Writer: J P Fear
Date:Thursday September 21 2006
Last night I decided to go watch the League Cup game between Scunthorpe United and Aston Villa after being persuaded to by my Villa supporting mate. Living in Hull and being a Hull City supporter, it was an easy trip to make and after having to endure on hundred and twenty minutes of, to put it nicely, boring football on Tuesday night, I was hoping this match would be more interesting.
I`ve watched Villa play a few times now, mainly against Hull City but also against Manchester United last season and am always kept up to date with the latest going on at Villa Park. It was apparent the sacking of David O`Leary coupled with the appointment of Martin O`Neill has sparked a rejuvenation in the fortunes of Aston Villa, but this may be the usual new manager`s honeymoon period. Once the purple patch is over, and the first loss is recorded, how will Villa respond?
Villa have always had the makings of a UEFA cup side - you aren`t ready to break up the top six in my opinion from what I`ve seen of your club. This match would be the second time this season I have watched the Villa after watching one of O`Leary`s final games in charge when you visited the KC in pre-season. Despite yourselves coming away with a two nil victory, Hull City were by far the better side and dominated for long periods of the match, only to have no end product. With O`Neill still unbeaten after five games, I was intrigued to see which side would turn up - the one that managed to get impressive results at Arsenal and against Newcastle United or the one that lost to Doncaster Rovers in the League Cup last season in spectacular fashion.
That night last year showed to myself and probably the rest of the football world what a mess Villa were in at the time but little over a year later, the transformation was noticeable.
When new got into the ground the Villa team practicing on the pitch was very similar to the squad from a year ago, with Stilian Petrov the most noticeable addition to the squad. Petrov was someone I had always liked during his time in Scotland with Celtic and had been impressed with the Bulgarian midfielder after watching his performance on SKY against West Ham United. Unfortunately, the reality I saw was he didn`t display the same attacking drive for whatever reason but he was largely ineffectual.
I was also disappointed with Steven Davis who I thought looked poor and seems to have gone off the boil from what I`ve been able to see this season. I was impressed with O`Neill`s commitment to the League Cup - most managers put out weaker teams and get knocked out in embarrassing conditions but if Villa had done that last night, they wouldn`t be in the cup this morning.
For the impressive attacking play Villa produced with the three pronged attack of Agbonlahor, Moore and Angel, Scunthorpe also looked dangerous, especially towards the end of the second half. Gavin McCann went off early in the first half and whether this affected the defensive capabilities of your team I am unsure, but it must have made a difference.
However, one man stood out the most but not for the right reasons. Tommy Sorenson, what can you say other than "what are you doing half the time?" Despite pulling off some good saves, he wouldn`t have had to could he hold onto a shot in the first place. All too often the ball would squirm across goal with the Dane trying his best to scramble across goal to atone for his error. Villa always looked nervy when a long distance shot came in, probably wondering whether Sorenson was going to let the ball go under his midriff or actually hold the ball. Scunthorpe deserved a goal on the night but the defending was almost as bad as I used to watch at Hull City in the old Division 3.
I`m always informed of Villa`s lack of ability in defending corners and despite your height in Mellberg and Hughes, you still manage to look shaky everytime a cross comes over. You certainly need more time on the training ground!
At the other end, Angel looked impressive and his headed finish was clinical for a man who is looking to put his difficult season from last year behind him. The introduction of Milan Baros looked pointless as he did nothing. I`m not sure how long he has been injured for but he looks unfit and out of touch and a stint in the reserves will be needed for the Czech striker.
Overall, the match was certainly more entertaining than what I had watched at the KC the night before and the eleven pound entry fee was worth it in the end. Just promise me one thing please, on Saturday, as we are watching the draw, don`t draw out number 2 to play number 12 - I`m fed up with the Villa coming to Hull and I`d prefer someone else!
Of course, if you did come it would be third time lucky for the Tigers and we`d knock you out the cup!
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Date:Thursday September 21 2006
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