|Aston Villa 2 v 1 Ipswich Town|
Saturday, 5th January 2013 Kick-off 15:00
Aston Villa 2-1 Town
Saturday, 5th Jan 2013 17:05
Second-half goals from former Blue Darren Bent and Andreas Weimann saw Aston Villa come from behind to beat Town 2-1 at Villa Park and end Town’s FA Cup run at the third round stage. Mick McCarthy’s men had gone in 1-0 ahead at the break via Eric Lichaj’s own goal and might have been further in front.
Town boss Mick McCarthy named the expected much-changed side but with Patrick Kisnorbo the only one of the three new signings to start.
Scott Loach was in goal with Elliott Hewitt making his first start at right-back and with Aaron Cresswell on the left.
Kisnorbo was at the heart of the defence alongside Tommy Smith, who captained Town for the first time, having previously worn the armband at international level with New Zealand.
In midfield, ex-Villa man Nigel Reo-Coker was in the centre with Luke Hyam with Jay Emmanuel-Thomas on the right and Lee Martin continuing on the left. Michael Chopra partnered Daryl Murphy up front.
For Villa, ex-Blue Darren Bent faced his old club for the first time having recovered from a hamstring injury.
Keeper Loach was involved inside the opening minute, claiming a looping header from midfielder Jordan Bowery.
On four, Villa left-back Joe Bennett lashed over after a freekick just outside the area was played to him following a Hewitt foul on Charles N’Zogbia. The former Newcastle man hit a subsequent freekick well over two minutes later with the Premier League side having the better of the opening exchanges.
Town, in white, forced Villa keeper Shay Given into a save for the first time in the 12th minute, but Chopra’s strike, after good work from Emmanuel-Thomas, failed to seriously test the former Ireland international.
Darren Bent slammed another Villa freekick from just outside the area wide off the wall a minute later, Town debutant Kisnorbo having picked up a yellow card for a rugby tackle on N’Zogbia as he broke past him.
Villa had undoubtedly been on top but Town, while giving the ball away all too easily at times, had had their moments. On 19 Chopra found Murphy inside the area but Given was out quickly to claim at his feet.
The Town fans joined in with the now traditional Villa 19th minute’s applause for their skipper Stiliyan Petrov, who is suffering with leukaemia. The home side probably should have gone in front a minute later. Bent got away on the right of the area and cut the ball back to Bowery at the far post but the midfielder wasn’t able to divert the ball goalwards as he slid in. The former Chesterfield man, who was giving full debutant Hewitt a stiff test, shot wide again from the left moments later.
Villa should have been in front just before the half hour when Bowery was sent away on goal and hit a shot to Loach’s left that the Blues’ keeper did well to get down to and stop one-handed.
Town had switched around in midfield with Murphy moving to the left, Martin to the right and Emmanuel-Thomas behind Chopra.
And the changes seemed to work with the Blues taking the lead in the 30th minute. Chopra out-battled Nathan Baker on the edge of the Villa area, then cut in from the right and played the ball across towards the on-rushing Murphy, defender Eric Lichaj bundling into his own net as he tried to cut it out.
The home side seemed stunned by the Town goal and the Blues enjoyed their best spell of the game so far.
Martin forced Given into a save on 34, then two minutes later Chopra came even closer to adding to Town’s lead. Cresswell crossed brilliantly from the left and the Blues striker hit a first time effort which struck Given on the legs and bounced into the air before he claimed it at the second attempt.
The home side regained their composure and almost equalised in the 36th minute when Ciaran Clark’s header from a corner was superbly stopped down low by Loach.
Villa pressed during the closing stages of a half in which they lost Marc Albrighton to injury, but without significantly testing the excellent Loach further.
At the whistle there were boos from the home fans and chants of ‘one-nil to the Tractor Boys’ from the massed ranks of 2,900 Town supporters in one corner of the stadium.
While they had been under pressure at times, Town had done well, closing Villa down quickly in midfield and trying to make the most of their breaks forward with Chopra lively throughout. Town might even have been 2-0 in front with the Blues frontman unfortunate not to take his opportunity.
Keeper Loach was the star of the show, making two superb saves, the first having come less than a minute before the goal.
Overall, Mick McCarthy’s half-time message will have been to tell his players he wanted more of the same after the break.
However, the home side were back on terms within a minute of the restart. N’Zogbia played in former Blue Bent and for once Loach was unable to perform any heroics.
N’Zogbia sent a dangerous ball across the Town box, then as the game reached the hour mark, Bowery’s shot was deflected over the bar by Kisnorbo. After the resultant corner had been half-cleared, Bennett shot wide from distance.
New signing McGoldrick was introduced in the 61st minute, taking over from Emmanuel-Thomas in the role behind Chopra. Two minutes later, the impressive Bowery made way for Gabby Agbonlahor.
Within a minute Bent found himself space to shoot on the edge of the box but Loach again did well to get across to his right to push it round the post.
Agbonlahor headed own-goalscorer Lichaj’s cross from the right over in the 67th minute with the Premier League side having been on top for virtually the whole of the second half.
On 71 Carlos Edwards took over from Murphy, the Trinidadian going to right midfield and Martin swapping flaks. Villa switched N’Zogbia for Stephen Ireland.
Loach saved bravely as Agbonlahor chased a bouncing ball into the box, then Kisnorbo blocked from the England man. Town replaced the lively Chopra with new addition Aaron Mclean.
The on-loan Hull City man came close to putting Town back in front on 80 when Cresswell returned his own half-cleared freekick back into the box. Mclean volleyed goalwards only for Given to pull off a brilliant instinctive save. After the corner, McGoldrick hit a shot over from the edge. Moments later, Hyam was booked for a foul on Ireland.
Town had begun to look more of a threat since the substitutions, but on 83 the home side went in front. Bennett crossed from the left and sub Andreas Weimann flashed a header across Loach and into the net.
Hyam was close to a second yellow card for a foul on Agbonlahor but referee Jonathan Moss decided a talking-to was sufficient.
As the game entered its final minutes, the Blues continued to push for a second goal. Cresswell might have done better with his cross after a clever Martin flick, Given batting the ball away but with no Town player following in. Moments later, Mclean just couldn’t reach a McGoldrick ball from the left.
In the final minute of scheduled time, Edwards sent over a cross from the right but just beyond Martin at the far post.
But a Town equaliser wasn’t to come and the Blues’ FA Cup campaign was to come to an end at the third round stage for the third year running.
However, McCarthy’s side can hold their heads up high after a battling display, particularly given the much-changed side. If Chopra had scored his chance in the first half, then the result might have ended different, as it might had Bent not scored so early in the second half.
Of the players coming into the side, keeper Loach will have made the biggest impression, while Hewitt and Kisnorbo both caught the eye and there appeared to be the makings of a strike force when new boys McGoldrick and Mclean.
Aston Villa: Given, Clark, Bennett, Baker, Lichaj, Bannan, Delph, Albrighton (Weimann 43), N’Zogbia (Ireland 71), Bent, Bowery (Agbonlahor 63). Unused: Guzan, Benteke, Stevens, Carruthers.
Town: Loach, Hewitt, Kisnorbo, Smith, Cresswell, Emmanuel-Thomas (McGoldrick 61), Hyam, Reo-Coker, Martin, Chopra (Mclean 75), Murphy (Edwards 71). Unused: Lee-Barrett, Chambers, Whight, Edwards, N’Daw. Referee: Jonathan Moss (West Yorkshire). Att: 24,854.
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