Under the gaze of the first-team Aston Villa coaching staff, Villa’s youth team faced Reading in a make or break play-off semi-final at Villa Park, and if AVFC can match the output of the the youngsters, there will be much to enjoy in the coming weeks.
Fielding a strong team, with star forward Rushian Hepburn-Murphy gracing the bench and Andre Green marshalling the wings alongside the presence of Keinan Davis up front, you’d have likely given the game to Villa on paper, but the U23’s had to earn their stripes with a gutsy performance.
After a goalless first half, Reading struck first on sixty minutes to crack open the floodgates at Villa Park. Both teams traded crushing blows, that would have gassed a weaker side, and still, neither side allowed themselves to be counted out and fought back with gusto and style.
Despite the presence of Villa’s first-teamers in Andre Green and Keinan Davis, it was the introduction of Corey Blackett-Taylor and Rushian Hepburn-Murphy that sparked Aston Villa to life.
With Villa a goal down, Hepburn-Murphy took his chance to restore balance to the game before Easah Suliman thrust the Villans into a lead with a looping header. Reading wouldn’t waste time equalising, and within ten minutes four goals had been scored.
While the action on the pitch raged, it seemed that the referee wouldn’t be able to hold onto the discipline of the game - with some choice tackles thrown in, and yellow cards eluding the occasion.
The tempo of the match would keep, however, with Corey Blackett-Taylor sending Villa into the raptures with what should have been a winning goal after a searching Hepburn-Murphy cross. Still, they failed to keep Reading quiet, and a busy defence left a man open at the post to ensure The Royals had a chance to make it 3-3. They would do so.
While that scoreline would have been worthy of the match, you wouldn’t put it past the rampant Rushian Hepburn-Murphy to steal the show. With a drop of the shoulder, a burst of pace and a clip of the foot, the young Villa man rounded off the game with a coup de grace and Villa’s fourth.
Rushian with a last minute winner. Villa into the PL2 play-off final. Time to follow suit first team... pic.twitter.com/l1UTxepzie— Martin Laurence (@martinlaurence7) May 1, 2018
With that, Aston Villa have booked a place in the promotion play-off final against Brighton, and should the Villans need a wild-card come the Championship version in May, would they dare look past Rushian Hepburn-Murphy?