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Aston Villa v Stoke: Second-string squad not good enough

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The Carabao Cup run ends short of the quarterfinal.

Aston Villa v Stoke City - Carabao Cup Fourth Round Photo by Rui Vieira - Pool/Getty Images

Dean Smith stuck with his cup squad and hoped to keep the momentum at the club going.

The opening 15-minute period saw a few half-chances for the both sides as they sought to feel each other out. But in the end it was a pass just out of reach, or a dribble too many that prevented either side from opening the scoring.

Stoke’s Nick Powell had the first real chance after he was left alone in the box and a cross found him. He fired from close range but Jed Steer was quick enough to push it over the top of the bar. Stoke’s ensuing corner was taken well — with striker Sam Vokes beating three Villa players to a near post cross. He got the perfect touch to put it in the net near the far post — putting the visitors in the lead.

It was a real quality header. The next chance was for Villa — and it was NOT a quality header. Henri Lansbury made an good run, Guilbert his an excellent cross, and Lansbury was unmarked and yet sent his header well wide of the target. In fairness — not sure Lansbury has taken many headers in the box — and Sam Vokes has taken loads. But still the different in that particular skill was evident and was reflected on the scoreboard.

Near the end of the first half Keinan Davis did well to get on the end of an El Ghazi cross but his first time effort was wide. It wasn’t an easy finish — but it is one that you want a Premier League striker to put on target. But that kind of sums up the first half — not enough quality.

Sadly, the second half didn’t start much better. Thankfully, Vokes put a header wide when he could and should have made it 0-2.

It was an injury to Hause that caused the first sub — seeing Konsa called up. Sad to see Hause limp off and hope it wasn’t too bad. Villa can’t really afford to have both Hause and Engels on the injury list. Because that — it appears — leaves Elmo as the main central defender behind the starting pair of Mings and Konsa.

This backup midfield can work if Lansbury is willing and able to run the show. Against Stoke — he was not. His passing was just off. And if the midfield doesn’t work then the only way Villa are going to score is a piece of individual skill or a mistake by the opponent.

El Ghazi had a very good run cutting in from the left — but the Stoke keeper was equal to the final shot with about 25 mins left in the match.

Ramsey came off and Ollie Watkins came on with 20 minutes left as Dean Smith wants his squad to push forward with two up top. He immediately made a great run — on a great pass from Lansbury. In the end his shot was saved for a corner.

Five minutes later — with the sub sub Jota came on for Traore.

Villa indeed did push forward after the two subs. They put pressure on an increasingly defensive Stoke. Watkins went down in the box while going for a cross but no penalty was given. There wasn’t really enough in it for me.

In the end it was a poor performance from a second-string squad. Really disappointed in Lansbury and El Ghazi in particular. Everyone was just a step slow and the quality below expectations.

That being said it is not the end of the world, Villa have had a very good start to the season even if the run in the Carabao Cup is over.