance just past a post at the other end.

Weimann broke away down the right after a great link up with Lichaj and delivered an excellent ball to the back post for Collins who will be disappointed not to have put it away; Villa thumping a post for the second time in the game.

A goal up with a couple of minutes to go against Stoke, and they did what they do; putting a big defender up front and loading balls into our box. It’s a great credit to our two young centre halves that they never really looked in any danger, and if anything, we looked the more likely scorers on the break.

One-nil the final result, with some excellent experience against a physical side for some of our youngsters and a couple of very useful run-outs for a couple of our senior players.

We’ve conceded just six goals now in thirteen games and we’re getting ever closer to retaining the title. Tonight wasn’t a thriller, but the determined, gritty way in which it was achieved bodes well for the future of these players.

Some ratings:

Parish (7) Largely untroubled, but dealt with crosses well, kicked well and saved shots that you’d expect him to save. He’s really come on this season.

Lichaj (7) He’s shaved his head since last time I saw him. It suits him, he’s developed into an all action right back with a fair bit about him. He need’s to show a bit more nous and a little more quality, but he’s brave and aggressive.

Clark (8.) A very good centre back, he led the team tonight, gave good instructions, won everything in the air, was calm on the deck, made good decisions and reduced Stoke to very few efforts on target. Impressive.

Baker (8.) Another good game for the youngster, he and Clark look an excellent pair and seem to have a good understanding. The pairing was at the heart of this win over a big, strong, physical experienced side.

Bouma (7) A slightly uncertain start, but a moment of quality that won the game. He looked very solid and Stoke rarely ventured down his side of the field. By around seventy minutes he looked worn out, but what is noticeable is that he’s not carrying any weight, he looks as fit as a fiddle, and now he has a bit more football under his belt I see no reason why he shouldn’t be a candidate for at least the bench.

Albrighton (7) At times a little subdued, but he still produced countless balls into the box, seemed to struggle to beat his full back round the outside, but once he’d made an adjustment came good. His work rate is excellent, even when he’s carrying around half a box of tissues and we can only hope there’s no lasting damage to the sharpest nose in football.

Hogg (7) Busy and seemed to enjoy competing with Stokes giants. He’s been making some excellent runs into the box in the last few games and was unlucky not to get on the end of anything tonight. He’s half Gardner, half Sidwell and you know he’s about.

Shorey (6) Did the simple things and looked calm and assured on the ball, tackled and harried as you’d expect, but never seemed entirely comfortable with his new berth in central midfield.

Hofbauer (7) An impressive first hour, probably the best I’ve seem him have. When he’s playing well he’s graceful, inventive and aware; he was all of those things in the first half. Faded a little in the second half, but then he and Weimann both played ninety minutes on Saturday for the academy.

Weimann (8.) Faded in the last twenty minutes and looked shattered in the last ten, but he played very well. Quick, clever and always looking for spaces, he’s the perfect foil for Collins; unlucky not to score.

Collins (7) You can say he’s not quick, you can say he’s not got tricks and flicks, you can say he’s not going to get out wide and get crosses in. It’s easy to make a list of things he’s not great at, but he’s scored forty-seven goals now in two seasons and you can see why; he’s strong, he’s good in the air, but mostly he knows how to find the yard he’ll need to get his chance, he knows where he needs to be to get his chance, and he knows where the back of the net is when his chance comes. He’s a goal waiting to happen.

Subs: none tonight.

Next up at Villa Park: Fulham on the 20th April, bring a camera, there might be a trophy.

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Great report as always and really enjoyed the game.

I was particularly impressed with the two big Centre Backs, Baker and Clark. I can really see those two forming the core of a very solid defence for the first XI in a few years time. They looked calm and accomplished and linked up well against what was basically a bonafide first XI Stoke team.

Bouma’s surging run and low cross was excellent and James Collins looks like being one of those big strikers who just get goals. The Austrian duo looked very tidy, creating trouble for the Stoke defence throughout.

I missed Stuart Taylor’s one-man ‘shout-a-thon’ – but Elliot P did the business in a quieter way. Also missed Bannan’s influence on the game but pleased that they have had the opportunity to go on loan and display their wares elsewhere.

The next match on the 20th April will be an interesting one. I imagine a fair few of the disciples – sent out to spread the word of Villa will return to watch from the touchline and possibly touch a trophy and collect a medal. Fingers crossed!

And no one left their car running in the car park this time…

So OBE - are you one of the guys sat in the press area tapping away during the game?

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Shorey can't even get a start at left back for the stiffs now and gets the lowest rating of the night when playing as a midfield player. Things look very bleak for him at Villa Park at the moment, which is a pity as if Bouma has not reached full fitness by the game at Old Trafford I would have started with him so that the entire defence was playing in their regular positions for this one. It looks like rushing Bouma back may be the only way this will happen.

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Shorey can't even get a start at left back for the stiffs now and gets the lowest rating of the night when playing as a midfield player. Things look very bleak for him at Villa Park at the moment, which is a pity as if Bouma has not reached full fitness by the game at Old Trafford I would have started with him so that the entire defence was playing in their regular positions for this one. It looks like rushing Bouma back may be the only way this will happen.

Shorey looked solid last night and everything he did was done simply and without fuss. I think he'll make good and just hope that the Villa boo boys don't get on his back.

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The problem with this club is that we’ve got too many left backs.

We overcame that tonight by playing Shorey in the centre of midfield

So. It's going on in the stiffs as well, is it?
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Collins (7) You can say he’s not quick, you can say he’s not got tricks and flicks, you can say he’s not going to get out wide and get crosses in. It’s easy to make a list of things he’s not great at, but he’s scored forty-seven goals now in two seasons and you can see why; he’s strong, he’s good in the air, but mostly he knows how to find the yard he’ll need to get his chance, he knows where he needs to be to get his chance, and he knows where the back of the net is when his chance comes. He’s a goal waiting to happen.

Sounds like Alan Shearer then.

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Good report, to my probable shame I have never watched the Reserves.

We have had plenty of talent there and I would like to see some of the kids filtered into the first team squad. They are young, hungry and talented so give them a go like Everton have with a couple of their youngsters. The way we have acquitted ourselves in the last few games they could hardly do any worse.

As for Shorey I say play him if Bouma is not fit. As one poster noted we would then have the now unusual luxury of playing a back four in their correct positions. As far as I can recall he had one perhaps two poor games but beyond that has looked very solid. One thing he certainly can do is pick a pass, better than quite a few more respected Villa players.

Clearly he has upset MON big time, the rumour I heard was that he had fallen out with MON (too outspoken maybe?) but surely for the good of the team neither should be bearing grudges. I suspect he will be off in the summer but lets use him whilst he remains with us.

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