A welcome victory over Ipswich in the 3rd round of the FA Cup allows Villa to draw a line under a torrid spell of recent form. Though the performance left much to be desired, the return to fitness of Bent, N’Zogbia and Agbonlahor is a massive boost.
Yesterday’s game was a scrappy affair. Villa were laborious in the opening exchanges, but with the width of Bowery and Bent drifting, gave Ipswich cause for concern. For too many games we have been one dimensional.
N’Zogbia was also a lively figure, driving with purpose each time he received the ball. This was a pleasing reminder that there is some creativity in the squad if we can coax it out.
What was lacking, as so often in the last 2 years, was an end product. Bowery was denied high first Villa goal after breaking clear, Loch producing a fine save.
The game was not without glaring worries. Villa were once again guilty of criminal defending, and an apparent desire to play suicidal passes. The ease at which we surrendered possession will no doubt concern Lambert.
Ipswich evidently looked to have a plan to hit Villa through the channels on the break, and did so effectively throughout the first half. Their opener resulted from Baker’s calamitous defending. The young man has had his ups and downs alongside Clarke at centre half but this was a particularly poor showing. There will not be a great deal of debate about who drops out when Vlaar regains fitness.
Ipswich could have put the contest out of reach minutes later when a deep cross found Chopra. He could only power a first time shot straight into Given, who somehow managed to gather a looping rebound. This was a big let off as Villa rocked at the back.
At half time the boos rang out with the 25000 voicing their opinion.
After a suitable reminding that we had an England international striker up front, N’Zogbia fed the ball through the eye of a needle which Bent finished hard and low past the stranded Loach. Level within the first minute of the restart was certainly more like it.
Villa tried to build some momentum but really struggled. Delph was combative and had perhaps one of his best games in a Villa shirt. Overall we huffed and puffed.
Bannan was incredibly wasteful with both possession and set pieces to the annoyance of both team mates and fans. The lad will be lucky to make the bench as and when new recruits arrive such is his lack of physical presence and ineptitude on the ball. It’s difficult to see how he could be nearly good enough service for Benteke and co. Whether you consider him a luxury or a liability; Villa can afford neither.
The game plodded on, Ipswich caused a scare by calling Given into action to produce a superb diving save to deny a seemingly certain goal.
And then came the winner.
Bennett, who had looked lively all day, delivered a magnificent pacey cross from the left. The ball was met by substitute Wiemann whose excellent header looped beyond Loach. It was a really good goal, and the young Austrian international continues to do all of the right things.
Overall it was better without being totally flawless. Defensively we continue to do bizarre and thoughtless things. But going forward we have some talented options with which to damage teams.
The major plus was the avoidance of injuries to what key players remain. Albrighton limped off and Clark appeared to carry a knock, but nothing as serious as a horror injury as suffered by Blues’ Packwood yesterday.
The resting of Benteke and some match time for returning players Bent, Gabby and N’Zogbia could also prove invaluable with crucial Premiership fixtures looming.
Next up is a tasty first leg away at Bradford in the league cup semi final. Often cup runs can be a distraction, but I’m sure collectively we’d have to agree this is most welcome.