Date: 23rd July 2008 at 8:44am
Written by: Randy.Stand

Villa went into their fifth game of pre-season tonight just up the road in Walsall at their stadium, The Banks’.

There was a couple of thousand of Villa supporters there and as we were preparing to go to the game news filtered through that Gareth Barry might be given a run out, which surprised me and probably did with many other Villa supporters.

Barry was in a team was in a second string side tonight with him, Marlon Harewood, Moustapha Salifou, Shaun Maloney, Wayne Routledge, Isaiah Osbourne and Nathan Delfounseso the only senior players on show. Youngsters Elliot Parish, Nathan Baker, Eric Lichaj and more got a run out.

As the teams came out Gareth Barry faced a number of boo’s and a number of chants directed towards him. He ignored these and turned his back the other way. One interesting factor was that Barry was not captain and Marlon Harewood had the captaincy for the evening.

The Saddlers started brightly and forced young rookie goalkeeper Elliot Parish into a number of fine saves. Harewood had a couple of chances himself but was well saved by big goalkeeper, Clayton Ince.

The best chance of the half fell to Harewood who was put through on goal but held onto the ball for way too long and in the end the chance went completely.
Young centre half Nathan Baker was impressing at the back for Villa with some Martin Laursen like tackles and headers coming in and he showed real promise this evening. Salifou, Harewood and Delfounseso all had more half chances in the first half but none really troubling the goalkeeper, Ince.
Right on the stroke of half time Villa should have had the lead. A cross came in and Marlon Harewood emphatically did a overhead kick which fell to young Nathan Baker but he volleyed over from only a few yards out, a real centre halves finish.

Interestingly Martin O’Neill was NOT at there until the second half tonight and a text from someone who works at the Villa told me half way through the game that O’Neill had been with Brad Friedel today at BMH.

Walsall had the lead just before the break and undeservedly due to a big mix up in defence. A long ball was played down and Parish rushed out but Lichaj got it all wrong and tackled his own goalkeeper, the ball fell to Alex Nicholls who gave the Saddlers a lead right on the stroke of half time.

Half time- Walsall 1-0 Aston Villa

The second half started and Villa started brightly once again. Gareth Barry made a few neat turns and put in Routledge and Delfounseso for great chances but they both spurned them. Villa must have been wondering how they were quite losing the game.
Gareth Barry was then subbed and interestingly enough there were a few boo’s but mainly claps for Barry who then turned round to applaud the Villa faithful. The other Barry, Barry Bannan came on and instantly had an impact. Villa won a free kick right on the edge of the penalty area and Maloney curled it beautifully into the net. 1-1 and the chants of Super Shaun Maloney rang through the Banks’.

Parish produced a wonderful save from Ibehre’s header soon after. Quickly though Walsall regained the lead through trialist Patrick Suffo.
Maloney levelled once again on 80 minutes after a fumble from Rene Gilmartin, a swap for Clayton Ince and Maloney pounced to draw Villa level.

Villa went looking for that third goal and Maloney almost got his hat trick after a mazy run and a shot. Villa did get their third goal on 86 minutes after a great run and cross by Zoltan Stieber was volleyed in by Wayne Routledge.

A decent run out for Villa and I must say what a great sport Clayton Ince, the goalie for Walsall was. Laughing and joking with Villa fans and all Villa fans gave him a standing ovation when he was subbed, great to see. All in all an enjoyable night and a decent run out ready for Saturday’s big game.

Team: Parish, Salifou, Stieber, Lichaj, Baker, Barry, Osbourne, Maloney, Routledge, Harewood, Delfouneso. Subs: Bannan, Bevan, Weimann, Roome, Albrighton, Forrester.

Player Ratings

Parish: 7
Made some top quality saves.

Salifou: 7
Played quite well.

Stieber: 6
Quiet but provided a great cross for Routledge to score.

Baker: 9
Man of the match by a mile. Fabulous.

Lichaj: 6
Out of his depth, caught out a lot of times.

Barry: 7
Played well. Made some neat passes and turns.

Osbourne: 6
Played ok but can he pass?

Routledge: 8
Very lively. Great goal.

Maloney: 7
Average game but got us two goals so pleased with that.

Harewood: 6
Very average. Didn’t do a lot.

Delfouneso: 6
Same as Marlon.

Bannan: 7
Definitely made an impact.

Albrighton:
Couldn’t possibly rate.