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Reserves vs. Liverpool


OutByEaster?
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There’s nowt like the peace and quiet of a reserve game, watching players who will one day be big noises in the game grow into their places in the calm study of a quiet Villa Park.

Not tonight, tonight the bells were ringing.

You never quite know what you’re going to get at a reserve game – tonights started with a good old sing song with a couple of hundred like minded Villa fans and the recording of The Bells Are Ringing on the Holte End steps – great fun and a great noise – I thoroughly enjoyed it and if we can get forty thousand singing like this two hundred then it really will be something special.

Still, after The Fear and a beer, onto the match where I was pleasantly surprised to see a strong Villa line up, and Liverpool responding in kind.

We lined up in a 4-2-3-1 with Marshall in goal, Herd at right back, Clark and Baker charged with looking after Ngog in the middle and Deeney at left back; the midfield two were Bradley and Salifou with Forrester and Berry on the wings and Gary Gardner playing as a second striker behind Marc Albrighton - a strong side in an unusual formation.

Liverpool had Hansen in goal and Ince on the wing - those names seem familiar somehow – up front they had the dangerous Ngog and in the middle of the park the highly rated but stupidly named Jonjo Shelvey. Jesus also featured for them.

We started badly with Ince breaking through down the left and finding himself one-on-one with Marshall inside thirty seconds; our game-shy number two did very well to make a decent save.

An open game developed with Gardner heading our first chance over from a corner, but Marshall was forced into another very good stop before we finally started to find any rhythm – Ince and Silva looking very dangerous for them down the flanks.

Despite a slightly sloppy start, the atmosphere off the pitch was excellent with a few old heads and a bunch of younger ones belting out the new anthem and more with gusto – I’d hazard it might be the most noise the Trinity has heard in a while, even if it did seem a little unnecessary to sing ‘empty seats my lord’ at three empty stands!

We’d found our feet in the game and a lovely interchange between Gardner and Forrester allowed the latter to shimmy past a defender and hit the bar from close range - a warning for Liverpool.

Albrighton produced a lovely ball that Forrester couldn’t quite grow to a moment later and suddenly it was Liverpool under pressure.

A goal followed in good order and it was a belter.

Deeney faked to cross and slipped a ball into Forrester in the area, he cleverly scooped the ball over the advancing defence and across to the far post where Albrighton’s sweetly struck volley found the back of the net. Cue the singing.

Albrighton curled a shot just over from the corner of the box a minute or two later as Liverpool floundered and their nerves got the better of them a moment later.

A long ball into the box found Forrester in behind the defence and the slightest nudge from the centre back sent him tumbling – the ref had no doubt and pointed to the spot. He was right, it was a penalty, but it’s the kind I’ve seen not given.

Gardner didn’t care; he calmly sent the keeper the wrong way and us two goals to the good.

A two goal lead to take into half time and just about deserved on the balance of play.

The second half started in much the same way, open and with chances at both ends but with the side in Claret and Blue looking the more likely scorers..

So it proved, with what I’ve had described to me as an excellent team goal. I’m afraid I was distracted by the crowd calling Craig Gardner names and only just managed to catch his younger brother finishing the move off with a deft header looping over the keeper.

Sorry.

Three nil up and we switched off a little. Silva got the goal that over ninety minutes he deserved with a jinking run through our defence and a scruffy but effective finish.

With half an hour to go, Liverpool huffed and puffed but didn’t really look like pulling it back and the crowd continued in good humour – even going so far as to request a wave of Gerrard Houllier who looked genuinely pleased to give it.

With around 15 minutes to go, we pushed a little more just to make sure, with Herd heading over the bar.

Liverpool’s right back brushed our bar with a cross but you never got the feeling this wasn’t going to go our way – there was just a feeling that this was going to be a good night.

There were brief appearances for Lampkin, back from a nasty injury and for wonderkid Jordan Graham on for Gardner and Albrighton respectively as we cruised through to the final whistle.

A good game of football played in a good little atmosphere with a good win. Sometimes you get more than you bargained for from the reserves – tonight I got a little bit of hope. It felt like there was something afoot, both on and off the pitch; a little bit of steel, some confidence – a night of renewal.

Some ratings:

Marshall (8) – A rare appearance for the man of mystery and do you know what? He was very good - some good saves, good positioning and decent command of his area. He looks solid.

Deeney (7) – The least experienced of our back four and he occasionally looked it, he also had the biggest test against an excellent winger – but he battled all game and supported attacks very well. He can be pleased with this.

Clark (8) – I would imagine that Ciaran Clarke doesn’t have any fillings. I’d be surprised if he sweats - immaculate, always sensible, and occasionally imperious.

Baker (7) – I imagine he’ll finish his career with false teeth; he does love a tackle. He was good tonight; he played Ngog very well and tidied up nicely.

Herd (7) – After a slightly loose opening ten minutes he was solid at right back against a lively left winger.

Bradley (6) – Doesn’t look quite as sharp as some of his team mates, there was plenty of effort but he gave the ball away too often in the first half and didn’t really dominate in the way you’d hope from someone who was brought in to challenge the first team.

Salifou (7) – Looked skinny and his number was pink; maybe he needs a woman. On the ball he was very tidy and he helped to control the tempo whenever things weren’t going our way.

Berry (6) – Struggled in the first half, he’s slightly built and was knocked off the ball too easily. That said, as the game went on he got better and was very good in the last twenty minutes. I’d like to see more of him before making a judgement.

Forrester (8) – Man of the match for me, he looked really good on the ball, imaginative and creative and he had a hand in everything good we did. Some of his tackling was excellent too and he worked hard, maybe he’s finally arrived.

Gardner (7) – Looked uncomfortable in his position at times and I think he’d prefer to be further back, but he scored twice, played some excellent passes and gave his all. Not his best, but not at all bad.

Albrighton (7) – Pushed, probed and prodded at the defence but didn’t quite hit the high notes – his goal was well taken and he gets into some good positions playing up front.

The subs weren’t really on long enough for a rating.

The star of the show was the fans though and credit should go the boys at the back who were shush-ing brilliant and to big Howard for leading from the front.

Just away games left for us now; hopefully we’ll be back at Villa Park more often next season. If we are, why not try and catch a game or two, you never know what you might find.

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Thanks for that Scott. It's largely how I saw it too. I did think Gardner was better than a 7 if only because it was clear that even as a centre mid playing up front that he was so within himself at this level that he could pass as a striker. His 2 goals didn't hurt either. He is definitely just biding his time in the reserves for bigger things next season. I've seen Forrester a few times and he never stood out the way he did last night. He looked a proper player on the evidence of that performance. Apart from that I'd probably also give Herd & Albrighton an 8. Herd from rightback was hugely involved in the game, far more than what you would expect from a rightback and he had quite a lot of 40-50yd crossfield passes to Forrester. I now have renewed hope for his career here although he needs to cut out the errant pass that goes to an opponent's central midfield. Whereas Albrighton showed what half a season playing for the senior side can do to your game. It was like he was playing alongside kids in the park at times. I watched it on LFCTV and their commentators couldn't understand what Albrighton in particular would get from playing at this level. Though they were happy that their own youngsters were getting the experience of playing against this standard of opponent; something they don't get every week in the reserve league.

On Liverpool's side I was very impressed with Tom Ince. Paul's son will make it in the game no doubt. I think Tony Silva is Ryan Babel's love child. A prodigiously talented but tactically headless chicken. And Suso showed good vision and just needs more physicality to his game because we were able to suffocate him at times.

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Damn. I had always imagined Gardner coming through and solving our lack of a decent attacking CM'er but it sounds, from this write up, as if he is going to be competing with Delph, Makoun and Bannan for the playmaker role??

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Who's Suso BOF?
He's their central attacking midfielder. He was on the team sheet as 'Fernandez' but everyone knows him as Suso.
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Damn. I had always imagined Gardner coming through and solving our lack of a decent attacking CM'er but it sounds, from this write up, as if he is going to be competing with Delph, Makoun and Bannan for the playmaker role??
No I wouldn't say he's a playmaker (though I wouldn't doubt, with his ability, that he could play that role if he wanted to). He scored 2 goals and passed himself off as a decent striker (at this level...). That's not a playmaker, that's an attacking CM in my view.
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I get a feeling Marc Albrighton played this reserve game because there maybe an element of truth to the Liverpool links in the media and wanted to impress.

Oh you .....

tin-foil-hat.jpg

;)

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Damn. I had always imagined Gardner coming through and solving our lack of a decent attacking CM'er but it sounds, from this write up, as if he is going to be competing with Delph, Makoun and Bannan for the playmaker role??

No I wouldn't say he's a playmaker (though I wouldn't doubt, with his ability, that he could play that role if he wanted to). He scored 2 goals and passed himself off as a decent striker (at this level...). That's not a playmaker, that's an attacking CM in my view.

Just reading OBE's comments:

"Gardner (7) – Looked uncomfortable in his position at times and I think he’d prefer to be further back, but he scored twice, played some excellent passes and gave his all. Not his best, but not at all bad."

Reads to me as if he is suggesting that Gary looks a better player when he drops deeper??

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Reads to me as if he is suggesting that Gary looks a better player when he drops deeper??

Gardner was playing up front so 'deeper' might just be attacking mid, but as I say I think he could probably play any position in central midfield. He's just not a striker - despite scoring 2 goals.

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