A young Aston Villa side endured a loss in their first match of the Leasing.Com Trophy (EFL Trophy) as they ventured to Salford to take on fellow Group C opposition, Salford City.
The senior home team started off brightly, but New Zealand born Jamie Searle was able to step up in the Villa goalmouth, with four commanding stops in the first half to prevent Villa slipping. The under-21 side held on, and managed to swing momentum in their direction.
However, Salford were themselves able to withstand a first-half barrage as the first forty-five died out from Aston Villa as Jack Clarke and Tyreik Wright skipped through challenges and mixed their runs on the right-flank. A number of corners threatened, with Easah Suliman coming close with a high, looping header that nestled itself wide of Letheren’s goal. Villa’s 4-2-3-1 allowed Jack Clarke to support Cameron Archer well, while Wright was a stand-out on the wing.
Salford’s first action of the second-half was a deep ball that found Adam Rooney - however Jamie Searle, completely unaware of the offside flag being help up against Rooney’s run, was able to pull out the save. At the other side of the pitch, Letheren was able to stop a Cameron Archer stop in similar fashion with Villa through on goal. A driving Easah Suliman run unleashed Wright, but the move came to null as Salford’s pressure and strength improved. Searle escaped a counter as Salford’s Whitehead took too many touches inside the Villa box and wasted the chance as his deft pass flicked outside of the touchline.
A better chance opened up for Villa as a corner found Jack Birch, but he couldn’t find his feet in the face of goal. Shortly after Jack Clarke was hacked down by Danny Whitehead - who entered the book.
Jaden Philogene-Bidace, entering the pitch for Michael Tait, notched up another chance for Villa after the linesman raised - and then lowered - the offside flag when Cameron Archer received the ball behind the defence. Philogene-Bidace wasn’t able to place much power on the ball and Letheren gathered with ease. The Salford keeper stood out once more by claiming a Jack Clarke chance in the face of goal.
Searle - unable to replicate Letheren’s heroics - dropped the ball in the face of goal but escaped the finish as Villa cleared. The Villa keeper had earned this slice of luck, and will be thankful for his defence - for now.
Searle was let down more so by the referee - who gifted Salford City a soft penalty after Danny Lloyd collapsed after a shoulder-to-shoulder jostle. Lloyd stepped up to bury the penalty to the far-side of Searle.
The Villa’s worries would double almost instantly, as their hard fight was undone in an instant as Adam Rooney found a tap-in to make it 2-0 for the Ammies, and seal the deal as a penalty-shootout loomed before Salford turned the match it’s head.
Salford, under Graham Alexander, looked the senior side - in every factor from experience to body shape. Villa will be encouraged by their display and will learn from this - the late collapse will be upsetting, however. Villa were closing in on a point - and perhaps more (the penalty shootout in the wake of a draw awards an extra point to the victor), but their mentality and game plan was dented after the late penalty decision. The young lions can leave with their heads held high, in lieu of a point.
Villa will take on Tranmere Rovers in their next EFL Trophy match, and will not face a third side due to Bury’s collapse and expulsion from EFL-organised competitions.
Aston Villa XI: