With the new season just weeks away, Aston Villa looked to kick on from the two victories midweek. Today, they played Shrewsbury Town, a distinct step up from Kidderminster and Telford.
A strong Villa side took to the field for this one, with new captain John Terry making his debut, alongside ousted former captain James Chester. Here’s how they got on:
The opening 45 was super cagey. League One side Shrewsbury limited the time that Villa had on the ball, and made the pitch as small as possible. This resulted in a stalemate, as there were very few chances for either side.
Conor Hourihane came closest for Villa, shooting just over from a 20 yard free kick, after Ross McCormack was brought down. The danger definitely came from Villa’s right hand side. Andre Green was exceptionally lively, and Alan Hutton made several trademark runs forward. The only downside was that neither could quite find the final ball. Once those two click, it could well turn out to be a lethal pairing.
At the back, Villa were rarely threatened. Shrewsbury had a couple of set pieces which Villa dealt with. Not with 100% composure, but certainly less cataclysmic than we’ve seen from Villa before. All in all, a fairly run-of-the-mill 45.
Surprisingly, neither side many any changes at the break. But after 15 minutes of further stagnation, the first changes were made.
Gabby, Lansbury, Richards, Amavi, Davis, Bree, Tshibola and Gardner all entered the fray, with Green, Terry, Hourihane, Taylor, Chester, McCormcack, Veretout and Hogan making way.
Hutton and Richards being the world’s worst centre back pairing aside, Villa looked sharper once the subs came on. Gabby in particular looked lively, winning two free kicks in dangerous positions. The second of these free kicks gave Villa their best chance of the game so far. Gary Gardner stepped up, and smashed the ball against the post from 30 yards out.
Villa were looking at their most dangerous, so of course, Shrewsbury took the lead. New signing Zac Jules headed home from a set piece, showing once again that Villa have work to do at defending set pieces. Sigh.
At least Villa are looking better defensively in open play, right? Nope. French forward Gnahoua wasn’t closed down and he was able to fire home into the bottom corner. 2-0. Sigh x2.
Villa made one last change, bringing Jordan Lyden on for Bjarnason. And to be fair to the Australian, he won himself a penalty, doing more than Bjarnason did in 86 minutes. Henri Lansbury sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot in what was the last kick of the game.
The best: Green, Gabby, Lyden, Hutton at RB.
The worst: Bjarnason, McCormack, Taylor, Hutton at CB.
Villa travel to Walsall on Tuesday night for their penultimate pre-season game.