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Only three cup ties away from a Wembley Final!


John
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This game was always a goal short of being comfortable for us. But a fourth consecutive clean sheet along with another goal for Gabby to make it a goal in each of these four wins for him was enough to secure a place for us in the last sixteen!

We didn’t make a final when this competition was held in Cardiff but we have made five Cup Final appearances at Wembley in this competition and another appearance is now long overdue. The team that hails from the once temporary home of English Cup Finals was unable to join the list of sides that have put us out of cup competitions at a premature stage in recent seasons at Villa Park despite James Milner missing a second half penalty and a late stoppage time scare when they found the net only to have the goal the fans who had backed them so well were celebrating ruled out for offside. So a rare run of good cup draws and the second string outfits that the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Arsenal usually play in this competition may be all that stands between us and a walk down Wembley Way next February.

Of course there are also the likes of Manchester City, Spurs and Everton who potentially stand in our way but give me two home draws in the next two rounds rather than say Chelsea away again and I would back us against them or any second string outfit that the usual winners of this and the FA Cup might put up against us at Villa Park or in a two leg semi-final.

I thought Cardiff showed why they are a reasonable bet to be playing us in the league next season rather than Small Heath. They made a good contribution to what was a decent game and although we looked the more likely side to score the second goal of the night they were never quite played out of the game and looked despite absences from their usual starting line up more than a half decent side that may give the fans of the Bluebirds something to sing about in May and with some cause to thank us for allowing them to concentrate on the league rather than be distracted by a cup run.

The crowd was disappointing given the high number of Cardiff fans in attendance and the fact that many of us were watching for free as generous recompense from the club for enduring our Europa Cup win but overall away goal overall defeat against Rapid a few weeks ago. How do we get decent crowds to watch near full strength Villa sides in the cup? A draw against one of the usual suspects that will attract neutral support and local glory hunters who attach themselves to those clubs would be a start. As would some priority being given to those who do turn up on nights like last night when it comes to distribution of potential Cup Final tickets.

My player ratings from a game that made it six wins from six for us are:

Brad Guzan - 7 – Once more showed he can be a very capable replacement for our other Brad when necessary. Decent stops on 67 and 74 minutes from a free kick and good ones on 75 minutes when he foiled an opponent by diving at his feet and on 14 minutes when a one handed stop prevented a likely goal.

Habib Beye – 5 – Did not do enough to press a case for a starting place ahead of Luke or Carlos.

Carlos Cuellar – 6 – Returned to the centre of our defence and gave a solid enough performance.

James Collins – 6 – Did not look quite as sure as he has playing alongside fellow new boy Dunne but gave another solid if slightly less dominant display yesterday. Tried to beat a player on the half way line on 63 minutes rather than the safer and easier option that might have cost us a goal on another night.

Nicky Shorey - 6 – Might have hit a couple more crosses but again looked a better player than he has at times in the past and may yet pose a sustained challenge for a starting place.

James Milner – 7 – As he always seems to be busy and involved in most of what was good from us. Hit another hard hit penalty that cannoned off the post and might have given us a more comfortable last half hour.

Craig Gardner – 5 – A rare first team outing and can do better than this.

Stiliyan Petrov – 6 – Kept our shape in midfield and on 57 minutes he was once again felled for a penalty inside the box.

Fabian Delph – 7 – MOTM – Neat touches and hit some very good passes. At times he reminded me of some of Ashley Young’s early Villa displays. Martin seems to have found us another gem that can like Ashley be polished and made a vital player for us and in time for the national side. Hit a firm shot from the edge of the box on 66 minutes that might have troubled the keeper more if it had been either side of him.

John Carew – 6 – Another surprisingly quiet game for Big John.

Gabby Agbonlahor – 7 – The goal machine struck once again with a nice flick from Carew’s second minute cross past the returning Enckelman. His confidence grows with each goal as does his contribution to the team.

Substitutes:

Marc Albrighton – Replaced on 79 minutes but was not on long enough to earn a rating.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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Who else would score but Gabby the Great? He's in blistering form and this surely has to get him taken seriously for a WC spot.

Also a fact - Every time Gabby has scored this season Villa have won

:(

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