The wind whipped. The trees whistled. The sky was leaden. Yep, it was gloomy. But despite the Noah-like weather of the previous few days, the Uni groundsmen had done a fine job and the pitch was actually rather good. And after more than a month we were finally back to competitive football. We were happy young Villans, indeed.
The visitors this time round were Crowhurst, an East Sussex outfit whose recent form on paper suggested they might not pose us too many problems, but they came out quick and strong and put us under some early pressure. Perhaps a little New Year hangover and a lack of game time recently had affected us more than anticipated, but we remained solid against their good movement and their numbers in attack, though Adam had to pull off a fine one handed save to keep the game goalless.
With a slightly different lineup in midfield, Paddy pushing out to the right and Mark K coming in for his first start of the season, it took a little adjustment, but as the half went on we got stronger and put together some good passages of play. Mark and 'Wee' Sam Thomas combined well all game, working hard and ultimately winning the midfield battle.
[caption id="attachment_907" align="alignnone" width="150"] Mark Kielty (left) and 'Wee' Sammy Thomas[/caption]
At half time it was still 0-0, with neither side claiming the upper hand. Manager/Master Bill drew us close and once again imparted his words of wisdom, asking us to use the width of the pitch, judge the flight of the ball, and remain positive. And score some goals. And not let any in. Brilliant.
[caption id="attachment_909" align="alignnone" width="150"] Bill Clifford (right) shows Paddy how to defend at corners.[/caption]
We came roaring back out, and our fast start saw us one up within five minutes. A superb cross from the right by Josh, one of several throughout the game, evaded half of their defence and their floundering keeper, and Nnamdi finished beautifully from 37 centimetres. Marvellous. With a long way to go in the half we perhaps sat back too much and allowed them to have the ball a bit more, but they never really looked like scoring until Nic scuffed a free kick, allowing them to break forward at pace, their striker rounding Adam and squeezing it in at the near post. A sucker punch, taking the wind out of our sails, and in all truth they had opportunities to go in front. But we're made of sterner stuff these days, and with the introduction of Simon Drew and Drew Puxty, both for their 2s debuts, as well as the legend that is Tommy 'The Hitman' Haddon, we came back at them again, and it was no surprise when a lovely move gave Drew some space and he spanked one in from 15 yards out. The crowd went ballistic.
[caption id="attachment_910" align="alignnone" width="150"] Thomas 'The Hitman' Haddon[/caption]
We stayed strong in the last fifteen and even had a chance to extend our lead but sadly the only thing the 'Hitman' almost hit when put through was the corner flag. Never mind, we'd booked our place in the quarter finals, and the Villa juggernaut rolls on.
Scorers: Nnamdi, Drew