Sunday, January 6, 2013

Aston Villa 2 Ipswich Town 1

Yesterday we went to see Villa take on Ipswich in the FA Cup. Things haven't been great for Villa of late, so the wisdom of getting the tickets after Villa won at Anfield looked like we might have wasted our money. It wasn't the ticket prices that were a problem, but the price of getting their by train, as train tickets went up in price again.

Anyway, the morning started off on a train full of Norwich fans, who had got on the pop early in the morning. We had thought that we would have had to share a train with the Ipswich fans, but the Norwich fans had decided to get an early start despite the 3 o'clock kick off and thankfully things were a lot less eventful once they got off at Peterborough. That said my phone gave up at Peterborough, so finding out the football news from Ely was put on hold, but never mind.

We were in the North Stand Lower, a place in the ground I've never been in the ground before. In the old days I had a season for the Holte End and since the North Stand has been only for the home fans I've only been in the Upper. My dad didn't seem to be that pleased with the tickets, but I thought they were good enough.

After Villa put out the youngest team in the history of the Premier against Swansea a few days ago they were able to call on some more experienced heads in this game. Darren Bent was back to give Christian Benteke a well earned rest. Shay Given came in for Brad Guzan and Charles N'Zogbia was in for El-Ahmadi who joined up with Morocco for the African Cup of Nations. Stephen Ireland and Gabby were also on the bench to be called upon if needed, which they were. There was also a call up though for another youngster in Jordan Bowery who came in for Andi Weimann.

Villa started off the better of the two teams, which you would hope, as Ipswich are having a mixed season in the Championship and seem to be a bit of a ragtaggle bunch of loanees, kids and past-its. However, if anyone can get them out of trouble it has to be Mick Mc.Carthy, although I somehow doubt he'll bring the exciting football back to Portman Road that they used to be famed for. Joe Bennett, despite being a full back, and Charles N'Zogbia were providing some good service to the forwards. Jordan Bowery had a couple of good chances, but he is definitely far from the finished article.

It wasn't all good news for Villa though, and although Ipswich didn't really threaten Villa looked like they could be their own worst enemies. There was a lot of messing around in defence and with Vlaar and Dunne out they are definitely lacking a leader. In midfield Delph and Bannan were giving it their all, but some of the passing was wayward. Given looked confident and did a good a job as could be expected of marshalling the young defence, however I've never been that impressed with the way that he deals with crosses, so it was a good job Ipswich weren't putting too many in. When he was called upon to kick the ball up-field he wasn't doing a great job and the ball came straight back to him. In fact a great one handed save that he made in the closing moments of the game was directly due to him not clearing the ball properly in the first place.

There was a slight feeling of the inevitable when Chopra put Ipswich ahead just after the half hour mark despite Villa's early dominance the wayward passing and general messing around saw them feel behind, as Chopra carved the defence apart.

The goal led to Ipswich galvanising and Villa playing with more urgency. Chopra caused a decen save from Given; and for Villa Clarke came close from a Bannan corner and Bowery fired just over.

Paul Lambert must have had a word at half time as Villa came out firing on all cylinders and after just one minute of the second half N'Zogbia cut the Ipswich defence apart and Bent finished clinically to get the equaliser. Villa sensed blood and Weimann who was on for Albrighton after he picked up an injury was causing the visitors all sorts of problems. The introduction of Agbonlahor on 62 saw Villa up the tempo further and a cross from Gabby was met by Weimann to hit the crossbar. Gabby had the bit between his teeth and was determined to score, although perhaps he should have been less greedy. He definitely shouldn't have upended Reo-Coker, but it was a laugh and you wondered how the two got on when they were both at Villa.

Finally with 7 minutes left Joe Bennett provided a cross for Weimann, whose powerful header beat Loach in the Ipswich goal and Villa were in the next round.

Villa still need a defender with experience and a central midfielder with a bit of bite in my opinion, although Lambert will probably just go out and buy a couple of forwards if he can prise Uncle Randy's wallet open, but a wins a win. It has been a long time since we have been back from Villa Park with a win and even having to share a train with drunk and noisy Ipswich fans and then (fortunately not at the same time) Norwich fans we were in high spirits.

Joe Bennett, Villa's man of the match.

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