Carabao Cup: Aston Villa 4 Wigan 1 - Report
The line-up might have changed but the result was familiar as Villa continued their resurgence by brushing aside Wigan in the Carabao Cup.
For the second time in four days home supporters left Villa Park thoroughly entertained, having again watched their team score four goals.
Only this time it was achieved with a much changed line-up from the one which downed Norwich 4-2 in the Championship on Saturday, with boss Steve Bruce naming a team which included a host of fringe players and two teenagers making their first senior starts.
With League One Wigan also making wholesale changes, the pre-match fear was of a drab, directionless contest the kind the early rounds of this competition can often produce.
Instead we got nothing of the sort as youngsters Mitch Clark, Jake Doyle-Hayes and Callum O’Hare all shone and their senior colleagues stepped up to the plate.
Scott Hogan’s confidence-boosting first half double and a spectacular Albert Adomah effort put Villa firmly in control at the break, despite Ryan Colclough netting for the visitors.
Birkir Bjarnason then rounded things off with his first goal for the club in the second half as Villa marched into the third round.
There was even time for a cameo substitute appearance from forgotten man Ross McCormack, in his first outing at Villa Park since December.
That Bruce’s first priority was Friday’s league meeting with Bristol City was reflected in a starting XI which differed completely from the one which defeated Norwich 4-2 on Saturday. It included four teenagers, along with two full debuts for Clark and Doyle-Hayes. Tommy Elphick and Gary Gardner were meanwhile handed their first starts of the season, the former captaining the side. Ritchie De Laet started in the unfamiliar position of centre-back.
Villa’s bench included a further three teenagers along with striker Ross McCormack, another player who had failed to feature in a matchday squad to this point.
The hosts weren’t the only ones making wholesale changes. Wigan boss Paul Cook also named an entirely different XI from the one which defeated Oldham at the weekend, with former Saddlers striker Will Grigg captaining a team which also included former Albion youth team defender Donervon Daniels.
Villa, as they have typically been this season, were quick out of the blocks and Latics keeper Jamie Jones, another of the games debutants, was called into action early.
The 28-year-old, who joined Wigan on a free transfer from League Two Stevenage over the summer, first denied Hogan at close range after the striker had latched on to O’Hare’s clever through pass and cut inside a defender.
Clark was then denied a debut goal to remember when he made sweet contact on a half-volley outside the box which Jones just about pushed round the post.
Villa were next denied by the bar after Hogan helped on Gardner’s header from Adomah’s corner and watched it clatter the woodwork.
It would prove a case of third time lucky for the striker as he eventually put the home side ahead on 20 minutes.
Gardner’s ball over the top found Adomah on the right-hand side of the box and he crossed for Hogan to stab home at close range.
Adomah was looking particularly lively and it was he who would double Villa’s lead on 36 minutes in spectacular fashion, volleying Birkir Bjarnason’s cross into the top corner from the edge of the box. The winger celebrated his goal by doing a headstand in front of the Holte End.
Bjarnason then squandered the chance to make it three when he latched on to Hogan’s through pass only for a heavy to touch to send the ball racing into the arms of the onrushing Jones.
In contrast to Villa, the visitors had been disjointed and lacklustre in attack but three minutes prior to the break appeared to have a lifeline when Colclough showed quick feet to escape De Laet and drill a low shot into the bottom corner.
Within seconds, Hogan restored their advantage with another impressive finish. The striker chested down Adomah’s pass on the edge of the box before firing a right-footed half volley past Jones on the turn.
The second half saw a notable drop in pace and the number of chances.
Wigan defender Terrell Thomas flicked a header just off target in the opening minutes yet it was still Villa who looked the more likely to score again.
They duly did so with 16 minutes remaining when Bjarnason slotted home at the far post from De Laet’s cross.
Villa (4-4-2): Steer, De Laet, Elphick ©, Clark, Bjarnason, Bree, Doyle-Hayes (Lyden 78), Gardner, Adomah, O’Hare (McCormack 74), Hogan (Suliman 81) Subs not used: Abdo, Cox, Borg, Bunn (gk).
Wigan (4-4-2): Jones, Burke , Thomas, Daniels, Elder, Perkins, Power, Gilbey (Burgess 62), Laurent, Colclough (Hunt 80), Grigg (Lang 66) Subs not used: Barrigan, Stubbs, Merrie, Evans (gk).