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Are we going to Wembley once, twice or thrice?


John
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Another three goals and another FA Cup win at Villa Park. We now stand only 2 ties away from a second Wembley appearance this season and three from a second Cup Final so does anyone fancy making it a cup double?

Clearly we needed to make some changes and to rest some of our first team regulars in this game that was sandwiched between our semi final win and our important home league game with Arsenal. That we were able to with more ease than the final score suggests against a decent Brighton outfit says a lot about the strength of our squad this season. What is beginning to concern me is at the same time we have found it easier to find the net we have also developed the knack of letting sides back into the game when up until then we had looked like running out clear and easy winners. Brighton did not look likely to claim a late third but if we offer a similar opening late in a game the likes of Arsenal might do and this is something we need to look at.

What a good crowd that was as well. The club deserves to take the credit for setting realistic prices for this our second of three home games in 8 days. Doing so gave us a nearly full rather than a half empty stadium and will produce much the same revenue. It gave a lot of youngsters a rare opportunity to get to a game at Villa Park which may see them hooked on getting back there on a regular basis in the future. Of course the terrific level of support from the South Coast played a big part as well and when they will talk of low attendances and the loss of the magic in this great competition this game and the attendance will show there is life in the old cup yet.

My player ratings from a game that produced half of the goals we produced on Wednesday and we paid half the cost to watch are:

Brad Guzan – 5 – Held a shot well on 66 minutes and tipped a Carole effort over the bar 11 minutes later. Brighton’s first was threaded past two defenders and himself and their second was hit past him at close range. On other days he might have expected to get nearer to stopping one or both of these. Six goals conceded in 2 games will do little to help his failing confidence and both he and our central defence have showed signs of not coping as well as they had been doing with balls played into our box.

Luke Young – 7 – Another welcome return for our right back who is solid in defence and links well when we move forward. Surely he will start from now on when available to do so?

Habib Beye – 6 – A rare outing in the centre of our defence and did not let us down producing a competent performance yesterday.

James Collins – 5 – Missed Dunne alongside him and the organisational skills that he provides for our defence. Only able to get the faintest touch on a corner from which Elphick hit home their equaliser and his error on 14 minutes presented Forster with a scoring opportunity that he hit over. Below par but playing with a knock and out of position towards the end.

Stephen Warnock - 6 – Took a liberty on 4 minutes when he ran across his own six yard box rather than hoofed the ball out the positive is he had the ability to pull it off but it was a risk not worth taking. Looked good when we were going forward as he always does.

Marc Albrighton – 7 – So unlucky to not get a rare 90 minute outing yesterday. Picked up an early knock but had already demonstrated that he has real potential when he won a challenge in his own box that Ash took forward before feeding him in the Brighton half. Marc then beat his defender took the ball into the penalty area and produced a fine cross that Delfouneso applied the finishing touch to for our opener.

Fabian Delph – 8 - MOTM – Or could it soon be “Fabulous Delph”? He showed yesterday that he has the ability to become an outstanding player and like Millner and Young before him to prove to be a real steal by Martin in the long term. Fab was unlucky on 55 minutes when he stretched to connect with a nice Milner cross at close range that keeper Kuipers did outstandingly well to save. Milner then put him clear 6 minutes later and he showed both a nice touch and a cool head to pick his spot and beat the keeper from the edge of the box for his first of many goals in a Villa shirt. He now seems a real contender for a first team shirt if we have an injury or a suspension or plan to play a midfield five.

Steve Sidwell - 5 – Unlucky to see a goal bound shot kept out by the unsuspecting leg of Delfouneso on 83 minutes. Needed the confidence that goal would have given him and did not take the opportunity that this game gave him to press his claims for a starting place.

Stewart Downing – 7 – I find it surprising that having come back from a long period out Stewart never misses a game where others do. I can only assume Martin considers the more games he plays the fitter he will become and the more confident he will be in the strength of the leg he suffered the injury on. Another good all round performance.

Ashley Young – 8 – Captain for the day, a headed goal and another very encouraging performance. Ash leapt like a salmon on 46 minutes to head a nice Downing cross into the back of the net via the inside of the post.

Nathan Delfouneso – 7 – A goal in each round of the FA Cup to date and he very nearly had two. His goal came on 4 minutes when he touched Albrighton’s cross past their keeper from close range. He then curled a lovely shot onto the post 80 minutes later that could have given him a second. The down side was that he seemed to go missing for 20 minutes or so but he shows pace and a finishing touch that is reminiscent of Gabby at this stage of his development.

Substitutes:

James Millner – 7 - Not much of a rest for James was it? Replaced the unlucky Albrighton on 13 minutes started out wide and then spent the second half in a central role.

Curtis Davies – 6 – A welcome return when he replaced Warnock on 49 minutes after we had gone ahead again which I assume is why the change was not made at half time. Curtis was understandably hesitant early on but became more confident as the game wore on.

Shane Lowry – Replaced our captain on 85 minutes but was not on the field long enough to earn a rating.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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