Replay For Villa After Doncaster Draw

Last updated : 25 January 2009 By Tom Vickers

Well it was certainly much better than the 3-0 League Cup humiliation four years ago, but it wasn't exactly ideal. Aston Villa could have and should have killed off Doncaster Rovers on Saturday afternoon in front of a crowd of 13,517 at the Keepmoat Stadium.

But, they somehow managed to miss chance after chance yet and were only the width of a post away from being dumped out of the F.A. Cup themselves. In the end, the game finished goalless but it could have been all so different.

A combination of ex-Wimbledon stopper Neil Sullivan, dogged defending and some woeful finishing ensured Villa could not kill off the Championship underdogs.

Top scorer Gabriel Agbonlahor was the predominant guilty party, failing to score from at least three very presentable opportunities, though he was most certainly not alone in his profligacy.

Paying the competition its due respect, Villa boss Martin O' Neill made only one unenforced change, replacing Luke Young at left back with Nicky Shorey who impressed throughout. The former England international attacked well down the left hand side in tandem with the outstanding James Milner.

Indeed, Milner was only on the left to cover for the suspended Ashley Young, Milner's usual right wing position was filled by Villa's jack of all trades Nigel Reo Coker. Carlos Cuellar filled in at right back, the position vacated by Reo Coker.

Cuellar had deputised for the injured Martin Laursen last week at Sunderland but this time it was Zat Knight who partnered Curtis Davies at the heart of Villa's defence.


On three minutes, Reo Coker foraged forward and created sufficient panic in the Rover's defence that the ballbroke to Agbonlahor who blazed wide when he seemed certain to at least test Sullivan.

The chance probably came too early for the pacey striker but, unfortunately for Villa, it was a sign of things to come on a frustrating day in Donny.

Doncaster full back Gareth Roberts found himself in a great position only a few minutes later but his back post volley lacked conviction.

Just when the game went quiet and Villa looked like they were crying out for the sort of invention Ashley Young so often provides, Reo Coker stampeded his way into the Doncaster box and squared for Agbonlahor. The 22-year-old must have thought he was certain to score only for Sullivan, 16 years his senior, to show he hasn't lost any of his own sharpness by clawing the striker's effort wide.

Shortly after Sullivan's super stop, a heavy back pass from Cuellar resulted in a weak clearance from Villa keeper Brad Friedel and Rovers midfielder Martin Woods took aim, only to see his shot smack against the bar.

The second half had to be better from Villa and it was. The home side applied a little pressure after the restart but the Claret and Blue back line dealt comfortably with anything that was thrown at them. Notably, the excellent Davies led superbly.

Villa then began to really threaten and passed up multiple chances to take the lead. For a 15 minute period it seemed O'Neill's Champions League chasers were creating a chance almost every 60 seconds.

First Milner, who was the heart of everything Villa did that was good, tested Sullivan with a free kick.

Then, Agbonlahor raced clear, but rather than work himself an opportunity against defenders he clearly had the beating of, the striker opted to shoot. His effort was easily blocked.


Shortly after that, a Gareth Barry corner found Milner unmarked and his powerful effort was fisted over for another corner by the towering Sullivan. From the resulting corner Milner worked in Shorey whose cross was headed goalwards by Agbonlahor only for Sullivan to foil the Villa hitman again. In the ensuing scramble Davies was unlucky not to force the ball over the line.

Milner then put an easy header over from another Barry corner only for Steve Sidwell to outdo him with a Darren Bent type miss of his own after some genius wing play from the aforementioned Milner.

The worst and most irksome piece of profligacy came when Agbonlahor was released by an inch perfect long ball from Sidwell. Time was on Agbonlahor's side as he tore away from the Doncaster back line and the Villa fans must have been willing him to keep his head and put the game to bed. Instead, he smashed the ball side footed against the Vikings' crossbar.

To their immense credit Sean O'Driscoll men fought their way back into the game and looked to have won it at the end when Woods' brilliant 86th minute free kick beat every obstacle except Friedel's left hand post.

The game ended as a contest when O'Driscoll threw on an extra defender for injury time and O'Neill gave clear instruction for Shorey to take as much time with a throw in as he possibly could seconds later.

The date for the replay is yet to be decided but given O'Neill's recent admission that he may have to prioritise competitions to avoid burn out, a replay is the last thing he would have wanted.

There is, of course, the possibility that the Irishman could sufficiently bolster Villa's numbers before the close of the transfer window which would enable to Villa to go flat out in all three competitions, though such a scenario seems unlikely.

Man of The Match: Sullivan was excellent but from Villa's perspective James Milner is improving with every game and was a class apart today.