Aston Villa 2
Wycombe Wanderers 0
Tuesday 19th January 2016
FA Cup Third Round replay

Wanderers came away from Villa Park with a great deal of respect and credit despite losing 2-0 to an Aston Villa side that seem destined for relegation from the Premiership. Backed by a 4,000 plus following, Gareth Ainsworth’s side more than held their own in the opening two thirds of this FA Cup tie, had the better chances and reduced many of the home support to booing their team off at the interval.

It was not until the 75th minute that Villa got their breakthrough – Ciaran Clark heading pass Matt Ingram. Idrissa Gana added a second for the home side in the 90th minute. To say the scoreline was flattering for Villa, does not even begin to tell the story.

Wanderers made one change from the side that had lost at Hartlepool at the weekend – Paul Hayes getting the nod over Gozie Ugwu. Elsewhere, Matt Ingram finally got his chance on the ‘big stage’ having missed the first tie at Adams Park through suspension. Meanwhile, Villa boss Remi Garde had the luxury of being able to make nine changes from the side that had drawn at Premiership leaders the previous Saturday. Prior to that, Villa had followed the 1-1 draw at Adams Park with their first League victory since the opening day of the season – a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace – meaning they went into the tie with Wanderers on the back of their best form of the season.

However, this report will not be the only one to say that it was difficult to tell the League Two side from the Premiership strugglers. Wanderers played in their ‘Tequila Sunrise’ change strip. The kit is a nod to Barcelona’s change strip of a few seasons previous. Some of Wanderers’ play on an emotional night at Villa Park was akin to the slick passing and trickery of the Spanish side. Paul Hayes’ ball juggling during the first-half and a later Aaron Pierre dragback, were the sort of confidence oozing party pieces reserved for Premiership players showing the lower league boys how it is done – not vice-versa.

Meanwhile, Villa were as poor as Wycombe were impressive. Wanderers may have been slightly fortunate to earn a replay at Villa Park but once there, they never gave the hosts time to settle and Remi Garde’s side were denied the chance to get an early goal that could have changed the course of the tie. Instead, as the first-half evolved, it was Wycombe who looked the side more likely to score.

Villa had a couple of early efforts – on 6 minutes Jack Grealish’s cross from deep on the left to near post found Rudy Gestede but he headed high and wide of the near post. Then on 15 minutes Villa moved ball out to the right of goal only for Jordan Ayew to fire into the side netting.

Kicking towards the travelling support, Wycombe’s first major chance came on 31 minutes when Paul Hayes’ ball from the right found its way to Sam Wood in space on the opposite side of the box. Wood hit the chance first time. It was on target but Brad Guzan got down to save.

That effort raised Wanderers’ confidence although Luke O’Nein attempt from around 30 yards that flew high of the crossbar was perhaps a step too far. At the other end, Ingram saw a rare piece of action on 41 minutes when Scott Sinclair shot from the left corner of box but was denied by the fingertips of the Wycombe ‘keeper – the ball deflecting into the side netting.

Now in full voice, the Wycombe fans thought the opening goal had finally come a minute before the break when Guzan misjudged a cross from the left from Joe Jacobson only for Garry Thompson to head the loose ball over the unguarded net. You can only imagine the roar a Wycombe goal then would have brought.

Half-time Villa 0 Wycombe 0

It was perhaps understandable that Wanderers couldn’t maintain their momentum from the first-half. But there was still the chance for Pierre to show his class and potential for playing at a higher level when on 50 minutes he expertly shielded the ball out from the advances of Ayew having already intercepted a pass from Gestede.

Matt Bloomfield was shortly afterwards due to a leg but there proved to be one final chance for Wanderers to upset their Premiership opponents. O’Nein feeding Wood on left of Villa box on 61 minutes only for the resulting cross seeing Thompson stretch and head over from eight yards.

The tie gradually began to swing Villa’s way after Westwood, Gana, Ayew and Sinclair all had chances but contrived to miss the target by varying degrees. The cries of ‘That’s why you’re going down’ from the Wycombe fans was perhaps stating the obvious to the Villa faithful amongst the 20,000 crowd.

Pierre stuck out a crucial leg on 68 minutes to block out another effort from Ayew before a tiring Hayes was replaced by Arron Amadi-Holloway. At the same time Villa brought on Carlos Gil for Grealish and within a couple of minutes Villa had grabbed the lead. Substitute Gill floating the ball in from the right channel for Ciaran Clark to direct a header past Ingram from 6 yards. In the final minute of normal time, Villa rubbed salt into Wanderers’ wounds as Gana fed the ball out to the left byeline for Sinclair to flick the ball in where Gestede lost his marker before setting up Gana to angle his shot past Ingram into the right bottom corner of the net.

Nearly 15 years have passed since Wanderers proudly took to the pitch at Villa Park for the FA Cup Semi-Final with Liverpool. It says something that on both occasions, Wanderers have left the pitch feeling disappointed they have lost to Premiership to opposition. On this most recent appearance, the Villa Park PA system played David Bowie’s Heroes just prior to the teams entering the pitch. At the end of the 90 minutes there was only one set of players who had earned that tag.

So another FA Cup run is over. Wanderers are an estimated £350,000 better off than at the start of the run at Halifax. It’s now back to what will seem like relatively run of the mill League action and the quest to see whether it is possible to emulate, or preferably better, the previous season’s efforts in reaching the Play-Off Finals.

Full-time - Aston Villa 2 Wycombe 0
Wycombe: Ingram, McCarthy, Stewart, Pierre, Jacobson, Harriman, O’Nien, Bloomfield (sub 53 McGinn), Wood, Thompson (sub 79 Ugwu), Hayes (sub 72 Amadi-Holloway) – subs not used: Lynch, Jombati, Bean, Udumaga
Scorers: none
Bookings: McGinn, Jacobson 82
Aston Villa: Guzan, Lyden, Richards, Clark, Richardson, Sanchez (sub HT Gana), Westwood, Ayew, Grealish (sub 73 Gil), Sinclair, Gestede - subs not used: Bunn, Lescott, Veretout, Kozak, Cissokho
Scorers: Clark 75 Gueye 90
Bookings: none
Referee: Mr Craig Pawson Attendance: 20,706 (4,100 away)

Speaking to waiting media after the tie, Wanderers Manager Gareth Ainsworth said he was extremely proud of his team, adding: "For 70 minutes we more than matched and probably had the better chances as well. It just needed one of those to fall for us. But we just ran out of steam at the end. We couldn’t make too many changes from Saturday. I know Aston Villa made a few. We played the same side bar one and the legs just ran out at the end. I’m taking people off that can’t run any more. As a Manager that makes you so proud to see the effort, the commitment and the belief that we could achieve something tonight. We’ve just got take that into the League now"

The Wycombe boss was presented with the observation that it was difficult to tell who the Premiership side were: "It’s a great statement to hear. Remi [Garde] has been very dignified in his comments and gives us belief in what we are doing at Wycombe is right." He went on to say: "The young players that I have got are destined for bigger things and when they perform on an occasion like this it just makes me proud and almost a Father figure to them. They are young and picked up from here there and everywhere and told they haven’t got careers. So to put a performance in like that has been fantastic."

Villa boss Remi Garde said: "The most important thing was to win and go through. We've been professional. It was not always easy. I have to congratulate Wycombe. Over the two games, they gave us some tough moments. That is the fourth game in a row we are not losing, which is very good for momentum. With the run we are on currently, we're very hopeful for the rest of the season."

Meanwhile, Ainsworth said: "To come in at half-time with the [Villa] fans in a real negative mood and booing the home team off, I said to the boys that you’ve done yourselves a world of good there." However, the Wycombe Manager added he hoped that Villa would stay in the Premiership and was now hoping to turn the performances in the recent cup ties into points in the bread and butter of League Two, saying: "We must find ways to perform like we have done in the two cup ties, in the League. All too often you see teams who have had a good cup run – and it feels like we have had a long cup run – fall away in the League because the bubble has burst. I just want to put more air into that bubble. If we can a way to perform like we did today against League Two teams then we will definitely win more than we lose."

Also see
Aston Villa - Quick Guide from chairboys.co.uk
Wanderers' complete record in the FA Cup proper

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