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Arsenal Reserves 1 vs Aston Villa Reserves 2


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by Tubby

On a cold night on a hill in North London that saw Villa Reserves stretch their lead at the top of the Premier Reserve League South, a not so fat man was sat there scribing the game on his Blackberry. Here is the result

Villa started 3-1-4-2 with Bannan holding and Downing/Albrighton playing wing backs. The team as follows:

Parish; Roome, Herd, Clark; Bannan; Delph, C.Gardner, Albrighton, Downing; Weimann, Delfouneso

1st Half

There wasn't much going on until Arsenal scored, although Villa were, in the main, doing the most attacking. However, Sanchez Watt breached a messy Villa defence against the run of play to score a header from a set piece. It really was poor defending.

Villa were back on the attack straight away but with not much happening. That is until Merida & Delph had a coming together which nearly ended in a mass brawl. Hands were thrown and Merida got sent off with Delph getting a booking. I was watching the play so missed the crucial moment that got Merida sent off but I was nonetheless happy.

Then the Villa goal. Gardner won a clearance from a Villa corner with a battling header and got the ball to Albrighton out wide who then found Bannan inside. Bannan looped the ball to left of the 6 yard box where Downing volleyed back across goal for Albrighton to run in and tap home on 40. It really was a good goal that our first XI would be proud of.

Craig Gardner then scored the second soon after and before half time to make it 2-1. The goal came from a corner which eventually fell to him and he placed it back across the keeper into the bottom corner. Certainly another bit of class before half time.

We were definitely lagging at the back because of the 3 man defence, though Herd was running the whole show back there. Bannan, Gardner, Weimann and Albrighton were all working hard. Downing, Delph and Delfouneso were a tad off it. Parish was hardly tested all half as it had been mostly villa. The pitch at Underhill was dreadful and the downhill slope was as bad as the refereeing especially the teenage linesman with the Arsenal shirt on!

2nd half

Arse started brighter using the downward slope and they definitely had a good shout for a pen, only if Wilshire had stayed on his feet instead of looking for the fall.

Villa broke a few times before it started getting cynical with some poor decisions being made by an evermore out of control ref! A moment where a ball was supposed to be kicked back to Villa after the ref stopped play for an Arse foul ended up out off Downing for an Arse throw - that wasn't returned again.

Arse had a couple of corners which threatened before Villa broke through Andreas Weimann then Marc Albrighton and Barry Bannan, who switched it into Downing, who sent it back out to Bannan before the ball blatantly hit an Arsenal hand in the box in front of the ref who didn't award the pen! Some more cynical fouls came in from Villa as a result.

Sadly, the game was such in this half that the biggest cheer from the 300 or so strong crowd came when the Utd score was announced with them being 1-0 down. Great!

Delfouneso was substituted for Dominic Hofbauer on about 65 minutes and Villa changed to 4-5-1 with Hofbauer as left back. Delph, Downing and Craig Gardner as the middle 3, Bannan on the left, Albrighton on the right and Weimann up top. It was quite defensive and brought Arsenal on down the slope.

Downing was replaced by Adam McGurk and Delph was replaced by Gary Gardner on about 75 minutes. Downing looked really tired as you might expect and will surely take another few weeks to get match fitness/sharpness. The subs changed the formation to 4-4-2.

Villa retook control of the game and there was still time for a bit more nice football with Craig Gardner and Marc Albrighton both having chances after good work from Bannan on each occasion.

Another good break from an Arse corner with Hofbauer over-hitting the square ball with Weimann clear. The scramble to capitalise on the failed opportunity couldn't work another clear chance.

The game then chugged to a finish.

Standouts were most definitely Marc Albrighton, Barry Bannan, Andreas Weimann and Chris Herd. Albrighton should be playing Premier League football and Weimann continues to impress me when I see him. Bannan was a step above again, but as always you just wish he was half a foot taller. And Chris Herd should be commended for an all action display in an unfamiliar position.

Top of the league by 5 points now, excellent.

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Cheers Tubby. Nice report. With all this debate between Petrov/Sidwell/NRC, what about Craig Gardner? Do you reckon he's worth a shout in the middle? Always gives his all and has great shot on him. About time one of our central midfielders scored a goal.

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Excellent result and an excellent report – thanks for that. :) A bizarre line-up with only two natural defenders on the pitch! I guess that’s when happens when you send out all your defenders on loan (Baker, Lichaj, Lowry, Shorey). :?

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Cheers Tubby - I was at the game too and about to start a report. Glad you saved me the trouble though. I'd agree with your assessment of things too, althought I thought Weimann faded second half.

I missed the sending off incident, but my mate reckons he saw Delph grap Merida by the neck and he may have been lucky not to have been sent of too. Probably the turning point of the game for me, because although we probably had better chanced than Arsenal, it wasn't until Merida went off that Bannan suddenly had a lot of space and we really started to play some lovely stuff.

Bannan was pretty good, although I wonder if he's a bit of a Steven Davis - great when he's got space and time, but can disappear when he hasn't. I haven't seen him play enough times though (last night was my first reserves game - looking forward to next time we play a London side).

Albrighton on the other hand was excellent in the first half particularly and had a lot of admiring comments from the Arsenal fans.

Gardner was very good and, until the sending off, looked liked the one of our midfield 3 most likely to make things happen. His experience and class definitely shone through for me.

The two most disappointing players for us were Delfouneso and Clarke for me. The Fonz just wasn't at the races yesterday and kept on getting caught offside. His movement was pretty lacklustre too. Clarke looked a bit ropey on the ball, especially when compared to the super-slick herd next to him playing sweeper.

The only other incidents of note (for me): sitting a few feet away from Wenger (a real thrill for my Arsenal supporting mate, quite funny when he stormede down the steps at half time); meeting Cap'n Jack (if you hwere at the game and heard the request for a green and yellow laptop bag to be handed in over the tannoy, that was his - may have scuppered the work he was doing on the match!) and sitting in the press seats with a pie and a Bovril. Great night out and if anyone is tempted by the reserves but has never been, I'd thoroughly recommend it. I'd even go back to watch Arsenal even if the Villa weren't playing - not often you get to see good footballers up close for free.

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