Aston Villa and the lustre of the cup

Dave Woodhall watches Villa win at Barrow in the Carabao Cup.

It’s that time of the year again when we sigh wistfully and talk about how the cups don’t matter anymore. After signing Ashley Young and Axel Tuanzebe it seemed that Dean Smith’s next attempt at a reunion was the Liverpool FA Cup tie last season and while one or two of the starters could have been predicted, the real surprise was on the bench.

It’s usual to have a few of your more established players amongst the subs in case the game isn’t going to plan but instead there were names that even hardened Villa supporters would have struggled to recognise. Managers used to get slaughtered for picking teams like this; now they scarcely raise an eyebrow. The only couple of things to really note were that if Conor Hourihane’s off it will be to a team that aren’t fussed about him being cup-tied while Wesley being nowhere near the side shows there’s no great urgency to get him match fit. Matt Targett and Marvelous Nakamba were in and there was a second-time round appearance for Tuanzebe.

Any idea that Villa were in for any sort of problem in front of Barrow’s biggest crowd for fifty years didn’t take long to disappear. The team were well in control even before Cameron Archer, making his first senior start, scored after ten minutes.

Anwar El Ghazi had laid that one on, and it wasn’t long before he scored himself, another penalty after Jaden Philogene-Bidace had been fouled in the box. Barrow could have had a penalty themselves but we’re a big club so they had no chance of the decision.

El Ghazi got his second with the last kick of the half and with the score three-nil at the break you wondered if Villa would continue to play at full speed or whether they might take pity on opponents who with the best will in the world were at this point looking shell-shocked. Villa did start the second half too casually and needed a couple of saves from Jed Steer to avoid a minor inconvenience before Archer put the result definitely absolutely beyond doubt with half an hour to go.

El Ghazi was replaced by Jacob Ramsey after laying on the fourth, Chukwuemeka, C, replaced Chukwuemeka, C, Guilbert got a fifth when Philogen-Bidace’s shot was saved and the only thing to ponder from then on was whether the 11/4 you could have got on both teams scoring would have been worth thinking about. Hayden Lindley made an appearance and Cameron Archer completed his hat-trick with two minutes to go.

As the cliche goes, Barrow never stopped battling; indeed they battled a bit too much by coming in with a few over-zealous tackles when the game was all but over. In the end, though, they earned a few quid and we got through with hardly any problems so all was good. Archer took the headlines but the other youngsters did well and the fringe players at least got a bit more match practice. It was a worthwhile exercise and showed that the cup still has a bit of magic.