The magic of the cup (cont)

Dave Woodhall watches Villa ease into the FA Cup fourth round.

There’s not that much you can say about Tuesday night’s win against Wycombe. It was a bitterly cold night, the gate was only marginally above twenty thousand despite decent pricing and the presence of 4,000-odd visiting supporters, some of whom will probably go to their next away match.

Villa, as expected, made a host of changes from recent league games, with debutant right-back Jordan Lyden the most notable name on the teamsheet. He had a decent game and was one of the few Villa players who could come away satisfied with their performance.

For five minutes it seemed as though the improvements of the last week was going to continue, but there was no quick breakthrough and Villa soon slumped back into a familiar lethargy. Little urgency, no great movement and nothing to trouble the Wycombe defence. Half-time couldn’t come round quick enough, and with it the chance for Remi Garde to issue a few well-chosen words and the crowd, who had been surprisingly patient up until now, to thaw out a bit.

There was a minor improvement at the start of the second half, with substitute Idrissa Gueye making a difference, although there was still no real goal threat until Villa finally started to up the tempo with twenty minutes to go. And that was all it took. Ciaran Clark got the first, Gueye made sure in the 90th minute. We’re on the march with Remi’s army.

I suppose the story of the night will be that Villa were poor, Wycombe failed to take their chances and the crowd were on the players’ backs throughout. There’s an element of accuracy in that but it wouldn’t tell anything like the true story; Villa were poor for a Premier League side, but did what they had to. Wycombe never looked like scoring although they had a couple of half-chances. And the crowd were subdued rather than hostile. Those sort of stories don’t sell papers, though, and they certainly don’t drive web traffic.

In the final analysis Villa are through to the FA Cup fourth round, which is all that matters. Gueye carried on with his improved form of the past few weeks, Jordan Ayew was lively as ever and Jordan Lyden was part of both a winning team and a defence that kept a clean sheet. You can’t ask for more than that on your debut.

On the downside Brad Guzan looked as indecisive as usual, Scott Sinclair didn’t take the opportunity to impress either ours or any other manager that might have been watching and Jack Grealish is unrecognisable from the player of twelve months ago.

Coming up on Saturday are the Albion, which will be a completely different matter altogether. The weather looks like it’s going to be warmer for a start.