It is nice when things go as planned, both in life and football.
A year ago today, Roberto Di Matteo’s Aston Villa side travelled to Luton Town for the first round of the now, Carabao Cup. Who can’t remember that dreadful 3-1 defeat to a League Two side. It had some, including one or two on our staff, calling for Di Matteo to get the sack then and there.
Fortunately for all Villa faithful, including those amazing supporters who made the long journey to East Essex in the torrential rain, last night’s match went as planned for the most part.
Steve Bruce’s side ended up with a less than comfortable 2-1 win over a very game Colchester United squad. This marks the Aston Villa’s first win in the English League Cup since August 25, 2015!
The match was not pretty at times, but that was made nearly impossible by a rain soaked pitch. Overall, a few standout performances and many average showings were enough for Villa to do what was expected, win.
Here are the full player ratings -- based on a scale of 1 to 10, with five being average and not a bad rating at all -- for Wednesday’s 2-1 victory at Colchester United in the Carabao Cup:
GK: Jed Steer, Rating: 8 (Our overall MoTM)
When you can accurately say, “without our keeper, we might not have beaten a League Two side,” he has got to be your Man of the Match. Steer started a fine performance early on when he bailed Chris Samba out for a horrid challenge in the 8th minute by saving Mikael Mandron’s weak penalty. Steer tallied 6 total saves in the match including an arguably world class save on Sammie Szmodics left footed shot in the 82nd. Given the conditions and the massive deflection, Jed! was unlucky to concede Colchester’s lone goal.
RB: James Bree, Rating: 5
The 19-year-old English prospect acquitted himself well in the horrid conditions in East Essex. Bree wasn’t overly spectacular, but he did show flashes of the potential that makes him a valuable young asset for Aston Villa. When he was switched LB late on (i.e. a position he’s never played) he did well enough. Certainly a player to watch who deserves more time on the pitch if Villa continue to progress and play lower league clubs.
CB: James Chester, Rating: 7.5
You’d expect a player who was crucial in Wales’ EURO 2016 semi-final run to be a standout against a League Two side. James Chester absolutely lived up to those expectations. Chester cleared it off of Villa’s goal line numerous times including right after Frankie Kent’s own goal in the 19th minute. In first half stoppage time Chester had an unreal clearance in Colchester (pun well intended). If Steve Bruce hadn’t started Chester, last night’s rain drenched match would have been far and away more uncomfortable.
CB: Chris Samba, Rating: 4.5
Going at the left side of Villa’s back four was undoubtedly where Colchester had their most success in attack. Samba’s tackle on Szmodics in the 8th minute would have made some professional wrestlers envious. The big Congolese defender was off the pace and clearly not as sharp as he was in his prime. But to his defence, Samba got to grips with the match in the second half. He had a number of clearances from the box, including two in the final 10 minutes of the 90. Given that this was his first competitive fixture in ages, might be worth giving him some rope to hang on to.
LB/LW: Birkir Bjarnason, Rating: 5
Nicknamed “Thor” by the Icelandic national team supporters, Bjarnason has nearly four-hundred CAPS for both the national team and numerous clubs. In all of those appearances he NEVER ONCE, played at left back. Such is why it would be hard to judge him on his performance last night against Colchester United. Sure he looked well out of position and was certainly exploited at times. But Villa progressed and when he moved to the left of midfield late (i.e. his more natural position) in the match, he nearly got in on the keeper with a nice bit of skill in the 93rd minute.
RW/RM: Albert Adomah, Rating: 6.0
The winger who starred in Middlesbrough’s promotion to the Premier League in the 2015/16 season had a decent enough performance yesterday evening. His whipped in cross forced Frankie Kent’s own goal in the 19th minute. Adomah made his presence felt twice with two attempts on goal in a matter of seconds in the 63rd minute. The match was no doubt a chance to build fitness after an injury. When fully fit, Adomah should get an opportunity in the Championship fixtures.
CM: Conor Hourihane, Rating: 5
Did it appear that something wasn’t quite right with the Irish international? Maybe not, but if so, that could be why he didn’t feature for Steve Bruce against Hull. Hourihane, like many other players, showed enough to give the faithful some hope that his excellent form he displayed at Barnsley last season is still there. Last night at Colchester United he demonstrated his willingness to pick out a forward run with an incisive pass. He also had a decent effort on the goal in the 63rd that very nearly led to a decisive third. Hourihane performing at a higher level in the centre of the midfield for Villa in the Championship would be a welcomed sight.
CM: Josh Onomah, Rating: 6.5
Our friends over at Cartilage Free Captain won’t want this to be asked, but is there an option to buy clause at the end of Onomah’s loan? Mind you it was a League Two side in the first round of the league cup. However with more time on the pitch, the England U21 exhibited play last evening that should get Tottenham supporters excited. Against Colchester United Onomah looked very comfortable on the ball and was able to read play very well at times in the match. He appears that he will well indeed have a role to play this campaign.
LW/LM: Andre Green, Rating: 5
Green’s missed chance in the 30th minute isn’t going to win him any plaudits amongst the Villa supporters who beguiled him for his lack of finishing against Hull. But to be fair, that pitch was water logged and dreadful. Green once again showed he is full of pace down the left. That pace drew fouls and free kicks last night in Essex. As the squad gets to full fitness, Steve Bruce might not have Green on his bench. But with such potential, he should get his opportunities.
CAM: Callum O’Hare, Rating: 7
The 19-year-old academy graduate made his debut in his favoured no. 10 role last night for Steve Bruce. O’Hare’s incisive ball into Andre Green ultimately started the move that led to Scott Hogan’s fortuitous goal in the 7th minute. From then on, he showed his incredible on-the-ball skills as well as his natural instincts playing behind a strike force. He was our first half Man of the Match. In the second half he continued to play well and very nearly made himself the overall MoM with a goal from distance in the 49th minute. In an era where casual hyperbole threatens nuclear brinksmanship, dare it be said, “Villa’s Messi?”
ST: Scott Hogan, Rating: 6.5
Hogan got a much needed goal to start his campaign very early on in the match. Yes he was lucky in that Sam Walker made a terrible mistake. But on that drenched surface, Villa’s striker did well to put away an easy attempt. He faded for the rest of the first half but came back a bit stronger in the second. Hogan was subbed off for Rushian Hepburn-Murphy in the in 69th minute. That move was likely because Steve Bruce will be hoping last night’s goal starts a prolific run this season. On to Cardiff on Saturday lad!
Rushian Hepburn-Murphy (69’)
Keinan Davis (73’)
Ritchie de Laet (85’)
Having scored four and seven goals respectively last season for Aston Villa’s U23 squad, Davis as well as Hepburn-Murphy are both young attacking talents that you’d expect to see come on late in cup tie against a League Two side when Villa are up. Both could well be a part of the long term future at Villa Park. Expect to see Davis and Hepburn-Murphy get their chances in attack if progression in the league cup means more fixtures against lower league sides.
As per Ritchie de Laet, it was just nice to see the Belgian back on the pitch for the claret and blue. Having excelled for Middlesbrough on loan from Leicester in the 2015/16, he still holds the record of being the only player to win the Premier League and Championship in the same season. With Jordan Amavi off to be able to possibly drive once again in France, he could be key to depth in defence for Steve Bruce.