Villa beat Yeovil 1-0 in the League Cup round one, with Dave Woodhall commenting on proceedings.
Driving through Somerset in August is an age-old local tradition, although most people turn right rather than left when they get off the M5. The destination is usually Weston or Burnham, so it was a change to be ending up in the footballing lukewarmbed of Yeovil. Standing on an open terrace was a bit of a culture shock as well.
What wasn’t a change was that Steve Bruce treated this League Cup tie as little more than a training exercise, making nine changes from the team who started the win against Wigan three days earlier. The way they performed against lower-league opposition was a bit too familiar as well.
If the idea of playing so many youngsters and fringe players was to hint to the board that they aren’t ready for stepping up to the Championship, and therefore more investment is need as a matter of urgency, Bruce can congratulate himself on a job well done. This, though, was the only real positive that came out of the match – apart, from the result.
Few of the opening line-up came out of the game with any great credit. Rushian Hepburn Murphy at least had the excuse that what little service he received was at least a foot too high, Axel Tuanzebe seems a much better central defender than right-back and Ritchie De Laet looks a useful returning addition to the Villa squad. The rest of the team were far too pedestrian and error-strewn against that great cup tie cliche, the battling underdogs.
Yeovil had a goal controversially disallowed in the first half but the referee made amends by giving them a debatable penalty after the break then disallowing an equally strong claim for handball at the other end. Luckily debutant Andre Moreira saved the spot kick that was given and this together with the introduction of Jack Grealish and Jonathan Kodjia, provided the spur to just about nudge Villa over the line.
Grealish’s one moment of magic saw a long range shot hit the bar while Kodjia did superbly well to provide the ball that Hourihane tapped in for the only goal of the game. By general consent, Kodjia needs a goal to boost his confidence. Hopefully, providing one rather than scoring it will do the job.
At least Villa saw the game out without too much drama, and we’re in the draw for the next round. It might have had all the urgency of a just-started-the-season friendly but it’s the first time we’ve won the opening three games since the halcyon days of Joe and the Mercer Minors. Somehow, I don’t think Bruce’s Babes will be remembered with such fondness almost sixty years on.
And so to Saturday and the journey to Ipswich. The Championship is full of teams who were once mainstays of the top division but who never look like returning there these days. Villa can’t afford to be talked about in the same way, and three points will help along the road to redemption.