Villa came into this game on the back of two defeats in two and just one win from their last 5, against a Reading sitting bottom of the PL2 division 2 table with just 3 wins all season. Reading represented the perfect opponent to get back to winning ways against and Villa named a strong line-up with first teamer Carney Chukwuemeka starting to gain match sharpness and a first start for Kesler Hayden since his Swindon loan was cut short. Marschall returned in goal for the villains and Ben Chrisene fresh off signing his contract extension started at left back.
It was a quiet opening 5 minutes until Tommi O’Reilly sparked the game into life with a lovely ball down the right channel that caused hesitation between the Reading defender and keeper allowing Brad Young to pounce. His touch forced him wide but from a tight angle converted clinically to give Villa the lead punishing the reading defence. Reading looked a threat on the break and on the 14th minute experienced forward Meite found Jahmari Clarke in the box whose tricky feet left Feeney on the floor and showed composure to stroke home to level it up for Reading in an enthralling opening 15 minutes. Villa responded well after being pegged back and produced some good football as they looked to restore their lead. Chukwuemeka continuously looked to drift out to the left and link up with Barry and the two FA Youth cup winners were Villa’s bright sparks. On the 18th minute the two linked up on the break and Barry was inches away from making it 2-1 with a low driven effort just wide of the far-left post. Goodridge who had come on for the injured Thorndike forced a good save on the 21st minute and a couple of minutes later Barry linked up with Chukwuemeka and Goodridge down the left but put his effort wide. Villa eventually got their goal on the 28th minute and it was a lovely move from back to front that cut Reading open. Iroegbunam took the ball in his own box under pressure from Reading forwards and impressively managed to wriggle out of trouble and allow Villa to neatly work the ball down the left too marauding fullback Chrisene. Chrisene burst into the box and eventually pulled a cross back for Goodridge who converted from close range. A lovely flowing move built from the back and beating the Reading press, Gerrard would have liked that one I imagine. Villa kept the pressure on for the rest of the half and played some attractive and confident football and were deservedly ahead at the break having been on top for large portions.
Reading came out brightly in the opening 10 minutes of the half, but Villa had defended well when called upon. After a quiet start from the home side it was another defence cutting ball from O’Reily that found Brad Young on the right of the 18-yard box who smartly cut it back across the box for the onrushing Barry to tuck into an empty net. Reading had a couple of good moments namely a superb solo run from Reading captain Osorio that was put wide, followed by a scrappy set piece save from Marschall on the 74th minute rushing out to close the Reading man down in the box. After a decent spell from the away side Villa looked to have rediscovered their attacking touch and in the final 15 minutes it was the home side having the best chances. Louie Barry fizzed a superb low ball across the box on 77 minutes but no one was home to convert, and a minute later Chukwuemeka pounced on a loose ball and showed clever feet to dance into the box but couldn’t finish one on one. The fourth did come for Villa in the 80th minute as Louie Barry ran from within his own half and with 3 Reading men around him rode the defenders challenge well to burst free down the left and slip in Brad Young who poked past the keeper to get his second of the day. The home side could have added a fifth with Chukwuemeka and Barry coming close in the dying minutes of the game, but it was just the four on the evening. A first win in 3 for Villa that sees them move up to 4th and keep Reading bottom. A solid night’s work for the young Villains who travel away to Newcastle next week looking for back-to-back wins.
It was a brilliant night for the under 23’s and there were a number of stand out performers. The best player in terms of ability on the park for me was Carney Chukwuemeka who at times looked like he was a year 11 playing against year 7’s the way he drove with the ball and powered his way past players, showing again why he is so highly rated. Louie Barry had his best game since his return from Ipswich and seemed to relish terrorising the Reading defence with the help of Chukwuemeka down the left. Brad Young was as hard working and tenacious as he always is down the middle and him and Barry seemed to always be looking for one another in the final third. Special mention to Ben Chrisene who I thought was magnificent in the role of attacking full back and was a thorn in the side of the Reading with his bombing runs forward. O’Riley in just his second start of the season for the under23’s looked superb on the ball and showed an impressive range of passing having a vital part to play in two of Villas four goals at just 18. In all honesty I could go through the whole Villa team but those were the ones who I feel deserved special mention. For man of the match I would have to go with Louie Barry having scored and set one up, as there was a sense of expectation and excitement whenever he got on the ball. A player who Villa fans have high hopes for and I wouldn’t be too shocked to see him leave on loan again and hopefully get regular football from now until the end of the season as at times today he looked to good for this level.