Well that was interesting. Our biggest winning margin in my lifetime and nobody apart from the press (especially me) could be there to witness it. Thanks to a combination of me assuming a later than 7pm kickoff, my sluggishness at getting the stream purchased, and spending ten minutes running round the house looking for my specs (which were, of course, on my head) my enjoyment of the night’s fun and games was less than smoothly appreciated. Add to this my smart-arse idea to watch it on my phone down the Hoss, with England as a distraction, and my constant wish to update Villa Dave of the score…let’s just say that our half-time silence was far more entertaining that what England served up.
The SAFC website gave the team as:
Look, Sunderland, it’s a cup game – put the buggers in an order that sort of indicates where they are playing, please – especially when you’re giving forward Diamond a run-out as a potential O’Nien back-up. The last few times we’d played Premiership U21s, we’d comfortably disposed of the sweaty mags, allowed Man City to pass us to death up to the wall that was Ozturk on the edge of our penalty box, and been savaged by Leicester. How would we deal with Villa? Actually, in Roman numerals, Vill = 8. A is the first letter of the alphabet, therefor 8-1 seems appropriate.
What did become apparent very early on, once we’d weathered a little bit of a storm from the visitors during which Feeney had to hack one off the line, was that Scowen takes a better than average corner, which he did from our left , with his right peg, a couple of times as we played towards the Roker End, Villa having taken the kick-off. What became almost as quickly apparent was that Villa’s bairns had either a) never tried to head a ball, or b) been trained with a brick.
Basically, they were terrified of any ball in the air to such an extent that they didn’t even bother trying to get a head on it. Therefore, when Scowen’s first corner came in, there was Wyke at the front post to outmuscle (well, I think Tom Ritchie could have outmuscled) the Villa defence to nod home. Five minutes later, another corner from the same place went to the back post, and debutant Morgan Feeney simply nodded it back and over the keeper for the second. As with Saturday’s game, the ball rarely went near the North Stand as we out-tackled, out-passed, out-fought, and (most importantly) out-thought the bairns from north Brum. That it stayed only two to us was thanks to a shot from Gooch flashing across the face of goal from the left, and their keeper smothering another shot at the foot of his right-hand post. Diamond was indeed being employed as an overlapping fullback/wingback, and was making a decent job of it, while Xhemalji (see, I can type it) had so little to do defensively that he spent a decent amount of time backing up the midfield. With Leadbitter doing a mopping-up job thanks to Villa’s general inability to find their forwards, Power was having a field day popping the ball to Wyke.
Half time came after a couple of minutes added time and allowed me to get fifteen minutes viewing of a pretty dull England showing. The half-time comments of Barnesy and Benno included a few that referred to our younger defenders generally doing well, but perhaps needing to take a deep breath before sticking their foot in. Only a few minutes into the second half, young Taylorl backed up Benno’s point by diving in and conceding a penalty that was fired below Matthews’s left arm and in to the corner. Bugger.
Bugger, you say? Not a problem, said SAFC, winning a corner on the left, which found Feeney beyond the back post. His header towards the South West Corner, where I should have been sat, might possibly have been on its way in, but Wyke did absolutely the right thing by nodding it over the line. Three goals, all headers directly or indirectly from corners? I like this very much.
At this stage, another corner from our right, again by Scowen, became my viewing for five minutes or so as tinterweb reception in the Bay Hoss got a bit iffy and I was treated to endless replays of Wyke’s balletic (well, balletic compared to anything I ever did on a Sunday morning) overhead kick. Once reception had been safely re-established, England were boring the life out of everybody else in the pub, and the other customers were more than a tad surprised when I punched the air in celebration as Scowen decided to show that we could score along the ground as well, as he ran nicely onto sub Graham’s neat lay-off after a move down the right to net the fourth with a crisp shot.
Wow. Four up and still quarter of an hour to go – we might just win this – and more subs started coming on, as they tend to do in this competition. Villa started the changes, then we followed, just to distract the officials from Power’s belter from distance that made it five.
Five, yes five. New re-signing Danny Graham, just on as one of those subs, swept home from just inside the box after another good move down the right – well done Diamond – then our George, another sub on for Power with ten to go, passed it into the net to the keeper’s left, reminiscent of his goal at Bramall Lane almost a year ago. It was getting a bit silly, as Villa’s heads went down metaphorically as well as physically, and they all but held up a sign saying “please make it stop.”
It didn’t, with another sub, O’Brien (on for Neil at the same time as Graham replaced Wyke with 20 to go), scoring a goal that was identical to those the Aiden he’s seemingly replaced put away over the last couple of seasons, carefully curling his shot beyond the keeper to end the scoring for the night and notch eight for the first time since a few days before I was born. (Charlton, if you’re interested).
I wasn’t sure what to expect from tonight, but it certainly wasn’t and 8-1 win, so I’ll take that to bed and smile smugly as I drift off, happy in the knowledge that my mate Villa Dave will be finishing work soon and needs to read this. HEY, DAVE!!
Man of the Match? I wasn’t sure what formation Parky was employing as first, but we seemed to switch between three and four at the back quite comfortably, giving some of the youngsters a run-out, but to be honest Villa were so tactically inept defensively that we could probably have beaten them with the half-time challenge “chase into the box”. I was impressed by the way Diamond adapted to his right-wing-back role, though not that happy that he’s been asked to do it. Leadbitter gave nowt away, while Power, the only survivor from the weekend’s team, looked confident again in his more forward role. While Wyke got his head to lots of things, those things usually came from Scowen, so Scowen gets my nod. Nod, geddit?