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Aston Villa Reserves vs. small heath: A match report


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Ah, the littlest biggest game in the Midlands; you’re always guaranteed goals when the boys from across town slither over to Villa Park and tonight was no exception as Villa scored seven to beat small heath four-nil.

A quick pint in the Holte Hotel then off to the Trinity Road and after the now traditional wait for team sheets onward into the cold night air, refreshingly those that choose to follow our neighbours had been separated from the rest of us leaving a fair sized Villa contingent with space to settle in and enjoy proceedings.

We lined up with a strong looking side, Bevan in goal; Lichaj, Clark, Davies and Freddie Bouma across the back; Albrighton, Salifou, Hogg and Bannan in midfield and Delfouneso and Weimann up front.

small heath brought the usual collection of oddments, including reserve stalwart Franck Queudrue, the suspiciously named Alpaslan Ozturk, and reserve keeper Jack Butland.

The game kicked off with both first team managers and a delegation from the Far East in attendance alongside reserve regulars Ian Taylor and Cyrille Regis.

It’s fair to say it didn’t explode in to life and to be honest the first fifteen minutes were almost completely devoid of any incident; both teams probed and tested for weakness, but none was immediately forthcoming and either keeper could have had a lie in.

So it was only fitting that when the first chance on goal came we put it away.

Delfouneso released Albrighton who crossed for Weimann to prod home, up went the flag however and the goal was disallowed as offside. A marginal decision but just about understandable although it looked to me like Weimann was behind the ball.

Shortly afterward Bouma came close to opening the scoring, albeit at the wrong end, his tame backpass slipped under Bevan’s foot with the barest of touches from the keeper diverting it a couple of feet wide.

That seemed to spark us in to life and we started to press, first Delfouneso produced a decent save from Doyle with a smart turn and shot, then Weimann dinked a ball over a defender and put an effort a few feet wide when well placed.

Moments later Albrighton first bammed then boozled the hapless heathen right back before cutting onto his left foot inside the box and curling a well placed shot into the back of the net to put us one up after 28 minutes.

Lovely.

We had our first corner five minutes later but the keeper comfortably handled Clark’s header.

Salifou forced another straightforward save with a shot from distance and an Albrighton cross-shot was parried away as we produced chances whilst continuing to struggle for rhythm.

One minute of extra time to play and with thirty seconds of it gone we broke, two on two with Weimann powering down the side of the box with Delfouneso lurking in the centre – the referee deemed it a suitable time to blow for the break.

Weimann was not pleased and Kevin McDonald even less so as he strolled on to have a word with the official as he left the field. The occasionally foul-mouthed reserve team coach visibly appalled.

A strange first half, in many ways it was an even game with neither side dominating, but having said that we’d made half a dozen decent chances and they’d looked as threatening as the cast of Glee.

At half time it was nice to see Chris Herd and Shane Lowry in attendance on a night off from their loan spells at Lincoln and Leeds respectively. Or at the very least two blokes who looked an awful lot like Chris Herd and Shane Lowry, the old eyesight isn’t what it was. Thinking about it, it’s pretty unlikely that two blokes who each looked a whole lot like Herd and Lowry would be going to the reserves together wouldn’t it? It was nice to see them there anyway.

Whatever; following the fifteen minutes in which I mulled that over Villa came out looking sharper and started to impose ourselves on the game.

On 53 minutes, Doyle gathered a ball over the top in and with Weimann nearby dropped it down to kick, the young Austrian nipped it smartly away from him and promptly popped it into the back of the net.

Our referee Mr Madley was unimpressed and immediately disallowed the goal and booked the Villa man. McDonald was even more unimpressed and let fire a volley of well-intentioned advice from the sideline.

Weimann almost made immediate amends, getting on to a Lichaj through ball and putting an effort just past the post.

Our tails were up and we were starting to look likely to extend our lead, Delfouneso almost put a ball onto Weimann’s head before Albrightons long-range effort was deflected for a corner.

By now the awfully brave fourth official had gingerly crept out of his box to ask Mr McDonald if he wouldn’t mind stopping shouting at the referee please, but when the corner was headed behind by a small heath defender and the his colleague gave a goal kick he made a rather wise tactical retreat, scampering back to his seat and not re-emerging.

Villa put the contest to bed on 66 minutes with Delfouneso and Weimann combining beautifully to split the heathen defence, Weimann finishing firmly from the edge of the box. The hallmark of how classy their combination was could be seen in how effortless it looked and throughout the second half they looked an excellent partnership.

Villa being Villa we decided on a short burst of goals and when Albrighton gave Delfouneso the whole half to run into he beat Doyle with a finish that just about made its way over the line to put us three nil up.

The small heath right back gave Lichaj a kick as he shielded the ball out of play and as I watched the referee decide a yellow card would be unnecessary, I wondered how long it would be before the reserve coaching staff would have to restrain our manager.

Lichaj and Bannan were next to try and add to the scoring with some good work freeing up wee Barry in the box, his shot though lacked the power to beat Doyle.

Salifou and Bouma each received a warm hand, being replaced by Hofbauer and the returning O’Halloran with around ten minutes left. (That’s a metaphorical warm hand obviously.)

The longer the game went on the more we looked like we would score goals and our fourth on 85 minutes came as no surprise, Albrighton working his way to the byline and crossing for Delfouneso to score his second and our fourth.

Smashing.

Forrester replaced Bannan for the last five minutes as chances started to come thick and fast and it looked like we’d reached our traditional five goals when Hogg played in Weimann. He pulled the ball back to Delfouneso to slot home for his hat trick. Astonishingly this one was disallowed for offside despite the fact that Delfouneso was four yards behind the ball when it was played, and onside. An unbelievable decision.

McDonald took it well, although he had gone a strange purple colour.

We still created enough chances to score the two or three goals we’d need for our fifth goal of the night in the last couple of minutes but had to settle for just the four after the referee blew for full time.

It was a good second half performance against opposition as toothless as most of their supporters, albeit marred by the type of refereeing performance that any far eastern gambling syndicate would be proud of.

Here’s hoping we can repeat it when our old reserve team come to play the first team in a few weeks time.

Some ratings:

Bevan (5) – Didn’t really have a great deal to do, but doesn’t score any higher based on his kicking and fluffing Bouma’s back pass. He’ll need to work hard to keep Siegrist, Parish and Barratt at bay.

Lichaj (8) – Excellent performance from Lichaj tonight, he defended well and did a great job of supporting attacks and creating havoc in the small heath defence. He’ll sleep well with the effort he gave this one.

Davies (7) – Composed and a little too wise for their forwards, nothing flashy just an experienced player going about his business in a professional, efficient manner.

Clark (7) - Composed and a little too wise for their forwards, nothing flashy just an inexperienced young player going about his business in a professional, efficient manner.

Bouma (7) – Looks a bit heavy legged as you’d expect but he’s still got too much for tonight’s opposition. Never looked like getting beaten by the winger and supported reasonably well. He’s at his best defending against quality opposition and tonight was no sweat for him.

Hogg (7) – Looked better as the game went on and gradually wore down his opposition in central midfield, he makes great runs into the box and looked like he’d have liked to get on the score sheet tonight.

Albrighton (8) – At times quiet, but he finished with a goal and two assists. Didn’t find it easy to beat his man, but demonstrated that he knows several ways to skin a cat. His goal was excellent.

Salifou (7) – Particularly in the first half he brought control to our game, looks after the ball well and then uses it efficiently. He was welcomed back by the fans and seemed pleased as he came off.

Bannan (6) – Six might be a bit harsh but he’s set himself very high standards and whilst he did okay I thought he might take the opportunity to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and make it his. Still, he’s just back from injury and he’ll be better for the run out.

Weimann (8) – Last season he looked like he needed to beef up a bit and add some power, he’s done that; he’s bigger, stronger and he has a very useful burst of pace. He took his goal well and worked his socks off. He’s not top scorer in this league for nothing.

Delfouneso (8) – If you’re going to wear yellow boots, short sleeves and gloves you’d better be good; at half time I did wonder, but Nathan did a Reading on us and turned in a sublime second half performance, he has great awareness and he knows where he needs to be to get goals.

Subs:

Hofbauer - Gave us plenty of energy in his short time on the pitch and looked sharp.

O’Halloran – He’s been away a long time and looked a bit rusty, but it’s good to see him back and I hope we get to see a bit more of him this season.

Forrester – Only on a couple of minutes but he could have come off the park with two assists to his name such was our dominance by the finish.

Five points clear at the top of the table and looking like we might just retain the title this season, you can next catch the reserves at Villa Park on the 5th April when we entertain second placed Arsenal.

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