Something For The Weekend (598)
Villa go floppy in the Floccinaucinihilipilification Cup...
In a week when Philippe Coutinho moved from Liverpool to Barcelona for £142m, a player very easily confused with Eden Hazard and a quite few others, it is impossible to have any sort of delusion as to the financial gulf between the Premier League and the Championship, and the predictable enervating affect upon any club which spends much time beyond the cut-off period of the parachute-payments in the second tier. Budgets get cut, the quality of players a club can attract declines and promotion gets increasingly more difficult. The gap between the newly promoted clubs and the established clubs gets wider. The club knows it and the Villa faithful know it. Everyone knows that the FA Cup is considered a bit of a chore these days, and I can't see anyone pretending otherwise. Even the wondrous Wolves made six changes for their game against Swansea. So bearing all this in mind, my inner stoic Brummie, didn't get too freaked out by Villa's exit from the FA Cup.
Villa weren't bad in their FA Cup home tie and even looked decent in dribs and drabs but not really good enough to justify the 27 places which separate them from League 1 visitors Peterborough United. Davis scored a cracking goal on 8 minutes, his first at Villa Park, and once again proved that he is at his best when he's got his back to goal. Villa got gradually worse after that moment of joy and Peterborough got increasingly better. Marriott had a great game, as did midfielder youngster Lopes, who did some sterling work on the edge of the Villa box, as he switched the point of attack. Goalkeeper Bond had a good game, and in fact, the demands on him were nearly as severe as they were on Jed Steer. Taffazolli had a game he'll remember with pride.
Things looked pretty positive for Villa early on, with the returning Green sending in a cracking shot from the left side of the box which required a spectacular save from goalkeeper Bond. Then Ritchie De Laet went on a penetrating run and his cross wasn't cleared properly. It fell to Davis who swivelled and scored an excellent goal which opened his account at Villa Park. But Peterborough were quickly showing what was going to come when Josh Onomah gave away the ball with a terrible pass and Maddison charged forward to send in a shot which Steer comfortably pushed clear. De Laet combined with O'Hare and once again broke into a forward position on the right but his cross failed to beat the first defender and went for a corner. From the Hourihane corner another weak clearance from Peterborough gave the ball to O'Hare but for some reason he attempted a back-heel from seven yards and it was easily dealt with.
Peterborough broke, Marriott found Lopes and Steer pushed away his powerful shot. Onomah broke at pace through midfield, passed it to Davis out on the left but the latter couldn't find a way past the towering Taffazolli. Peterborough were in again as Maddison had time and space to find Lloyd who put in the darting Marriott, whose shot was kept out by the stretching left leg of Steer. Davis broke powerfully through midfield and checked inside as he entered the penalty area, was pushed in the chest and went down but nothing was given. Villa were looking ragged and Lopes looked poised and strong on the edge of Villa's box as he fed Shephard, who put in a cross which Lloyd headed straight at Steer. Peterborough looked in total control as some smart interplay set up another chance for Marriott and Steer was forced to save with his feet.
Villa seemed to have weathered the storm as the second-half opened and were a little brighter. Hourihane found himself in space and crashed a shot against a Peterborough defender. But then Onomah was caught in possession and Peterborough broke forward in a blue wave. The unmarked Marriott put a powerful left-foot shot over the bar. Villa were back on the offensive as John Terry launched a long pass which Bjarnason brought down elegantly on his chest and passed it inside to Davis, who broke to the left and sent in a firmly hit shot straight at goalkeeper Bond. Excellent work by Lopes on the edge of the Villa box set up Maddison to flash a ball across Villa's goal which escaped for a goal-kick. A very close call for Villa. Then an excellent combination between Taylor and Bjarnason. The cross was cleared but only to Lansbury who sent in a curving cracker, which rebounded off the goalkeeper, but neither Davis or O'Hare were following up and Bond retrieved. A brilliant surging run by Bree took him within striking distance of the Peterborough goal. He passed to Davis to his right, who checked inside and sent in a pile-driver but it was straight at the goalkeeper who palmed it away. Villa retained possession and Taylor passed to Hourihane who shot against a defender but he couldn't get enough power into his second attempt off the rebound. Villa built the pressure and O'Hare was put in by Lansbury but he failed to get his head up and shot straight at the goalkeeper. Villa were to rue their missed chances, as Forrester in space on the right, crossed. Lloyd had a shot which was diverted into the Villa net by Marriott. Villa had their opportunity to retake the lead when Onomah was fouled and Hourihane's superb free-kick out on the right was met by Bjarnason but his cushioned shot hit the underside of the bar. Peterborough had better luck at the other end when a centrally placed free-kick was tipped over by Steer and from the second subsequent corner they took the lead from an own-goal by Taylor, which was credited to Taffazolli. Five minutes later Bruce brought on Grealish and Hepburn-Murphy to increase Villa's attacking threat but it made things worse, as Peterborough scored their third goal three minutes later from a breakaway.
Well done Peterborough. They deserved their victory but it was a lot closer than the embarrassing score-line suggests. A bit more nous in front of goal and Villa could have won it. The outcome, as disappointing as it was, was preferable to a draw and another unwanted fixture at the London Road Stadium, in a competition which recent history suggests can be damaging to any club which goes far but does not actually win it. It certainly never did Villa any good in recent years. The game was an education in how a back-four needs to be a cohesive unit, and it showed us how far the youngsters are along in learning their trade. Good luck to Peterborough, whether they get to play either Fleetwood or Leicester, but their Cup adventures will come at a price.
Having subjected the Villa faithful to a mild humiliation at the hands of Peterborough by resting his key players, Bruce definitely needs a decent result away at Forest this Saturday teatime. As is the routine these days, Forest have got themselves a new manager in Aitor Karanka, who coincidentally lost his job at Middlesbrough after their FA Cup quarter-final run wasn't enough to compensate for the Smoggies' lowly league position. Getting Middlesbrough promoted in the first place is probably what prompted Forest's new owners to recruit him, and being Spanish does offer a little in the way of footballing mystique. Forest lying 14th have had a lousy run with three losses, two draws and a single win, in their last six league games. Their 4-2 win away at Arsenal in the FA Cup on Sunday probably lifted their spirits somewhat. How much Villa's loss to Peterborough negated the morale-boosting rout of Bristol City remains to be seen, but it would be a huge disappointment if Villa failed against Forest. John Terry is an injury doubt but presumably Jedinak will return to shore up the defence. Bruce has more choices than he probably knows what to do with in midfield.
Another win would be beautiful, people.
Keep the faith!