Aston Villa and a night out

Villa ease past Bolton Wanderers in the Carabao Cup and Dave Woodhall comments.

Whatever you might think of Steven Gerrard, he can’t be accused of taking the Carabao Cup lightly. Whether it was proof of how much depth there is to the Villa squad, or to get some confidence back into the team, or whether – as a cynic might say – he was afraid of what might happen if we lost another match, Gerrard put out the strongest Villa side at this stage of the competition this competition for many years. There wasn’t much room on the bench for the sort of promising youngsters who are usually in the spotlight on nights like this; the likes of Matty Cash, Emiliano Buendia and Leon Bailey were making sure there was even less chance of an upset.

An upset and all that entailed looked like it might be possible early in the first half. Bolton started brightly and had already had a couple of chances before taking the ball off Villa far too easily and strolling unopposed into the penalty area to go a goal up. Fortunately this seemed to shake Villa’s ideas and ten minutes before half-time Douglas Luiz’s perfectly-struck corner floated over the defence and into the top corner. Fluke or genius, it didn’t matter. Villa were back in the game and from then on never looked like losing.

Into the second half and Danny Ings hit the post then got brought down by the keeper, putting away the resultant penalty. Bolton were visibly tiring and Lucas Digne added a third, his first for the Villa.

With the game won and Bolton on their knees the quality of substitutes Villa could bring on at this point was downright cruel. Emiliano Buendia and Leon Bailey were just two of them and the latter made absolutely, definitely certain of victory with a well-taken solo goal five minutes from time.

In the end it was a straightforward victory, which was just what Villa wanted. Winning will calm a few nerves, the goals will do the scorers good, but the main problems still remain. Villa’s defence still isn’t working properly – the way Bolton scored that opener was poor, and the midfield balance isn’t there at all. In particular John McGinn has gone backwards over the past year. Maybe Gerrard thought that giving him the captaincy would be enough motivation to get McGinn back to his best but it hasn’t worked and at the moment our Scottish dynamo isn’t worth a place in the team. Much as we owe him plenty for past efforts, right now he’s a liability.

Apart from that it was a more than useful night out. Villa got a win and no injuries, a good few of our supporters were able to see what might be their only away game of the season and Bolton banked the receipts from a crowd of more than twenty thousand plus TV money. We might have won ten-nil, and if we had we’d have been in the draw for round three. Which is what we are now.