The Road to Villa Park. Cup fever grips my house if not the City Centre for the visit to Clarence Park of Hayes for the 2nd round of the F.A.Trophy. Hayes were relegated from the Conference last season and are now in 8th place in the Ryman League Premier Division. City lost 3-0 at Hayes in the League on a cold evening at the end of September. It needs to be better than that today.
For today, the Dynamic Duo selected Wilmot in goal; 4 at the back: Gledhill, Brown (C), Campbell and Naylor; 4 in the middle: Kean, Challinor, Castle and Smith; and up front: Browne and De Souza. On the bench: Crawshaw, Oakes, Moran, Roberts D. and someone else. Some talent in the stand, too. Martin, Evans, Hollenbach, Gould and Mackail-Smith.
It was poor. An even first few minutes with an outstanding save at full stretch by Wilmot the highlight before Hayes took control. In defence The Saints looked sound enough but there was little to offer going forward. Speculative long balls were wide of the mark and served only to give possession to the visitors cheaply. The midfield did not function as a unit once again and the strikers were left isolated up front.
Hayes are a well-organised, workmanlike side with pace in the midfield. The goal came midway through the half when quick movement in the midlle and down the right led to a cross from Warner to another Warner who helped the ball on to the unmarked John Case on the edge of the box who beat Wilmot with a crisp volley. 0-1. There was a curious lack of passion about City in this first half. H.T.
The Duo made changes after half time. Crawshaw came on for Browne, and Moran for Naylor as City switched to 3 at the back pushing Gledhill into the midfield. The Saints began to show some urgency as the half wore on but little of the fluency that was desperately needed. Half chances were created, of course, but they came from individual skill rather than any pattern. Oakes came on for Challinor. Hayes shut up shop and although City might have stolen a draw in the last few minutes, I have to say that the better team won in a forgettable game. Of great concern, Smith was stretchered off just before the whistle and was taken to hospital with damage to a knee. F.T, 0-1.
Hayes are solid at the back, well-organised and with pace in midfield. The strikers are sharp. The Saints were very disappointing today. There is real talent out on the pitch and the fans expect to see it. It has to get better and soon.
Spurs' Tim Sherwood was at The Park today. I don't think that he was looking for a game but your correspondent can exclusively report that he chose Aston Villa on Knocky's scratch-card in the clubhouse after the game. You heard it here first.
Entertainment 4/10. Atmosphere 4/10. Technical Merit 4/10. Referee 6/10.
Report by Homer