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Villa Reserves vs. Sunderland – Reserve League Final


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A terrific night at Villa Park, a big crowd, sunshine and goals as we convincingly beat Sunderland 3-1 to be crowned national champions at reserve level; happy days in the Fonz’s gang.

The Barclays FA Reserve League Final, North vs. South, Sunderland vs. a Villa side that reached this stage last year but fell just short against Liverpool.

A very decent crowd at Villa Park arrived early and enjoyed a bit of sunshine, I’ve never seen the Holte Hotel so busy and the North Stand car park was almost full an hour before kick off.

After a pint in the warm evening light with the Holte End for company it was time to get in amongst it, no team sheets at the turnstiles as the big match called for a proper programme, a quid for eight glossy pages.

Villa lined up with Parish in goal, a back four (l-r) of Lowry, Clark, Roome and Lichaj, a midfield quartet of Hofbauer, Bannan, Hogg and Albrighton, and the dynamic duo of Delfouneso and Weimann up front. A familiar line up, with Lichaj the only one of those over twenty.

A good crowd of former players and managers had started to gather too, with Irish legends Steve Staunton and (erm) Mark Kinsella in attendance, joined by Ricky Sbragia and Ian Taylor in the posh seats, whilst Craig Gardner slummed it with the rest of us.

From the off Villa were right at em, Albrighton storming down the right hand side and forcing a corner. It came to nothing, but in the opening five minutes the same player had a shot deflected wide and we had Sunderland pinned back.

The game settled after Sunderland’s first chance of the half, a long-range effort seen safely over Parish’s bar.

With the assistance of Bella the lioness acting as ball boy on the far side, Villa won another corner which was headed just wide by Lichaj after a quarter of an hour.

The game was just starting to appear a little tame when Jonathon Hogg appeared in the box on a late run, picked up a ball from Hofbauer and laid it into the path of Delfouneso, he curled it home from the edge of the box via a defenders hand and we were one up.

Not for long though as it transpired.

The excellent Waghorne was foraging down the right and giving Lowry a hard time, twisting and turning his way into the box he tried his luck from an acute angle, firing one at the keeper from six yards out. Parish could only throw a paw at it and deflect it into the back of the net for a quick equaliser and game on.

A pattern was forming with Villa pressing and Sunderland breaking with Waghorne and Colback, Clark was next to come close for Villa with his header well saved by the keeper who then bravely touched the rebound round a post with Clark jumping in.

Delfouneso was at times sparkling in the first half and he fired just a foot wide from around thirty yards.

Sunderland were not without chances and their number nine might feel he should have done better with a header he got very little on from a very dangerous position, the ball drifting harmlessly wide.

Sunderland were finishing the half strongly and things were starting to get very competitive with Colback and Bannan squaring up. One ginger and one Scottish, both no bigger than five foot seven; it was no great surprise and the referee (Mr Clattenburg no less) did well in calming things down.

Half time and time for a penalty shoot out. Four small boys and one suspiciously older girl against a man in a lion suit, surely not a competition that could offer much in the way of reward?

One of the boys won two tickets to the Newcastle game and the chance to meet Stillyan Petrov afterward, others won tickets and signed balls and shirts. I won nothing. Bah.

The second half started much as the first had, with Villa going straight for the jugular, Delfouneso making a great run down the left, beating his man and putting in a good cross that Clark met firmly with a downward header. Somehow it clipped the heel of a defender on the line and stayed out.

Delfouneso again was just over from the edge of the box in move that saw Andy Weimann pick up a knock. James Collins replaced him on 54 minutes and got straight into things.

Albrighton took a touch past the Sunderland left back and whipped in a delightful cross which was firmly met by their monstrous number five, his header came straight back out to Albrighton who again removed the left back with a single touch and fired in a second tempting ball. Collins met it with a bullet header into the net, a picture perfect headed goal in front of the Holte End putting us 2-1 up.

A confident Villa put together a good spell, first Bannan forcing a good save from the keeper, then Collins firing just wide after a defensive slip as we pressed to cement our advantage.

Sunderland were a spirited side though and battled back into it, Parish coming to our rescue with a good save from a long-range effort.

They followed that up with three corners in quick succession, each looking more dangerous than the last, a shot deflected wide, a near own goal and a header just over putting hearts in mouths in the Trinity Road.

Hogg bravely broke up play by heading the foot of his opposite number in the middle of the park and while he tried to remember what day it was we re-grouped with Hofbauer going off and Chris Herd coming on.

Galvanised we pressed again and Bannan’s deep free kick almost found Delfouneso, just clearing his head. It fell to Lowry who lobbed it back into the danger area, Herd threw himself at it and missed and it nestled neatly in the bottom corner; 3-1 with five minutes left and one hand on the trophy. Bowling Shane!

Gardner came on for Bannan with a couple of minutes left and we created a couple of late half chances, but all we were waiting for was the final whistle.

When it came the players celebrated well and true, while goalkeeping coach Seamus McDonagh treated all and sundry to a thrilling display of dad-dancing from a box in the Trinity Road, including the famous Status Quo shoulder shimmy.

Wild scenes.

The crowd of just over 5,000 rose to applaud our conquering heroes and once the stage was completed, the Shield itself was collected amongst fireworks and glittery tickertape as if we’d won the European Cup.

The lads looked delighted as they paraded the Shield and their league trophy around Villa Park and they’ve thoroughly deserved it too, let’s hope it’s the first of many such nights for these players.

Congratulations to Kevin MacDonald and his side, worthy champions and great value all season, they’ve been a pleasure to watch and a credit to the club.

I love winning things – love it.

Some ratings;

Parish (6) Not at his best tonight and he looked a bit nervous, won’t be overly pleased at the goal, but he can look back on a very good season in which he’s come on leaps and bounds.

Lichaj (7) Aggressive, mobile and becoming smarter in every game, he’s a good solid defender with a good instinct.

Roome (8.) In the first half particularly he was excellent and he didn’t put a foot wrong all night, calm, unhurried and of course determined. This might be the best I’ve seen him play.

Clark (7) A Captain’s performance from Ciaran who has all the attributes he’ll need to progress; a sensible mature player.

Lowry (7) He’s an adventurer. He’s not really quick enough to be a full back and looks a bit unnatural going forwards, but he’s fearless in the right ways, always willing to show for the ball and always willing to put his body in where it hurts. Struggled with Waghorne early on but stuck at it and deserved the reward of his goal.

Albrighton (7) Here’s what Marc Albrighton does; he picks up the ball, beats his man and gets crosses in, sounds easy doesn’t it? He was good tonight and his energy kept Sunderland on their toes, he works his socks off going forwards and coming back and he’s a centre-forward’s dream with his crossing.

Bannan (7) A little subdued but there was plenty of effort and grit in this performance, as well as glimpses of the auld Bannan magic. Almost scored the goal of the night with his long-range effort.

Hogg (8.) Another dominant performance from the boss. He’s a terrier in the heart of this side, tackling and challenging anything he can get close enough to. Plus he has the priceless gift of appearing in the opposition penalty area as if by magic.

Hofbauer (7) Good creativity and some nice touches from the Hoff, if he can add a little strength there’s no reason why he shouldn’t have a good year next term.

Weimann (6) He’s a good reader of the game and makes some clever runs, but like Hofbauer he needs to add a bit more strength and power to his game, if he does that, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t also develop.

Delfouneso (8.) looked classy tonight, at times better than those around him, everything he did he did well and he worked hard for ninety minutes for the team.

Oh, and just to make you feel bad, if you remember that kid who saw dead people in the film with Bruce Willis, he’s older than Nathan.

Subs

Collins (7) Another goal for Jimmy in a season that’s been full of them at reserve and academy level; he knows where the net is and he loves scoring goals.

Herd and Gardner – not on long enough to rate, but it’s good to see Herd back after an absence of a couple of months.

That’s your lot for the season and a fitting finale. I can’t wait for it to start again.

Aston Villa: Barclays FA Premier Reserve League Champions 2008-09.

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A 150 plus mile round trip, down through a solid M6 and arrival 2 minutes after kick-off with a seat opposite to my normal seat and in the Trinity for the first time in over 20 years; but boy was it worth it!

Isn't it magic to see the Villa win some silverware again?

I thought it was a thoroughly entertaining match played and refereed (well done a returning Mr Clattenberg) in the right spirit, with Sunderland playing their part. These young Villa lads are worthy representatives of the famous claret and blue. I was at Anfield just over a year ago and those remaining have certainly moved on. Proud young lions rightly, crowned as Champions. And lets not forget Kevin MacDonald's role. He just keeps on churning out good footballing, winning reserve teams and quality young players.

And those that I can see making it? Well Albrighton, Delfouneso and Bannan (although very slghtly built) caught the eye. You never know. Its just over 3 years ago in Feburuary 2006 at Hyde, I think, that I saw Gabby Agbonlahor score a hatrick for Kevin MacDonald's reserves as we beat Man Utd Reserves 4-0. The other star that night was one Robert 'the beast' Olyejnik, remember him? One went on to debut and score for Villa in a DOL Goodison debacle and then on to full England international honours the other disapeared to Scotland.

A note for young Barry Bannan and particularly Nathan Delfouneso who were signing authographs ages after others had left the pitch. Enjoy it Nathan and always have time for those young fans like you did tonight.

Anyway one memorable night for this now somewhat veteran Villa fan. Quite emotional to see a trophy lifted at grand old Villa Park again.

You know you just can't beat seeing the Villa as Champions again!

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Fantastic result! Well done lads! It's funny how lifting silverware feels so good, even at this reserve level ;) And thank you OBE for your excellent reports all season again - I always look forward to reading them :)

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It's funny how lifting silverware feels so good, even at this reserve level ;)

Too right! Me and my mate were having a bit of a laugh over the time they took to build the stage and were thinking it was a bit OTT....but when they lifted that trophy with the fireworks and ticker tape going off around them it was class!

Up The Villa!!

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Excellent report on an excellent evening OBE-WAN – and isn’t it great seeing Villa win some silverware!

Managed to get an invite into the posh seats (prawns not included) but due to work commitments and traffic wasn’t there long enough to savour much of the pre-match fare. But that was made up for by the quality display on the pitch.

Really encouraging displays all round. I think this bunch of lads will have careers in football for some considerable time to come. I’m planning to keep my programme and teamsheet somewhere safe and see how my prediction fares. Some will (I hope) break into the Villa first team on a regular basis whilst others will have very successful careers in the lower leagues.

John Deehan and Steve Staunton were both across the aisle from me, no doubt scouting for potential talent for Norwich and Wolves respectively, whilst there were a number of other note takers in and around the place whom I didn’t recognise. I of course couldn’t resist embarrassing myself saying hello to Steve Staunton and asking for his autograph after the game. It’s just nice to say hello isn’t it? He was all smiles and very polite and no doubt the evening brought back many memories for him.

When I pointed out Patrick the Villa Sports Scientist/Stats guy and Paul Faulkner, Randy’s ‘Right-hand’ man, to my partner, she mentioned that maybe I knew just a little too much about Villa. I think maybe she has a point. Nice to see the Reserves being supported at all levels though.

Loved the early ball work by Bella on the Witton Lane, a suitable round of applause went up for her quick return of the ball into play and she continued to ham it up for a good few minutes.

I was impressed by the whole team and even through the flat spot I earnestly believed we would win it. Credit to the Maccams for making it a good contest. I have a soft spot for Sunderland – so often in Newcastle’s shadow. I hope the first XI stay up.

The Fonz looked good, though I’m sure he could do with some speed coaching to give him that extra yard which he is going to need in the Prem. He has a very distinctive short running stride which appears to restrict his speed. I’m no expert but I bet he could be a real speed monster with some specific training. Clark and Lichaj impressed, with the latter’s long throws making things difficult for the opposition. Albrighton is class. A mix of Milner, Barry and Young and he put in some peachy crosses. Bannan wasn’t his usual dominant self but he still delivers and isn’t afraid to shoot outside the box – and only narrowly missing. He’s the ‘fire’ in the mid-field – showing the sort of passion and commitment which we all so love to see. I do so wish the first team would shoot from outside the box occasionally. I’m not asking for a ‘Petrov 44’, just the occasional thunderbolt.

Reserve guys, you were all great and it was great to see James Collins score shortly after coming on.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening and happy culmination to the Reserve league. I think I missed only one home game this season and the performances I’ve seen never made me regret the hundred mile round trip. Thank you gentlemen, one and all. Enjoy your summer holidays – but come back hungry for the challenges ahead. They’re there for the taking – with a lot of hard work and dedication.

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Good reports OBE and Drew's Militia. Should we expect to see any of these lot in the first team next season?

I think there will be a few who will make regular appearances on the '7 Bench' for Premiership games doing the occasional 15-20 minutes and there will be some sustained appearances in the League Cup and Europa League etc.

Names in the frame - and it's just my opinion...

Barry Bannan - everyone says he's too small. He isn't. He's a real dynamo in the midfield. He's skillful, he's a battler, he's a superb crosser of the ball and is great at set pieces.

Marc Albrighton - Milner, mixed with Young and add a bit of Barry and that's Marc.

Nathan Delfouneso - I think he'll continue to improve. All credit to him that he's achieved so much so young.

Ciaran Clark & Nathan Naker - I've put these together because I can imagine them being the bedrock of our defence in a few years. I think they'll slot in when the opportunity arises next season.

Eric Lichaj - Cracking defender. Great loooong throw. Delap anyone? I can see some League Cup run outs.

James Collins - Big solid striker and delivers the goods.

As I write this I realise there's plenty of other names who could break in - Hoffbauer and Weimann, Gardner Jnr... I could go on...

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