Date: 25th January 2015 at 9:34pm
Written by: Neil Dawson

Bournemouth’s FA Cup dreams ended at Villa Park where a one man show from full debutant Carles Gill stole the day. The visitors had scored more goals in England’s second city in one game than Villa had managed all season at home….. but Gill is their big new hope to change that and he showed why this afternoon.

As always in the FA Cup, Howe made the controversial decision to rest key players, eight in total dropping out so they could get a ten day break before Watford roll into town. Harte and Smith filled the full back positions and Stanislas, O’Kane, Macdonald and Fraser came into midfield with Kermorgant returning up front. With Camp between the sticks only Cook, Elphick and Arter started from the first choice line up.

Not surprisingly it took awhile for the team to start gelling and there were a few misplaced passes, normally from O’Kane and Stanislas. Villa began the game bereft of confidence though and resorted to long balls to Benteke that were usually too far ahead. There was one early scare though when Wiemann’s thunderous header from Hutton’s cross curled wide of the post. Gill was very lively in a free play-making role and he also had a couple of sighters that missed the post by inches with Camp at full stretch.

Bournemouth’s main threat was the pace of Fraser but he is not as adept as crossing on his weaker foot as Pugh and the moments were wasted on the final ball. Macdonald had the first serious effort for Bournemouth but having rounded the keeper at pace, the angle was too tight and his shot was weak and blocked on the line. The Ginger Welsh maestro had the second effort for his team as well but the wicked deflection on his shot fell just over the crossbar with Given stranded.

With Macdonald and Smith particularly prominent, Bournemouth started to control long periods of the game showing some very intricate and fancy short corner routines that saw Elphick head wide. They finished the half very strongly indeed with Given twice saving O’Kane shot’s from distance and a flurry of free-kicks and corners delivered with Harte’s ttrusty left boot. Ultimately, without Wilson, the burst of pace or penetration needed to unlock what has been a resolute defence this season was lacking.

HT Villa 0 Bournemouth 0

Villa had left to a few boos and came out firing on all cylinders. No doubt Lambert had ruffled a few feathers. He switched Gill on to the left to play on Harte as well and this started to play dividend with Villa attacking the Holte End with much more purpose. Bournemouth’s three central midfielders were pushed very deep which was leaving Kermorgant stranded.

Bournemouth were not getting the ball at all at this point and the long awaited goal for the suffering Holte End finally arrived. It couldn’t have been much better either. GILL had been showing fancy feet all game and he cut inside Harte with ease and curled an exocet of a shot over Camp and into the top corner to set the ground alight.

Buoyed by the crowd Villa started to play with real tempo and assurance while Bournemouth slipped further and further back and started making jittery errors. Howe brought on Wilson for Kermorgant but it still didn’t solve the gap between midfield and the forward line – we just had someone better at running the channels.

The errors were still there as the pressure grew – If Stanislas passed to a white shirt all game then I must have been having a sip of tea and missed it – and eventually O’Kane crucially gave the ball away under no pressure for Hutton to break and cross for WEIMANN to sidefoot smartly past Camp.

That was game over really. Eddie brought on as many as his first team as he was allowed to stop Harte getting murdered and to relieve Stanislas from his misery but it was too little too late. The fans got a glimpse of what a first team might have done when WILSON cleverly flicked home a consolation from a low cross but it was too late to do anything of meaning to the match.

FT Villa 2 Bournemouth 1

Camp 6 – Not a great deal to do and no chance with either goal

Smith 7 – Buzzed nicely around and got up and down well.
Cook 6 – Steady enough and played some good passes.
Elphick 6 – Kept Benteke at bay well but gave ball away a bit.
Harte 5 – Didn’t have the legs for today and beaten a lot outside.

Stanislas 4 – Seriously woeful. Bad touch, passing and movement.
O’Kane 5 – Odd good run in first half but faded badly in second.
Arter 6 – Not as comfortable in 5 man midfield but harried and passed
Macdonald 8 – Classy, composed hard working and skillfull.
Fraser 7 – Lively at all times and threat with pace. Needs to play right.

Kermorgant 6 – Battled gamely but too slow for lone role.

It’s a game of opinions and I will give you mine! The usual three people will agree with me and the other 90% that believe anyone that ever criticises Eddie should have their legs amputated won’t! I will start with the statement that there is no bigger admirer of what Eddie has achieved in the league with this club than me.

However, (there had to be a however) to get your team against European Cup winning premier league opposition twice in one season, once in a major cup quarter final, to the excitement of the fan base that supported the team through all the dark days….. and to play your reserve team twice………….. is plain wrong. Particularly from a man who was a fan and has great memories of fantastic occasions gone by.

6000 people excitedly leaving on all modes of transport for a 7 hour round trip to see their team take on premier league opposition – you have to play your first team. Carling Cup quarter final against one of the worlds biggest clubs……. you have to play your first team. Its an entertainment business and I feel let down by Eddie tonight for ignoring the excitement of the occasion that should have been obvious by the travelling numbers.

And for what? So the team can have a ten day break which their next opponents won’t have had? Because players can’t play twice in ten days? Nobody is sure. Perhaps he wanted to see if Ian Harte was still up to the premier league or if Stanislas is really as bad as he seems but a shame to do it when so many people have gone to so much effort to watch his club.

So, we didn’t get to have the day out Middlesbrough and Bradford had against much better teams than Aston Villa. We may though be glad, some will argue, when our rested players push on towards the nirvana of the premier league. Not that they did after their last break but hey.

In terms of on the pitch, Villa were poor first half and we had possession but no penetration with Wilson watching from the bench. In the second half we got took apart down the left and having to substitute a full-back wasn’t ideal because it meant a) we had to either leave Stanislas on or stay with one up front. So bad was Junior he had to come off so we opted to stay with one forward which Villa marshalled very well. It wasn’t a vintage performance and we are no closer to knowing how our team would play in the premier league because at least eight of them won’t be playing on the slim chance we get there.

Still – the positives were the excellence of Shaun Macdonald in a display that knocks on Eddies door as the equal of anything Surman has done this year and against better quality opposition, the superb travelling fans and a chance to visit a superb football ground that isn’t a lego kit on an industrial estate next to a Frankie and Bennys.

Onwards and upwards!

Report by Neil Dawson

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