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FA Youth Cup Semi Final: Aston Villa vs. Newcastle


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The tiny toons came to Villa Park tonight to face the little Villans in the first leg of this seasons FA Youth Cup semi final where a good sized crowd saw an interesting 1-1 draw.

A bit of star spotting first and it was a full house at Villa Park; Ian Taylor was there of course and he was joined by Steve Staunton, Alan Thompson, Ray Clemence, the Villa reserve team and a host of others, even old deadly got himself out of bed.

It was warm enough for a pint in the garden of the Holte Pub and a fair sized crowd had gathered by kick off, nothing like as large as the one for our last youth semi against Chelsea, but I reckon there were a good couple of thousand there.

Nathan Delfouneso was pitch side when I arrived, supporting his young colleagues and it’s good to see he’s taken his Fonz nickname to heart and invested in a short leather jacket.

Villa came out in a straightforward 4-4-2, with Siegrist in goal, a back four from right to left of Berry, Deeney, Devine and Williams, Lampkin down the right and Roberts down the left flanking Carruthers and Blythe in midfield and tiny Ryan Simmonds up front with Kofi Poyser.

From the off it was clear that the Newcastle team had a size advantage over Villa, and it was the not so tiny toons who opened the match the stronger side.

Our centre backs were having trouble dealing with their number 9, Phil Airey, who was making clever runs in behind them and we looked susceptible to the ball over the top.

When a chance came it came that way, a simple ball down the middle that Airey ran onto and although his first effort was a bit of an air shot, the ball remained where he could get a foot on it and he prodded it home to put them a goal up after ten minutes.

That pattern settled in for much of the first half, with Villa struggling to get out of our half and then struggling to deal with anything direct towards Airey. It wasn’t long ball hit and hope stuff from Newcastle; just good direct football and we were at sixes and sevens at times with Siegrist glued to his line and the centre backs fooled by Airey’s movement. Elsewhere Newcastle were pressing us all over the pitch and we didn’t seem able to get a foothold in the game.

With half an hour gone, I’ll admit to being very worried.

What we produced came on the break with Carruthers first convinced he should have had a penalty (I don’t think it was) then laying a lovely ball into the path of Poyser whose heavy touch let the keeper in at his feet.

Newcastle had the ball in the net again with Airey heading home but flagged offside and they were finding far too much space in midfield, but the longer the half wore on the more we started to settle and Poyser headed a half chance wide just before the break.

We kicked off the second half hoping for better but almost found ourselves two down immediately, Samuel Adjei guilty of skewing a great chance wide from six yards out.

We were a little improved though and Poyser showed signs of life, beating a man in the box and centering for Simmonds who couldn’t quite get a shot away.

And then, on the hour mark came our first real piece of quality; Carruthers played a ball out wide to Roberts who beat a man and whipped in an absolutely delicious cross that begged Poyser to head it home – it would have been rude of him not to, so he did.

Suddenly we were back in the tie.

A thirty-yard Airey free kick almost restored Newcastle’s lead immediately; Siegrist saw it late but got up well to tip it over the bar.

It had finally become a more even game and there were now openings starting to appear at both ends, with Villa finding some joy down our left.

A ball over the top left Lampkin chasing and harrying a defender into the box and as he got a toe to the ball he tried to turn and got himself into a bit of a tangle. He went down to the ground clutching his leg and almost immediately started to shout for help. One of the great things about reserve games is that you can hear the players shouting to each other, when you can hear a young kid screaming in pain it’s not so much fun. He was still screaming when they got the stretcher and the oxygen to him and he went off with one of those inflatable orange splints around his knee; it looked a really bad one and I really do wish him a speedy recovery.

Connor Taylor came on for him and both sides got straight back into things.

Carruthers too succumbed to injury, with his thankfully not looking so serious and he was replaced with Ebby Nelson-Addy as we went 4-3-3.

The subs gave us renewed energy and though we didn’t quite find a cutting edge, we were quicker to everything and finished the game slightly the stronger of the two sides. Newcastle were still dangerous and Siegrist had to save at the feet of Inman but we seemed to have finally gained some control, albeit with just ten minutes left.

The final chance came with Roberts again down the left playing a ball in to Taylor on the edge of the six yard box, he sensibly cut the ball back, but sadly right in between the two Villa players rushing into the box.

In all honesty as the final whistle blew, I couldn’t help but think we’d gotten away with it, Newcastle could have buried us in the first half and by the end of the second half they were probably wishing they had. Hopefully that’s the thought they’ll carry into the second leg next Friday.

Some ratings;

Siegrist (5) – Not impressive at all tonight, flappy on crosses, he was tied to his goal line and didn’t seem to inspire much confidence in his centre halves. He’s exceptionally good in some areas, but he’s got plenty to work on before he’s fully formed.

Berry & Deeney (7) – I thought our fullbacks were our best players on the night. They’re very similar, both strong in the tackle and dogged in defence, both possessed of a long throw and both full of running. They did well.

Deeney & Devine (6) – Another very similar pair; for the first half an hour they looked shell shocked, positionally they were getting caught out by Newcastle and they both gave the impression that they didn’t know how to change it. Change it they did though and by the end of the game they looked much more comfortable; they’ve got a big job on in the second leg.

Blythe (6) – Spiky and aggressive right from the off, I hope it’s not too rude to say that he’s not likely to be the best footballer on the pitch but he’s not about to let that stop him having a big influence on games. He did some things well and some things not so well, but he was always willing to keep coming back for more and his attitude rubbed off on the rest of the team.

Lampkin (6) – Worked hard down the right hand side in the first half without getting to see much of the ball. He was coming into the game more and more before his injury; hopefully it’s not as bad as it looked.

Carruthers (7) – Just about edged it as the best of our midfield. In patches he was very good and in particular for the five minutes before our goal when it was his work with the ball that started to turn the tide. He’s still a lot better with the ball than without it, but if he can maintain his form over ninety minutes he’ll be a decent prospect.

Roberts (6) – Grafted away down the left hand side without a great deal of joy, struggling to get through and often faced with two defenders. It’s credit to him then that on the one or two occasions that he did get a ball in, his delivery was very good and his cross for our goal was a peach.

Poyser (6) – Always looks like he’s about to do something; at the moment he’s a striker who is quite often nearly on the end of something or nearly breaks through. He’s got a lot of the tools he needs but could do with putting them together. As will all of the Villa team tonight though, his effort couldn’t be faulted.

Simmonds (6) – Impressive in the earlier rounds he just couldn’t seem to find a way into this game, he’s quick, bright and lively but Newcastle never gave him the time or space to get going and wasn’t able to influence proceedings in the way that he’d have liked.

That’s your lot, if anyone from the North East is free, you could do a lot worse than to catch the second leg – it’s all to play for.

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