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Aston Villa vs. Rochdale; FA Youth Cup 3rd round.


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Ah, the magic of the cup, not the big cup obviously, that’s like the magic of David Copperfield, all disappearing pyramids and giant sheets, this is more like a bloke in a club with a pigeon and a big hat.

…and erm Gary Gardner.

Right, sorry about that. The FA Youth Cup, still a competition with a great deal of prestige attached to it and, as in any cup competition, it throws up the potential banana skin of a game against lower league opposition.

Some players I’d not seen before making their debuts in front of the bright lights at Villa Park tonight, with the Ferrari in the car park a rather incongruous reminder of the life ahead for those that succeed.

Villa lined up with Benjamin Siegrist, he of the slightly more impressive youth medal in goal, a back four from left to right of Deeney, Williams, Devine and Grocott, with Carruthers, Blythe, Gardner and Lampkin strung across the middle and Kofi Poyser partnered with wee Ryan Simmonds up front.

Nathan Delfouneso walked the touchline pre-game shaking hands and making friends with the crowd and it occurs to me that he might still be eligible for this competition. It’ll be interesting to see if this side changes for the later rounds.

What was clear is that this Villa side is no longer a collection of oddly shaped but talented misfits, Gardner, Blythe, Devine, Williams and Siegrist are all of a good size.

Whatever, the game opened at a very lively pace with Rochdale showing that they were in no mood to play patsy. Evan a crunching early tackle from Gardner didn’t seem to put them off.

When we had the ball though we looked a threat, with Carruthers lively down the left and Lampkin producing good balls from the right. Kofi Poyser had a couple of goes at opening the scoring, first with a header which was very well saved by Taberner and then by pulling down a great ball from Blythe and swinging a leg rather aimlessly at it to no effect.

A great one-two between Gardner and Simmonds opened Rochdale up, but Gardner couldn’t find a finish as chances started to appear.

Rochdale threatened on the break with Gray forcing Siegrist into a decent stop, but you sensed our momentum was growing.

A ball from the right caused agitation in the Rochdale box and the marauding Gardner swooped, charging into a crowd scene and emerging on the other side to poke the ball home. He celebrated like he’d scored the winner in the final.

Maybe he should’ve saved that celebration, because after Rochdale had forced another decent save out of Siegrist, he scored again, and this one was a beauty.

We were awarded a free kick eight yards outside the box for a foul on Poyser, and with the wall encroaching all around him; Gardner curled the ball beautifully into the top corner. Right where the stamp goes from thirty yards and he made it look at easy as pie. Two-nil.

Simmonds had a couple more cracks at it before half time with a nice over the shoulder volley and a little dink that left him behind the keeper but was cleared up by a covering defender, but he couldn’t add to Gardners double and we went in at half time looking comfortable.

The second half opened at the same high tempo with tackles aplenty, Blythe made his way into the book early on in the half after the latest of after around half a dozen offences.

Things looked to be going a little flat when out of nothing Simmonds flicked a hip and turned the Rochdale back line inside out on the half way line. From there he took the ball into the area with defenders desperately pursuing, moved it onto his right foot and slotted home; a very good goal very well taken and the tie as good as over on 55 minutes.

Simmonds was substituted ten minutes later following a rush of blood from Scott Hogan, Rochdale’s left-winger. It was a shame all round really, for Simmonds because it ended his game, for Hogan as he’d had shown himself a fine player in the first half and let his concentration go afterwards, and for the referee because it was the only mistake he made on an otherwise excellent night.

Durrell Berry came on and settled immediately on the right hand side from where he looked a threat for the remainder of the game. His major contribution was in beating the left full back and putting in the cross from which Gary Gardner completed his hat trick, arriving beyond the far post and heading the ball back across the keeper and into the net for Villa’s fourth.

Arsenio Halfhuid (he’s a big ‘un) came on for Carruthers who’d picked up a touch of cramp and we lost our shape for a minute or two. First, poor Arsenio was shooed away by the back four who were just fine as they were thank you very much, then he plonked himself into central midfield, confusing Gardner and Blythe, before eventually deciding to play as a big man up front.

Tomos Roberts (not a big ‘un) came on for Lampkin and a row broke out in the crowd. I’m confident that these two events were unconnected.

Gardner almost gathered in a fourth goal but saw his volley into the ground tipped over by Taberner and Villa seemed content to see the game out.

To their credit Rochdale weren’t and threw everything they had at trying for a consolation goal and the right to say they’d got one at Villa Park. Siegrist proved the equal to their ambitions though, and for Rochdale the magic had faded away.

For us though, it continues, with the fourth round draw to be made this Friday. I’m hoping for another home tie as I thoroughly enjoyed this game and I’m looking forward to a second look at some of these youngsters. 723 the attendance tonight, and I’d like to think there’ll be a few more fans that’ll see this group this year.

Some ratings:

Siegrist (8.) This is the first time I’ve seen him and I was impressed, his shot stopping was good, he was reasonable on crosses for a youngster and he looked very assured throughout. One day he could be Edwin Van Der Saar.

Grocott (7) – He’s industrious and he looks decent on the ball, I thought he defended pretty well too and he stayed the course. I’ve got a hunch he’ll do well (Although he also appears to have a hunch.)

Deeney (7) – Looked sharp and seems very quick. I was impressed with him and I think on balance he was probably just about the pick of our back four. I look forward to seeing him play again.

Williams and Devine (7) – Lots to like, they’re both quick, strong, big, confident, competitive and can get the ball down, but at the same time they both get into odd positions, make odd decisions and make plenty of errors. Plenty of work to do on these two, but there’s plenty to work with.

Lampkin (7) – Not sure why, but I thought he was bigger. He worked away down the right hand side and played some terrific balls in, especially in the first half. Looks a decent footballer.

Blythe (7) – Looks like he hasn’t quite grown into his body yet, he’s got a big frame that can make him appear awkward, but there’s no denying his effectiveness. Got a little overshadowed by the monster next to him.

Gardner (9) – His hat trick wasn’t the most impressive part of his game. He’s got great composure, a lovely touch, a great range of passing, he can finish, he can defend, he gets into goalscoring positions, takes a mean free kick and tackles in accordance with Gardner law. He tired a bit towards the end, but it’s hard not to believe that we haven’t got a real talent here. One day he could be Steven Gerrard.

Carruthers (7) – Excellent on the ball, he’s clearly got great control and the ability to work with the football. He needs to grow out of trying to show us that every time he’s got the ball and learn when to do the simple things, but he can do the hard things now. He’s the kind of player you want to go and watch. Oh, and he’s appalling in the air.

Simmonds (7) – He started slowly, but got better as the game went on and was unlucky to be forced off just as he was starting to dominate things. He achieved that feat through enourmous energy and some bright link up play. He could do with a growth spurt if he’s going to push on though.

Poyser (7) – Worked hard but didn’t find himself on the end of things, he moves a little like Stan Collymore, but he’s some way off having Stanley’s power. With some strength to add to his good positioning he could have potential. Didn’t really get a chance to show he could finish.

Durrell Berry (7) – I had thought he was a striker, but it was Lampkin who went up front with Poyser whilst Berry played down the right. Didn’t do anything spectacular, but worked hard, showed pace and energy and played a decent ball in for our fourth. All you want from a sub really.

Arsenio Halfhuid (6) and Tomos Roberts (6) – The idea of these two stood next to each other amuses me. Arsenio looked a little lost at first but made a decent fist of his forward role. Roberts didn’t have long, but almost put a cherry on our cake with a spectacular volley that went wide late on.

And that’s your lot, the fourth round draw awaits and if we’re lucky enough to get a home draw I can thoroughly recommend it. Ties will be played week ending 16th January and I’m hoping for the Albion.

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Thanks for that blow by blow account, Scott. Really good to have that level of reportage about the youngsters at the club on VT. :thumb:

Gardner (9) ... One day he could be Steven Gerrard.

I'll hold you to that. :winkold:

More importantly, if only and we hope (as long as he doesn't dive like the f*cker).

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Excellent report - thanks OBE - and very well done to the lads :) Gary Gardner is having a great season, isn't he. Do you reckon he's a better prospect than Craig who seems to have lost his way a bit and I feel is likely to be let go by the club before too long?

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