Follow us on Twitter @claretandview // Words by Mark Jirobe (@VillaMarkPGH)
After dispatching Colchester in the first round of the Carabao Cup, Wigan were up next for Aston Villa in round two. Coming into the game after an impressive 4-2 win against Norwich in league play, Steve Bruce was almost certain to rotate his squad for this Cup fixture. Many fans were curious to who exactly would be in the squad, and the manager did not disappoint the Villa faithful.
Four teenagers featured for Villa, but the real talking point came from a few players that needed and deserved to get off of the mark. Scott Hogan scored a sublime goal in the 20th minute from a deadly cross delivered by Albert Adomah. After Hogans’ dismal display against Reading, and missing the Norwich game through injury, it was good to see his hard work pay off. He looked absolutely thrilled as he celebrated the goal by jogging over to Adomah in appreciation. Before his goal, Hogan had two very good chances to score as well. An early save from Wigan keeper Jamie Jones denied Hogan early in the contest, and he struck the woodwork shortly after.
That would not be the last time in the half that Adomah or Hogan would make an impact. The dangerous Adomah would find the back of the net with fantastic skill in the 36th minute, this time the recipient of a frozen-rope cross by Birkir Bjarnason. Adomahs’ strike on the volley into the top left corner of the net looked impossible stop. This was Adomah’s first goal since February and the Villa man will be keen to continue contributing. At this stage of the game being up 2-0, the introduced youth started to show what they really had in the later stages of the first half.
18-year old defender Mitchell Clark along with 18-year old midfielder Jake Doyle-Hayes made their senior debuts for Villa. The Villa youngsters provided glimpses of skill and proper decision making. Clark came fearfully close to a wonderful volley goal after a corner for Aston Villa was badly cleared by the Wigan defenders. He also defended in a manner that made a lot of Villa supporters turn their head and notice. He did not look out of his depth at all with Tommy Elphick as his partner in the heart of the defence, as both looked very solid.
Scott Hogan would continue to run rampant through the Latics in the first half. Sliding a tidy through ball to Birkir Bjarnason should have secured him an assist, but it was not meant to be. Wigan often looked overwhelmed by the pace and strength of Aston Villa, something Steve Bruce would be pleased to see.
Screams of terror from Aston Villa past started to be faintly heard in the 43rd minute. Wigan forward Ryan Colclough took advantage of some less than stellar marking and slotted home to make the contest a 2-1 affair. The build-up to the goal seemed a mental lapse for Aston Villa fullback Ritchie De Laet. De Laet was caught flat footed and couldn’t have made it easier for a hungry Colclough. Aston Villa keeper Jed Steer looked a bit annoyed, as it was a blemish on another superb Cup performance thus far. As the Wigan fans were thinking they had themselves a game to be leveled, Scott Hogan pounded his gavel and made his own verdict on the day. A throw-in on the right side of pitch a minute later saw the ball slightly graze a Wigan player and land into Hogan right outside of the 18 yard box. A marvellous quick-turn to the right saw Hogan blast the ball past Jamie Jones once again to put Villa ahead 3-1 in the 44th minute. Hogan had his brace, and Aston Villa had their wits about them going into the second half.
Running around like a kid with his hair on fire all day, Villa youngster Callum O’Hare continued to impress Steve Bruce and Villans from every corner of the world. His tireless work ethic was on display, chasing every opportunity that came his way. With most supporters touting the Young Lion to get a lot more first-team opportunities, he snatched at the chance yet again to make an impact. With his decision making on display, he corked passes all over the park and made sure every ball was a 50/50 affair. O’Hare also had a few scoring chances, and one would think it will only be a matter of time until he nets his first senior Aston Villa goal. Although his aggression saw him booked on this occasion, you cannot fault his passion and desire to win.
Gary Gardner had himself a very decent game as well. His passing came off very well and he seemed to have a new gear to his game. Gardner was the architect for Hogans’ first goal of the game and some Villa fans started to wonder if this was the same Gary Gardner they have known all along. There is a lot of rumour surrounding Gardner that he will not be a Villa player before the end of the transfer window. Regardless if he stays or goes, he put in a good shift for the Claret and Blue and that speaks to his professionalism.
Steve Bruce also featured another player who has a lot of speculation surrounding him. In the 71st minute with the game in hand, Ross McCormack came off the bench for Villa for the first time since his row with manager Steve Bruce last year. McCormack has not been selected for first-team duty since January, and has been linked with a move to Sunderland in the near future. The 16 minutes that Steve Bruce gifted to McCormack comes at some surprise, and may have a just a bit of backbone to it if Villa decide not to sell him on before the end of the transfer window. Aston Villa U23 prospects Easah Suliman and Jordan Lyden also featured as substitutes.
Birkir Bjarnason would make it 4-1 to Villa with a physical finish after a thunderous run and cross by Ritchie De Laet to polish off Wigan. Bjarnason accumulated a goal and an assist and was a standout performer on the pitch. There has been a few rumblings over Bjarnasons game recently and he undoubtedly will be left smiling after such a game where he featured. Wigan had few answers for his endless motor and it showed throughout.
With the 4-1 result, this sees Aston Villa into the 3rd round of the Carabao Cup. Once again, Aston Villa supporters were blessed to see a high-scoring product on the field. With 8 goals in 2 games played, there is much to be hopeful for in the Aston Villa camp. Steve Bruce will undoubtedly have more positive selection headaches after this performance, and it will be interesting to see the team sheet moving towards the international break. Aston Villas’ next opponent will be Bristol City at the Ashton Gate Stadium on August 25th.