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FA Youth Cup 5th round: Villa vs Millwall


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A cracking result against Millwall with Villa winning by four goals to one in a strange old game that produced a somewhat unlikely hat trick hero and sees us progress to the quarter finals where we’ll face Fulham.

The team sheets for these games always seem to arrive late, but when they finally did they showed a Villa side that lined up with Calum Barratt in goal, a back four of Deeney, Williams, Devine and Grocott, Roberts, Carruthers, Blythe and Lampkin across the middle and the big man small man combo of Halfhuid and Simmonds up front.

First impressions as the sides came out were that Millwall (wearing orange) looked to have a size advantage; they also had a fair sized away contingent who serenaded us throughout the evening.

The game kicked off against a background of flashing blue lights at spaghetti junction and for the first five minutes the traffic was all one way.

Tomos Roberts looked lively down the left and we created a fair bit of early pressure with three or four corners. A clear chance wasn’t forthcoming though and a confident looking Millwall side gradually usurped our early promise.

Barratt made the first of a number of decent saves on around ten minutes and we looked to be under pressure from balls in the air. For much of the first half we were pushed back and resorted to hitting long balls up to big Halfhuid which he was unable to either win in the air or control on the deck.

Thankfully Millwall lacked a bit of guile around the box, so while they dominated territorially they didn’t make the most of their advantage and struggled to create chances on goal.

Our best chance came from a free kick that bounced around their box before Lampkin hit a snap shot which was blocked away well.

With five minutes to go in the first half however, there was no denying that Millwall were very much the better of the two sides.

We were grateful then when a long ball over the top left their centre halves in a terrible tangle as they ended up challenging each other and only managing to nod down for the advancing Simmonds. He controlled the ball and finished crisply under the keeper. An opportunists goal against the run of play, but we’d take 1-0 at half time.

Of course we’d take 2-0 if it was offered and it duly was, some good work from Simmonds on the left and he whipped in a ball that Halfhuid stooped to head across the keeper to double our advantage.

In a frantic five minutes Millwall’s John Marquis managed to lob Barratt at the other end but put his effort a foot wide before Simmonds once more played Halfhuid in. With the left back playing him onside, he found himself one on one with the keeper and finished very calmly. Millwall had gone to pieces and as the half time whistle blew we were three nil up!

Unsurprisingly the second half started a bit more calmly, and despite the vociferous efforts of one large Londoner, his cries of “Miiiil” failed to galvanise the away side and we relaxed into a steadier control of the game.

We’d stopped hitting so many long balls and Simmonds had dropped deeper to allow him to carry the ball at the defence. It still wasn’t quite the sort of fluid stuff we’re capable of but it was an improvement on the hopeful punts of the first half.

Tomos Roberts had a shot tipped on to the bar, Simmonds put a long range effort just over and Carruthers wriggled through a couple of defenders before putting his effort tamely into the keepers arms. We were maybe trying to score great goals rather than the simple stuff but we had started to look comfortable.

No surprise then that we conceded on 70 minutes, Barratt struggling to hold on to a cross and the ball eventually being nodded over him by Connor French to give his side a lifeline.

Roberts was replaced by Berry as we started to tire and Milwall threw their subs on and caution to the wind.

In the 76th minute it looked like they’d found their reward as the referee pointed to the spot-claiming handball by Williams. I’m going to have to go Arsene on this one, as I didn’t see it one-way or the other.

Up stepped Kiernan Mason to pull it back to one goal and give us a nervous fifteen minutes…and promptly walloped the crossbar to leave us quite comfortable thank you.

Lampkin was replaced by Nelson-Addy and his first touch was a shot just over the bar from the edge of the area.

We brought an end to proceedings soon after, a ball over the top of the full back gave Simmonds room to run and he took the ball to the by-line before squaring it to Halfhuid who finished simply for our fourth and his hat-trick.

Poyser replaced him immediately and we saw out time reasonably comfortably although Barratt was called on to make one very good save.

A solid, workmanlike performance overall, enlivened by Simmonds energy and effort and I think the 4-1 score line flattered us a little in the end. We’ll have to do better to continue to progress.

Some ratings:

Barratt (7) – He looked good, he was composed, made good decisions and several very decent saves. He’s quick off his line and seems to know his business. If he can iron out his occasional trouble with crosses he looks like yet another good young keeper.

Grocott (7) – He was rock solid at the back and always available for the ball. This was a very mature performance.

Devine (7) – Impressed me with his determination and his positioning. He’s a good size and can tackle, head a ball and keep a striker where he wants him. Looks like he’s got a future.

Williams (6) – I’ve seen him a few times now and he generally looks solid. I’ve a feeling he’s pretty quick and he looks a good athlete. Struggled a little bit against the very tall Marquis up front for them.

Deeney (6) – Again, he seemed pretty solid positionally and he looks to have a nice touch of aggression, I’d like to see him get forward more.

Roberts (6) – Was excellent at the start of both halves but drifted in and out of the game. We played in fits and starts and nobody more reflected that than Roberts. When he was good he showed a fair bit of talent though.

Carruthers (6) – In the first half it went mostly over his head and in the second half he was often in space and not used. The longer the game went on the more he came into it as we started to pass more, he looks good on the ball and worked hard, but he’ll need to persuade the side to get the ball down and play if he’s to prosper.

Blythe (6) – Worked hard all game and got better as it went on, he’s a busy figure in the middle of the field without quite dominating.

Lampkin (6) – Worked hard up and down the right flank but couldn’t quite find a way through.

Halfhuid (6) – It was a strange old game for Arsenio, on the one hand he scored a very good hat trick and as a converted defender he’ll be quite rightly very proud of that, on the other hand his touch at times wasn’t at all good, he struggled to win the ball in the air and his passing wasn’t what he’d have wanted. He’ll play a lot better than this for a lot less reward.

Simmonds (8.) – Another in a seemingly endless line of pocket rockets. He scored one and made the other three in a performance of boundless energy. The best player on the pitch, he runs well with the ball, can pick a pass and a cross and pesters defences to death. One to watch.

And that’s your lot.

According to the FA’s Official site our quarter final with Fulham at the Cottage is tomorrow. That would be a little unfair on our lads so you’ll have to keep an eye out for when it’s actually played. If they can get through that one I suspect a very big crowd will await them at Villa Park if we get a home draw for the semi-finals. Here’s hoping.

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