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Reserves vs. Wolves


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A battling draw for Villa tonight against Wolves as we dropped points in the race against Arsenal, but plenty to be positive about in the performance, both on and off the pitch.

Villa Park looked immaculate under lights tonight and the playing surface is in truly magnificent condition. I can’t say quite the same about Freddie Bouma, but he looked in pretty good nick for a man who hasn’t played for six months as he came out of the tunnel to warm up. A warm welcome greeted his return.

Villa lined up for this one with Parish in goal, Luke Young also making a comeback at right back, Lichaj and Clark the centre backs and the aforementioned Dutch pocket battleship on the left hand side. In midfield, Hofbauer took the left flank, Craig Gardner and (rather surprisingly) Isaiah Osbourne the centre, and the junior Gardner, young Gary, took the right hand side. Up front Albrighton got a chance supporting James Collins as we looked to replace Delfouneso’s pace.

Wolves too showed their intent with a selection that included the three men who made and scored the goals that got them promoted, Iwelumo, Ebanks-Blake and Kightly all dropping down to try their luck, they were supported by the first team Captain Jody Craddock and former Marseille defender, £2m summer signing Ronald Zubar.

In fairness, that’s not far off their first team.

As the players came off the pitch, there was a nice little round of applause for young Osbourne. Regardless of what we think we know or what we think we’ve heard, it was good to see him supported by the fans, he doesn’t get a lot of love young Ozzie and it’s nice to know that we’re not quite the heartless, fickle bunch that some would have you believe. His selection in itself suggests that the benefit of the doubt for the player might yet be something worth holding on to.

Anyway, enough of this; there was a game played.

Both sides started with attacking intent with Gardner making some good runs through the middle of the park and Ebanks-Blake warming Parish’s hands with a drive.

Clark looked a danger coming up for set pieces and twice got his head to balls early on, both times though he couldn’t quite get either the power or the direction he wanted.

While Villa pressured it was Wolves who opened the scoring, a poor pass out of defence was pounced on by Surman who fed Ebanks-Blake, Lichaj was caught out of position and Kightly granted the freedom of the Villa penalty area; he made no mistake with the finish.

The goal took the wind out of our sails a little and we were quiet for a good fifteen minutes, we lacked pace and were struggling to hold on to the ball. Slowly though, Craig Gardner and Osbourne started to get a grip of the midfield and when they had the ball we looked strong. There was precious little from elsewhere though.

The referee wasn’t helping things and even early on in the game he was constantly blowing up for imaginary infringements whilst missing some obvious fouls and was clearly annoying both sets of players.

Gardner continued to find space and skewed a shot wide from just inside the area on 25 minutes, Albrighton then chanced his arm from a good way out but could only force a quite straightforward save from Marcus Hahnemann.

On the half hour mark Wolves should have had a penalty with Lichaj dragging back Ebanks-Blake; the ref seemed uninterested in any claim.

A moment or two later they almost doubled their advantage with a driven free kick just wide of a stranded and unsighted Parish and his post.

Hofbauer almost levelled things with a firm header a foot over the bar, the Albrighton cross that found him on the edge of the six yard box probably deserved better.

Double Gardner magic more than made up for it a moment later though, a one two with Craig passing to Gary who scooped a ball over the midfield for his brother to control perfectly, clear from out of his feet and push past the keeper. Very well done and a moment they’ll both remember for a while I think.

Hopefully Gary will forget rather more quickly the long lecture he got from the referee a couple of minutes later for a perfectly timed tackle of the kind that the official seemed determined to stamp out.

Confidence lifted, Craig Gardner tried his luck form fully thirty yards and pulled a good save from Hahnemann with James Collins almost scoring with the rebound from an angle that would have Dr Stephen Hawkins reaching for the whiskey.

We finished the half strongly with the ball bouncing around the Wolves box, Gary Gardner almost worked himself an opening for an overhead kick but didn’t quite get the connection he wanted, and Hofbauer was close to beating the keeper to a cross.

Half time and we looked to be getting a firm grip on the game, without really carrying the threat up front to make it pay.

The second half began much as the first had ended with Craig Gardner and Isaiah Osbourne dominating midfield but struggling to find the final opening and Wolves looking dangerous up front but with little supply.

On 55 minutes James Collins finally found a way through and it was our turn to be surprised by the referee’s decision not to award a penalty as Zubar clumsily tripped the Villa man. Surprise turned to bewildered amusement as the ref booked the rather solid Collins for a dive that quite frankly I don’t think he’d be capable of.

I don’t mean to focus on tonights referee; Mr Hendley, but he really was the dominant figure in the game. It was a quite atrocious performance of almost perfect comic timing and clumsy arrogance, remember the name; he’s exactly the kind of referee that the boffins at the FA will be marking down as capable of ruining games at a much higher level than this.

Villa continued to fashion half chances without quite making the breakthrough, with Gary Gardner shooting wide and Hofbauer sending in a dangerous low cross that just evaded Collins.

Wolves too held their threat, with Parish making a very good save from Kightly on the hour.

We were getting into some good positions with balls over the top, but didn’t quite have the pace to get onto them and were starting to put pressure on the Wolves defence as we went looking for a fifth straight win.

Albrighton had moved back out to the right with Gary Gardner going up front in the second half, and having taken half an hour to wear the full back out he was having plenty of joy.

Lichaj couldn’t quite find the ball at his feet in a goalmouth scramble and you started to sense that it might not be our night. Osbourne battled through but was smothered by the keeper and Adam McGurk (on for the younger of the Gardners) made himself a decent chance, but there was no way through.

Very late on Hofbauer twisted an ankle as he blocked a ball and was stretchered off, another beneficiary of a warm round of applause as he left the field.

Harry Forrester came on with a moment remaining to confirm that he’s still on the fringes of things, but alas there was no time for his fairytale ending.

One-one probably a fair result in front of a very good crowd of over 800, we might have done enough to win it, but I think Wolves probably just about deserved the point.

Good news for us in Osbourne’s selection and performance, it says something about both the club and the player that both were right on the night.

Very good news too to see both of our experienced full backs get 90 minutes in against good opposition, they’ll be pleased with that and doubtless both will be looking to push on to from here.

Next up for the reserves is Stoke away, before we’re off to our winter home in Hinckley. We’re back at Villa Park in the spring, for the visit of small heath.

Some ratings:

Parish (7) A good solid performance form the young man, he’s just back from the U20 World Cup with England and he’s looking a better keeper every time I see him. In a couple of year’s time he could really be pushing.

Young (7) Started a little slowly I thought and got better as the game went on. I think sometimes it takes a little while for the more experienced players to forget that this is just the reserves; at some point in games their desire to win takes over and in the second half Young was committed and strong. He’ll have enjoyed the run out.

Bouma (7) Made one error in the second half but was generally very solid on the left, didn’t do anything spectacular but always looked in control and was positionally excellent.

Clark (7) Struggled early on with Iwelumo but managed to shackle him as the game went on. Became more influential as things progressed and he reminds me more and more of Gareth Southgate.

Lichaj (6) He hasn’t played at centre half for a little while and it showed. He was out of position for their goal and looked a little shaky early on. He gives you all he’s got though and didn’t give up on anything.

Gary Gardner (7) When he was out wide he looked like he wanted to come inside and when he was up front looked like he always wanted to play a pass, but despite being out of position in both halves he still displayed a nice range of passing and some lovely touches on the ball.

Craig Gardner (9) Dominated the game and when we ran out of ideas in the first half, he looked like he might take it to them on his own. A well-taken goal, some good running with and without the ball and some crunching challenges. He and his brother and like peanut butter, one crunchy, one smooth.

Osbourne (8.) Just edged out by Gardner for man of the match, he played in a deep lying role in the first half and got forward more in the second half and his passing was excellent. He’s often maligned for a lack of talent; those who’ve seen him play for the reserves can confirm that it’s there, whether he’ll now get the chance to show it for the first team is more difficult to discern.

Hofbauer (7) He got better as the game went on and was a driving force for us in the last fifteen minutes. He looks a little stronger this year and seems to be developing physically. I hope his injury isn’t too serious; this was a good performance.

Albrighton (7) We missed his crossing in the first half when he played up front and he struggled a bit to get involved. In the second half he seemed much more settled on the right flank and was better if not quite at his best.

Collins (6) This wasn’t his best day and in particular in the first half he must have felt that nothing was going to go right for him. He’s an honest bunch of lad and he keeps at it, but tonight was all effort and no result. He’ll have better days.

None of the subs were on for long enough to rate, but I thought McGurk showed some nice touches and it was good to see him continuing his comeback.

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an angle that would have Dr Stephen Hawkins reaching for the whiskey.

:shock: :lol:

a. It's Stephen Hawking

b. I doubt he's capable of reaching for anything, let alone Whiskey!

other than that, top report again Scott.

Good stuff :P

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