Plenty of motives for a Carabao giant-killing

By Matt Maher | Aston Villa | Published:

Villa head to Colchester tonight aiming to ensure they do not become the subject of another cup giant-killing.

John McGreal, left, is unveiled as Colchester United manager last May

Yet there are two men in particular at the League Two club who will desire a victory over Villa more than the most.

The first is full-back Lewis Kinsella, the former Villa youth-team product who will come face-to-face with his former club with a point to prove.

The other is the Colchester’s manager, John McGreal.

For McGreal was involved in one of Villa’s most instantly memorable games of the past few decades, if not their entire history, even though all but the most avid of supporters would be hard pressed to guess the role he played.

Then a 21-year-old right-back, McGreal was part of the Tranmere team defeated at the semi-final stage of the League Cup in 1994, by a Villa team which fought their way back from 3-0 down late in the first leg to eventually triumph on penalties and progress to Wembley, where they would beat a Manchester United team containing Steve Bruce.

Tranmere were a First Division club which at that stage in their history had never been to Wembley but they came agonisingly close in a tie which, much as it might sound a cliché, contained just about every possible drama imaginable, with enough momentum swings to make a series of Game of Thrones seem pedestrian by comparison.

Villa looked a beaten team, 3-0 down at Prenton Park before Dalian Atkinson pulled one back with just seconds of the first leg remaining.

Then, a quarter of the way into the second leg, things suddenly seemed a cruise for the Premier League club as goals from Dean Saunders and Shaun Teale levelled things up on aggregate and seemingly in control.


Back came Tranmere to lead through a John Aldridge penalty, with many observers believing Villa keeper Mark Bosnich was lucky to stay on the pitch after bringing down the former Liverpool striker through

on goal.

That would prove a critical moment as, after Atkinson had brought the teams level again with an 88th-minute header, Bosnich saved three penalties in a shoot-out – including Liam O’Brien’s potential match-winner – to send Villa through and end Tranmere’s fairytale.

McGreal tonight has a belated chance to redress the balance a little and will perhaps take encouragement from Villa’s recent record against League Two opponents in the competition, something which guarantees no-one is viewing this tie as a foregone conclusion.

Matt Maher

By Matt Maher
Football MMPJ - @mjmarr_star

Sports journalist for the Express & Star


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