Pre-season positives and negatives

Two goals in under 10 minutes earned Villa a 2-2 draw with an impressive Colchester United side, who provided a tough test to a claret and blue 11 made up of a number of senior players.

Friedel started in goal, behind a first team defence of Cuellar, Knight, Davies and Shorey. With Albrighton, Reo-Coker, Sidwell, Osbourne and Bannan in midfield, Harewood, who spend the remainder of last season on loan at Wolves, was played as a lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation. Andreas Weimann, who opened the scoring against Peterborough last Saturday, had to settle for a place on the bench.

Weimann in action for the reserves last season

The game started quietly. Villa maintained much of the possession, but both teams tested the opposition goalkeeper; Harewood and Albrighton on seperate occasions finished just wide, and Anthony Wordsworth’s suggestive cross forced a catch from Friedel. It was in fact Colchester who opened the scoring after 25 minutes, Scott Vernon outjumping the Villa defence to head in Dean Hammond’s free kick. A poor goal to concede from Villa’s point of view.

Villa tried to get back into the game, with Albrighton escaping his marker and sending a stinging shot towards the bottom corner, forcing Mark Cousins in the Colchester goal into a decent save, but he was replaced at half-time by Weimann.

A strong start to the second half by Villa was thwarted by a second Colchester goal. 11 minutes after the restart, David Fox’s cross was headed across goal by Clive Platt where Ashley Vincent struck fiercely into the bottom right hand corner to give the U’s a 2-goal advantage.

But Villa were back in the game 8 minutes later. Barry Bannan’s free-kick found its way into the path of Steve Sidwell, who made no mistake from 8 yards out on his left foot. A quadruple substitution on 66 minutes was a good move by the manager, giving a number of young players the chance to impress.

And it paid off. With around 20 minutes left, Villa were level. Weimann’s shot was parried by Cousins against his own defender, McGurk showing good predatory instinct to get the final touch into the back of the net.

The verdict:

Cuellar is not a right back

In the end, a draw was probably a fair result. Colchester worked hard and gave a good show of themselves against a near-strength Villa side.

The Young Lions were also very impressive; Weimann and Albrighton in particular singled out for praise, and if Bannan continues his good form, it would not be surprising to see him feature regularly in the first team next season.

The big worry for Villa, with the start of the Premier League nearing ever closer, is the state of the defence. The lineup against Colchester would have been typical of that in a league game last season, and some sloppy defending, particularly from Davies, only highlighted O’Neills need to buy a good quality centre back to replace Laursen.

And, no matter how much the manager wants to pretend… Cuellar is no right back.

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