CRACKING MATCHES AT VILLA PARK

There have been many entertaining (and some poor!) matches at Villa Park, but the following is a selection

of matches of significance and great entertainment value. Please note that there has (in the cases of several

matches) been great help from (in particular) the Villa Talk regulars John Lewis, Ian (drat01) and 'Paddy' and

Jörgen Bolin and Jörn Mårtensson.

If YOU have an account of an interesting match at Villa Park, please write to me!

 

1920s

1925/26: 29th August, 1925, FL Division 1: v. Burnley 10-0
MANY thousands of supporters attended the opening matches of 1925-26 with an air of expectancy, curious to see what would be the effects of the new offside law. Certainly, 43,000 at Villa Park were expectant! The FA had intended the change to produce more goals and that certainly happened at Villa Park. Previously three defenders were needed goal-side of an onside attacking player, but the new law stipulated just two, and Burnley's attempts to adjust were further compounded by the loss of Hill, their captain and centre-half, after 30 minutes. The Lancastrians were mesmerised in the second half, when they played with only two half-backs, who were run ragged by a rampant Villa forward-line.
 
Villa were on top of their form. From the start they had that bit of extra adroitness which was backed up by an overwhelming desire to have possession of the ball, and Burnley were just not in the same class.
 
Villa went ahead after 20 seconds. Capewell kicked-off, and the ball travelled quickly upfield, from Walker to Dorrell, back to Walker and on to Capewell whose shot, from fully 20 yards, flew past Dawson in the Burnley goal. Cyril Spiers saved twice in as many minutes as Burnley tried, in vain, to equalise, but on ten minutes Villa went 2-0 when Capewell netted from close range after good work by York.
 
Walker was dictating play and he made it 3-0 five minutes later with a powerful shot from the edge of the area. Burnley ventured forward to test Spiers only for the Villa 'keeper to send a long kick downfield for Capewell to race through and score number four on the half-hour. As this goal was scored, Stephenson (Villa) and Hill (Burnley) were prostrate in centre-field having collided head-on. The visiting captain had to have three stitches in a deep head-wound. He remained in the dressing room while an unsteady Stephenson returned to the action, blood still streaming down his face.
 
At half-time it was still 4-0, but in the second 45 minutes Villa completely ran the show, and could well have netted another ten goals, so well did they perform against a demoralised Burnley side. They in fact ran in a further six. On 50 minutes Walker interchanged with Capewell and banged in number five. Dicky York chased 20 yards to take Talbot's long clearance in his stride before slotting in the sixth (58mins) and Walker completed a splendid hat-trick six minutes later by thumping in the seventh after Dorrell had done the spadework. Capewell weighed in with his fourth and Villa's eighth on 70 minutes and the doddering figure of Stephenson, his head swathed in bandages, drifted in to snatch the ninth (80mins). The tenth and final goal came seven minutes from time by Capewell, who registered his fifth with a magnificent strike from 12 yards after Walker and Stephenson had created the space.

Team: Spiers; Smart, Mort, Moss, Talbot, Muldoon, York, Stephenson (G.), Capewell, Walker, Dorrell.

1930s

1930/31: 15th November, 1930, FL Division 1: v. Derby County 4-6
Match report taken from the Derby Evening Telegraph , with many thanks.
"Perhaps those who were not there will hardly believe that it was one of the most amazing games ever but I could produce many hardened veterans - not easily hustled out of their phlegmatic attitude after years of following the game - who were swept off their feet by exciting episodes which came on top of one another almost faster than I could cope with.
 
"It is impossible to give an effective idea of the atmosphere but a few word pictures of one or two outstanding happenings might help. Here they are:
 
"First nine minutes. Two men laid out - both Villa players - two goals, Scott warned, a penalty (twice taken), which produced another goal, Biddlestone and Walker change jerseys twice, the goalkeeper then going off for good!
 
"Crowd now in a ferment. One long roar. Players catch the fever and bundle into each other dangerously. Malloch and Waring look like fighting. Sudden cessation of play and general lecture from referee.
 
"Half-time. Mixed booing and cheering for the Rams as they go off. Derby supporters (of whom there were quite a lot) trying to drown the home 'sportsmen'.
 
"Quieter time expected in the second half but it was not so. Villa's 10 men play like a team inspired. An equaliser.
 
"Anything can happen now but the County defend desperately, the tide suddenly turns, and three more goals are to their credit in no time.
 
"As good as finished apparently but the terrific pace is sustained, and Waring gets a spectacular fourth point for his team with a spectacular dribble almost half the length of the field.
 
"Even the last five minutes bring no respite. Imagine Cooper knocked semi-conscious in the goalmouth. Wilkes and Collin trying desperately to drag him off the field, while Crooks is off on his own at the other end and hits the post with a goal appearing a certainty. A quick transference, and Houghton making tracks for the empty net, with Wilkes dashing back to his post just in time.
 
"Then the end, leaving us all limp and wondering how long it would be before we should see another match like this."

Team: Biddlestone; Bowen, Mort; Gibson, Talbot, Tate; Mandley, Beresford, Waring, Walker, Houghton.
Scorers: Houghton (2, 1 pen), Talbot, Waring.

1932/33: 19th November, 1932, FL Division 1: v. Arsenal 5-3
THIS was one of the finest games involving Aston Villa and Arsenal. It is generally referred to as 'Jimmy Gibson's match', on account of his magnificent display at centre-half for Villa.
 
It was the day two irresistable forces of English soccer came face to face, a cold November day in 1932, When Herbert Chapman's high-flying Arsenal visited the 'Pride of the Midlands'. They also stood first and second in the League.
 
Of the 22 players on the field that afternoon, only Lambert and Hill of Arsenal and Morton, Kingdon and Mandley of Villa had never won international caps. A near full house (58,000+) packed into Villa Park to see this cracking contest. Arsenal were on 24 points, Villa two points behind. Each had lost one game, and West Bromwich were the team to inflict defeats in both cases.
 
Arsenal got a flying start when Bastin, on the left, crossed hard and low. Lambert cleverly let the ball run to David Jack who let fly. The ball almost went through the net. Herbie Roberts was Arsenal's centre-half and his opposite number, Jimmy Gibson, showed that centre-halves could attack. He stormed upfield to smash home the equaliser following a corner-kick. Seven minutes later Eric Houghton's left-foot shot hit the back of the net and Villa were ahead, only to be pegged back soon afterwards when Morton could only fingertip Lambert's piledriver from 20 yards, the ball zooming high into the net. Four goals in 13 minutes with the sides sharing the spoils at the break.
 
Ten minutes into the second-half Bastin fired Arsenal 3-2 in front. Villa were shaken but picked themselves up and went in search of the equaliser, which came after 58 minutes when Astley, Walker and Houghton carved into the Arsenal defence. Houghton's left boot ended the move to tie the scores again.
 
Villa were rampant, and with Hulme and Bastin now under the cosh from Blair and Mort, Arsenal's attack suddenly lacked fire. Gibson, striding head and shoulders above everyone else in a game of footballing giants, put the block on Jack and Alex James, and with Eddie Hapgood's white shirt stained red with the blood gushing from a wound on his forehead, Arsenal were under severe pressure. With 18 minutes left Villa Park erupted when Mandley strode forward to bang the ball home following a free-kick. Four minutes later it was all over when George Brown bustled his way past Roberts and John to make it 5-3 to Villa. All that remained were the post-match accolades.
 
Eric Houghton considered it "....by far and away the best game of soccer I had the good fortune to take part in." and Arsenal's David Jack said, "It was a game that had everything; a game which it was an honour to play and almost a pleasure to lose."

Team: Morton; Blair, Mort, Kingdon, Gibson, Tate, Mandley, Astley, Brown, Walker, Houghton.

1940s

1945/46: 2nd March, 1946, FA Cup 6th Round: v. Derby County 3-4
This was the first season of 'proper' football following the Second World War, although there was only the FA Cup to see. So, these being the only matches, Villa had made good progress to these quarter-finals, including a 9-1 win over Millwall. In this match, watched by a record 76,588 crowd, Derby fielded a great side, including the legendary Raich Carter, Peter Doherty and Sammy Crooks. With a few minutes to go, however, Villa were leading 3-2 with goals from Edwards, Iverson and Broome, but Derby came back and snatched it at the death! According to a match report, "Derby's forward line, always perfectly balanced, compelled fear". It was a battle between them and a resolute Villa defence, which finally gave in.

Team: Wakeman; Potts, Cummings; Moss (F), Parkes, Lowe (E); Goffin, Broome, Edwards, Iverson, Smith (L).

1947/48: 10th January, 1948, FA Cup 3rd Round: v. Man United, 4-6
A remarkable cup-tie in front of a capacity crowd, George Edwards put Villa 1-0 up in the first minute, but the first of the great post-war United sides quickly came back to be leading 3-1 within the first half-hour, and 5-1 at half-time. The second half saw a great Villa revival, winning the half by 3-1, but after Villa pulled the score back to 4-5, United were clear winners in the end. The great Trevor Ford remarkably failed to score, but Edwards (2), Smith and Dorsett (penalty) did score for Villa.

Team: Jones; Potts, Parkes; Dorsett, Moss (F), Lowe, Edwards, Martin, Ford, Brown, Smith (L).

1950s

1953/54: 24th August, 1953, FL Division 1: v. Man City 3-0

This, the year of the Queen's Coronation and the conquest of Mount Everest! It was also the first match I saw that I can remember in any way (I had been to a match a couple of years earlier when I was handed down over everyone's heads in the Holte End so that I could have a better view!). The records also show that this was George Martin's last week as Villa manager - but I don't remember anything about that as a 9-year-old! It seems that a week later, Eric Houghton took over the job and eventually led Villa to cup success (in 1957). Neither do I remember much about the match except some of the players' names, including the great servants Harry Parkes and Peter Aldis as full-backs, the Moss brothers in the half-back line and Johnny Dixon up front. There were also big money signings that attracted big attention from other clubs: Danny Blanchflower (who later captained Spurs' great 'double' winning side of 1960/61) and Tommy Thompson, who both scored in this match. It was to be later in this season that the later-famed Peter McParland started to become a regulat first-teamer.

Team: Parsons; Parkes, Aldis; Canning, Moss (F.), Moss (A.); Dixon, Blanchflower, Walsh, Thompson, Lockhart.

1953/54: 20th April, 1954, FL Division 1: v. West Bromwich A. 6-1

It's Easter, 1954. The Baggies are to play in the Cup Final in May and will beat Preston to win the Cup. The Baggies also finish runners-up in the league (to Wolves).
 
The Baggies come to VP and are soundly thrashed! Jimmy Dugdale - within 2 years to become a Villa player - played in their final, and also in this VP match.
 
This was the end of Eric Houghton's first season as manager when he really applied the surgeon's knife from Christmas onwards. In came the young Peter McParland for his first games, and from that time he was a permanent fixture until 1962. Bill Baxter fills the left-half slot. Derek Pace came in to take over the centre-forward slot from Dave Walsh in the last 6 games of the season and scored 6 goals. Also a young player called Joe Tyrell played in just the last 4 games and scored 3 goals (but only plays 3 times in his next, his last, 2 seasons!). K.O. Roberts also replaces Colin Gibson on the right wing. Injured again, Tommy Thompson (Villa's main striker those days) didn't play again that season after scoring on the 31st March. Villa's attack boasted only one player over the age of 22 for this game.
 
At half-time, Villa were leading 5-1 after taking the lead after just 2 minutes. The second half was more of an exhibition match (so says a report) until Blanchflower scored Villa's sixth from distance with ten minutes to go, and nearly a seventh when another long shot hit the woodwork.
 
At the 20th February, Villa were lying in 19th place. The subsequent recovery enabled them to finish in 13th place. The end-of-season flurry also saw Villa beating high-placed Burnley 5-1.
 
The Villa scorers were: Pace(2), Tyrell(2), Dixon and Blanchflower.

Team: Jones; Parkes, Aldis; Blanchflower, Moss (F), Baxter; Roberts (K.O.), Tyrell, Pace, Dixon, McParland.

1955/56: 15th October, 1955, FL Division 1: v. Man United 4-4

This match against the legendary "Busby Babes" turned out to be the occasion of Dave Hickson’s only goal during his very short tenure of 12 games with Villa! He was a famous Merseysider with the unique distinction of playing for Everton, Liverpool and Tranmere, and was a formidable goalscorer for all of them. He played against Villa (for Liverpool) in another 4-4 draw at Villa Park in 1959/60 (see report below).
 
Villa were 2-0 up after 22 minutes with two first-rate strikes from Johnny Dixon. However, Villa were 2-3 down at half-time! Within 10 minutes into the second-half, United took it to 2-4, but within another 10 minutes, the score was 4-4! Hickson scored Villa's third with a shot that went in off the bar, and the fourth by Saward was when, standing at the near post, he pushed in a centre from Southren. Hickson came so close to getting two further goals in this match, but his solitary goal turned out to be the only one he would score for Villa.

1955/56 proved to be a season of near-relegation for Villa, with only very late but great signings by Houghton (he brought in Nigel Sims (goal), Jimmy Dugdale (centre-half), Les Smith (right-wing) and Jackie Sewell (inside-right)) and the restoration of Derek Pace at centre-forward, to bring off a brilliant recovery in the last two months of the season. At the time of this match, Villa were lying in 18th place with only one win after 13 games.

Team: Jones; Lynn, Aldis; Crowe, Moss (A.), Baxter; Southren, Dixon, Hickson, Saward, McParland.

1956/57: 27th October, 1956, FL Division 1: v. Birmingham City 3-1

This match was to do with making a statement to the Blues as to who were the real masters in Brum! Only the previous season, the Blues had got to the FA Cup Final, but lost. Villa, for their part, had not seen a cup final since 1924 (a situation that was to be amended that very season!), and with Blues' success at getting to their final, their supporters had been quick to put down the Villa as a team of the past! Villa, of course, made sure that this match did not go by without some alteration of their view! Villa achieved a good win, memorable for a blistering goal from Stan "the Wham" Lynn, from outside the penalty area. K.O. Roberts and Jackie Sewell also scored. To make a double emphasis, Villa also won 2-1 at Small Heath later in the season, and, of course, WON the cup that the Blues had failed to achieve!

Team: Sims; Lynn, Aldis; Baxter, Dugdale, Saward; Smith, Sewell, Dixon, K.O. Roberts, McParland.

Other matches of interest in that cup-winning season (1956/57) were:
8th December, 1956, v. Man United 1-3 Yes, it was a home defeat - but this was (again) against the legendary "Busby Babes", Duncan Edwards (how did this Dudley-born player get away to Manchester?!!!) and the teenager Bobby Charlton (with hair!) very much in evidence! Later that season, Villa went to Old Trafford and actually achieved a 1-1 draw - and then that 2-1 win over the "Babes" in the Cup Final!

13th March, 1957, v. Cardiff City 4-1 A Wednesday afternoon (! - before floodlights!) match with Gerry Hitchens on view - playing for Cardiff! In December the same year he was with Villa !

22nd April, 1957, v. Wolves 4-0 This was the first of an Easter 2-day head-to-head with the then mighty Wolves - Billy Wright, Bert Williams, Peter Broadbent (10 years later to become a Villa player) and all. Villa gave Wolves no room in this thrilling encounter, but were made to pay for it in the next day return, with Villa going down 0-3 in that match! I was at both matches.

1959/60: 14th November, 1959, FL Division 2: v. Charlton Athletic 11-1

That very week, manager Joe Mercer had bemoaned the fact that Villa were not scoring enough goals in their attempt to get back to Division One at the first attempt, and the Villa strikers were under no illusion that if they did not start delivering the goods, fresh faces would be given a try, especially as a young reserve centre-forward (Ken Price) was hitting a lot of goals for the reserves. So, the scoreline that resulted in this match seems to have reflected that the Villa (particularly Hitchens) had taken warning from Joe!

After just two minutes, Hitchens opened the scoring. By half-time the striker had a hat-trick and Villa led 4-1. It was the stylish strike not lodged by Hitchens which had owed most to that pre-match plotting. Wylie's movement created space for Vic Crowe to dodge to the by-line. When Crowe's cross arrived, Hitchens occupied the defenders and Thomson timed his run to perfection to power a diving header into the net. Charlton had certainly picked the wrong day to visit Villa Park. By the 60th minute, it was 6-1 and Hitchens had five. And just when it seemed the Londoners' plight could not get any worse, it did - when goalkeeper Willie Duff broke a finger in trying to save the sixth goal. Left-back Don Townend took over in goal and was beaten three times in six crazy minutes (Wylie 63, Thomson 65, Jimmy MacEwan 69) before, according to the Mail, he "gave up in disgust". Striker Stuart Leary took over next with Duff now back on the pitch and gaining sympathetic applause from Villa's fans for at least trying his best out on the left wing. But it was Villa's left winger that struck the final two blows. Peter McParland made it 10-1 in the 72nd minute before finally, four minutes from time, crowning an astonishing day in the most scintillating style. The Irishman collected the ball near the half-way line and raced all the way through to score a brilliant goal.

All the forwards scored that day: Hitchens (5), McParland (2), Thomson (2), Wylie, MacEwan. The next two games were each won by the margin of 5-0, so Villa scored 21 goals in 3 matches, Hitchens scoring 10 of them! Joe Mercer was a little happier, methinks, after those three weeks!

Team: Sims; Lynn, Neal; Crowe, Dugdale, Saward; MacEwan, Thomson, Hitchens, Wylie, McParland.

1959/60: 6th February, 1960, FL Division 2: v. Huddersfield Town, 4-0

Bobby Thomson's first hat-trick for Villa knocked a fearful dent into Huddersfield's fine defensive record. Up till this match, it had been bettered only by Villa's own. Until Thomson's two goals in seven minutes you could see why, too, so well did Bill McGarry and his colleagues pack their goal. Once Thomson got into his stride, Huddersfield seemed to lose their grip on matters, and apart from some fine work by left-back Ray Wilson, they were reduced to a scrambling shadow of a defence. The spearheading of Gerry Hitchens, the dash of left-winger Peter McParland, and the scheming of his inside-partner, Ron Wylie, began to find a way through the Huddersfield defence at will. Only during brief periods of the second half did the northerners look like fighting back, and then the coolness of Jimmy Dugdale always held them. McGarry and left-half Gordon Low tried vainly to help out the Huddersfield attack, in which Dennis Law never lived up to his reputation. But their upfield play only succeeded in leaving gaps for the Second Division leaders' attack to exploit, and Thomson and Hitchens promptly set the seal on Villa's 13th home win of the season.

It is to be noted that Ray Wilson was subsequently one of England's best-ever full-backs, (and was a member of the 1966 World Cup winning-team) and Dennis Law was the scourge of opponents' defences for club and for Scotland!

Goals: Thomson (29, 36, 55), Hitchens (75). Team: Sims; Lynn, Neal; Crowe, Dugdale, Saward; MacEwan, Thomson, Hitchens, Wylie, McParland.

1959/60: 30th March, 1960, FL Division 2: v. Liverpool, 4-4

Villa were now looking to be heading for promotion at the first attempt, but at times in these later games in the season Villa were looking tired and a little complacent. In this match, Villa also had a few replacements to make; Trevor Birch was in for Pat Saward (away on international duty with Rep. of Ireland) with Jimmy Adam and Brian Handley deputising for Jimmy MacEwan and Gerry Hitchens. What followed was a truly magnificent game of football. After 45 minutes of high entertainment, the visitors held a commanding 3-0 lead and were four goals ahead after an hour. Villa's comeback to equalise was fantastic, and they could even have won it in the last minutes. It was not until after 66 minutes that McParland, with a characteristic run and shot, opened Villa's account, and six minutes later Bobby Thomson neatly tucked away Jimmy Adam's cross to reduce the arrears to two. Villa were nothing like the side which had dozed around for an hour or so, and with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining McParland was floored in the penalty-box. Stan Lynn stepped forward and thundered in the spot-kick. Villa were back in touch and the fans were going wild. On 85 minutes the hard-working Thomson fastened on to Wylie's through-ball and sweetly drove the ball past Slater for the equaliser amidst tremendous excitement and cheering. In the dying minutes Lynn kicked Hunt's shot off the line, McParland sent a chance into orbit from six-yards range and then Slater saved a snap-shot from Adam. It was a terrific finale to a terrific match - one which the 27,000 crowd would not forget in a hurry.

Team: Sims; Lynn, Neal, Crowe, Dugdale, Birch, Adam, Thomson, Handley, Wylie, McParland.

1960s

1960/61: 22nd October, 1960, FL Division 1: v. Birmingham City 6-2

The season had not been going well, particularly away from home, and Joe Mercer again decided that his forwards needed an uplift. So he went out and bought Alan O'Neil from Sunderland, and was signed in time to make his debut against the Blues. Further, Bobby Thomson moved back to replace the injured Vic Crowe, and Pat Saward was to play this his last game for Villa (a '57 Cup Winner, and, with Dixon, Lynn and Dugdale also to retire or be displaced by the end of the season, Nigel Sims would remain the only member of the '57 Wembley side).

O’Neill scored after 15 seconds, and the result ended in a hat-trick for Hitchens and two for O'Neil in an attacking spree that had the Blues totally surprised. So uplifted were Villa after this match that it was followed by a 2-0 win in the next (away) match at West Brom, then 2-0 (home) v. Burnley, followed by four more league games undefeated, the run ending in a 5-1 home win over Dennis Law's Man City. Strangely, after his opening good form, O'Neil failed to sparkle after those matches and left a few years later with very few matches to his name.

Team: Sims; Neal, Winton, Thomson, Dugdale, Saward; MacEwan, O'Neil, Hitchens, Wylie, McParland.

1960/61: 29th April, 1961, FL Division 1: v. Sheffield Wednesday 4-1

The last match of the season. It had been a strange season that had started well at home to Jimmy Greaves' Chelsea, but then there had been some poor results, particularly away from home, until that 6-2 win over Birmingham and the subsequent 'purple' period. After that, results had been average, and it came to the last match of the season with nothing more to play for. Sheffield Wednesday were already sure of the league runners-up spot and had a good team, including England 'keeper Springett, but they were not prepared for some slick play from all Villa's forwards that day. Villa included Johnny Dixon for his last ever game after 15 years as a Villa professional, and (as it happened) it was Gerry Hitchens' last game before his departure for Italy. Hitchens ended his Villa career with 2 goals (to make 29 league goals in all that season), with Thomson and Dixon adding the others. When Dixon scored his he was injured in an ensuing collision, and on returning to the centre-spot he was given a truly magnificent ovation that lasted (it seemed) for minutes. Also, a young Charlie Aitken started his 15-year first-team career that day, with Deakin and Burrows also establishing themselves in the first team.

Team: Sims; Neal, Aitken; Crowe, Dugdale, Deakin; MacEwan, Thomson, Hitchens, Dixon, Burrows.

1961/62: 21st April, 1962, FL Division 1: v. Leicester City 8-3

An Easter week-end of rich entertainment, with this emphatic win followed by a 5-1 home win over Notts Forest on the Monday! A combination of near end-of-season complacency by Leicester, rain and a slippy pitch were probably the main causes for this high-scoring match in which Bobby Thomson earned himself a hat-trick. Though not perhaps international-class, Thomson had been a regular (yet supporting) goal-scorer since his arrival from Wolves in 1959, and, combined with his high work-rate, was always ready to push-aside any would-be threat to his inside-forward berth, although he also often played at wing-half. He had scored 2 goals three weeks earlier in an exciting 5-4 win at Arsenal. Other scorers were Dougan (2), Burrows, Baker and one own goal.

Team: Sims; Lee, Aitken; Crowe, Sleeuwenhoek, Deakin; Ewing, Baker, Dougan, Thomson, Burrows.

1963/64: 16th November, 1963, FL Division 1: v. Man United 4-0

Man U's season that year was very average by their standards, but with a team containing the likes of Crerand, Charlton and Law, they were not to be sneered at! Also, Man U would have gone top of the league if they'd won this match!

In this match, the skills of Phil Woosnam were sadly missing (through injury) with Geoff Sidebottom making a rare appearance in goal. Villa's win was helped with the first-half sending off of Dennis Law once he had kicked Alan Deakin in the face after Deakin had come in with a firm but fair sliding challenge at a time in the match when Villa were already in the lead and were trying the patience of the Man U team with their exuberant and determined play. A match remembered for Villa's determination and pace and also the continued good play of 17-year old full-back Micky Wright, who made his debut that season and stayed with Villa even through to their Division 3 days. Hateley scored two, with Deakin and Burrows getting the others.

Team: Sidebottom; Wright, Aitken; Deakin, Sleeuwenhoek, Pountney; MacEwan, Ewing, Hateley, Wylie, Burrows.

1966/67: 4th March, 1967, FL Division 1: v. Tottenham Hotspur 3-3

This (now forgotten) match was virtually the anniversary of 19th March the previous year when Villa drew 5-5 at Spurs after being 1-5 down. Now, with Villa's main stars Woosnam and Hateley having departed to other fields, Villa were in deep danger of relegation. Following the signing of Peter Broadbent and Willie Anderson and a 2-0 away win at Leeds, however (and earlier wins at Newcastle and even at home against Man U), Villa were at that time showing signs of being able to save themselves. Before this match, the table showed the following as the bottom clubs (note 2 teams relegated and 2 points for a win in those days):

                 P  W  D  L  F  A Pts
18 Southampton  30  9  5 16 51 70  23
19 Aston Villa  29 10  3 16 37 52  23
20 West Brom    30  8  5 17 51 61  21
21 Newcastle    29  6  7 16 23 60  19
22 Blackpool    30  4  7 19 30 56  15

Villa even had the luxury of having a game in-hand at this stage. So, Villa fans thought, a win against Spurs in this next match might just be the start for a recovery and security from relegation. Imagine, therefore, the state of the Park when Villa went into a 3-0 lead within the first half-hour, including a rattling shot from Lew Chatterley that went in off the bar. That first half-hour was played with such effort, though, that when Spurs pulled a goal back before half-time, the thought then really was "will we get anything from this match?!". In the second half, Spurs (with their star players including Jennings, Mullery, Greaves and Gilzean) pulled the match back to all-square, and Villa, no matter how hard they tried just could not get back into the match, but at least salvaged a point - a no mean effort against a class team.

Team: Withers; Wright, Aitken; Tindall, Sleeuwenhoek, Pountney; Anderson, Chatterley, Stobart, Broadbent, MacLeod.

But, unaccountably, Villa's effort at that point in the season, and still with 12 matches to go, then seemed to evaporate, with Newcastle and West Brom (also very much in the danger area) doing the reverse and performing a recovery. For Villa, the season finished with no wins in the last nine games, with it coming completely apart with three sound defeats in the last three matches, including a 2-6 away defeat at Southampton in the last game. That was already too late, however, as the 2-4 defeat at home to Everton in the previous match had sealed Villa's fate - Southampton were then safe. The next season was to be spent in Division 2, and no re-appearance to Division 1 until 1975.

13 West Brom    42 16  7 19 77 73  39
...
18 Fulham       42 11 12 19 71 83  34
19 Southampton  42 14  6 22 74 92  34
20 Newcastle    42 12  9 21 39 81  33
21 Aston Villa  42 11  7 24 54 85  29
22 Blackpool    42  6  9 27 41 76  21

1968/69: 29th January, 1969, FA Cup 4th Round Replay: v. Southampton, 2-1

This was the first sign of real life from the Villa since their relegation in 1967.

After a 2-2 draw at Southampton (after being 2 goals up in the first 19 minutes). Tommy Docherty (manager) had been at the Villa barely two weeks, Southampton were 5th in Division 1; we were still near the bottom of Division 2! 59,084 crowd were at this replay, making it a fantastic atmosphere! Villa played perhaps their smallest ever forward line at this time, and yet the main memory of that night is of Dave Rudge scorching down the right wing and putting a perfect cross for Lionel Martin to score. It was Broadbent with the pass that put Rudge in for the cross, though - a perfectly weighted defence-splitting pass from the centre circle to the corner flag which even the best player would be proud of. Once Rudge had got to the ball first and skipped over the challenge to square the ball to Martin running in, with Godfrey contributing a deft dummy, there was a split second with the cross still on its way when it was thought the whole crowd just knew a goal was inevitable.
 
Peter Broadbent scored his first goal for Villa that night, and in the next round against high-flying Spurs on their ground, Broadbent scored the second of his only two goals for Villa! Villa finally went out in that match, 2-3.

Team: Dunn; Wright, Aitken; Hole, Edwards, Turnbull; Rudge, Broadbent, Godfrey, Martin, Anderson.

1970s

1970/71: 23rd December, 1970, FL Cup (Semi-Final, second leg): v. Man United, 2-1

Villa were by now in the old Division Three, yet had progressed this far in the League Cup! Man United fielded a side that was virtually that that won the European Cup two years before. Villa were without Bruce Rioch for this match. These were unlikely contenders! In the first leg at Old Trafford Villa had been grateful to the rearguard action of John Dunn and central defenders Fred Turnbull and Brian Tiler to achieve a draw. At Villa Park, the cheers of the capacity-packed Holte End were silenced for awhile when Kidd gave United an early lead but Villa fought back magnificently. United goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer, later to win a League Championship medal with Villa, was under plenty of pressure, and he was fortunate when efforts from Lochhead and 'Chico' Hamilton were deflected off target. But Best and Kidd brought saves from Dunn at the other end. In the second half, Villa stormed forward, roared on by their fans. Andy Lochhead levelled the scores, and Pat McMahon continued to trouble United defenders with his pace. Ian Ure headed away Hamilton's shot, and Rimmer saved from a close-range right-foot shot by Lochhead. In the 72nd minute came the winning goal, a spectacular header from McMahon, and Villa won through by virtue of a 3-2 aggregate score, although it took some steadfast defending before Villa's first trip to Wembley for 14 years (to face Spurs) was finally secure. However, even though Bruce Rioch was available for the Final, Villa (though they had their chances) lost the chance to beat yet another top club.

Team: Dunn; Bradley, Aitken, Godfrey, Turnbull, Tiler, McMahon, Davie Gibson, Lochhead, Chico’Hamilton, Anderson.

1971/72: 12th February, 1972, FL Division 3: v. Bournemouth 2-1

This contribution was provided by VillaTalk regular John Lewis, with many thanks.

A crowd of 48,110 (yes, 48,110!), a then Third Division record gate witnessed a terrific top of the table clash between John Bond’s Bournemouth and Vic Crowe’s League Cup runners-up of the previous season. Those Villa fans that were lucky enough to have been present on that afternoon are unlikely to forget the passion of a packed stadium that willed Villa to a terrific comeback from a goal down to gain the 2 points that we needed from what was a real 4 pointer (2 points for a win in those days!).

Ted MacDougall scored first with a terrific diving header in front of the Holte End. He started the move finding his left winger in the centre of our half who then hit a cross into the middle of the penalty area that found MacDougall unmarked and continuing his run. His full length diving header found the corner of the net with Cumbes well beaten. But, although shocked, the Villa fans were determined to give everything that day and I well recall the chants of Villa, Villa, Villa and the stamping of feet on the wooden flooring of the old Trinity Road Stand as not just the Holte End but all 4 corners of the ground got totally behind their team.

With the cries of Villa, Villa, behind him Bruce Rioch took a throw in and found Chico Hamilton on the edge of the penalty area. Chico turned and floated an inviting cross that Vowden climbed and beat their keeper to, and his header found the same corner of the net that Ted MacDougall had earlier. A point saved, but we wanted both.

The game was on “Match of the Day” that evening and as George Curtis was about to take a free kick from just inside their half the commentator said, “Just listen to this crowd!”. Curtis did - he hit the ball into the Bournemouth penalty area and found Andy Lochhead’s head. The ball bounced up and Andy reacted quickly to volley the dropping ball into the corner of the net. This sent the crowd delirious. This was a game we needed to win and we did. Seldom, if ever, can the fans have given Villa any better or more passionate backing, and for me this game showed that the giant that is Aston Villa was finally re-awakening.         

Team: Cumbes, Wright, Aitken, Rioch, Curtis, Turnbull (Brown), Graydon, McMahon, Lochhead, Hamilton, Vowden. 

1971/72: 21st February, 1972, Friendly v. Santos (Brazil) 2-1

It may have only been a friendly, but this game was another landmark in the history of the Villa. What other club in the third division could have attracted such a crowd, and in such circumstances?

The miner's strike led to power cuts at the time and meant that Villa had to hire a generator to ensure that the match went ahead. Even then the floodlights were a long way short of full power and this led to complaints from the Brazilians. The game, though, could have been played in darkness for all the supporters cared.

Standing on the Holte was, yet again, a marvellous experience,. In fact, such was the crowd in there on the night that constant appeals were made over the loudspeakers for people to climb down from the floodlights, the scoreboard, everywhere that had been commandeered by supporters anxious to see the legendary Pele. Rarely can an opponent have been given such a reception by a home crowd. His name was chanted before the game, his every touch cheered and he left the pitch to a tremendous ovation.

It was well deserved, because even though the Brazilians were obviously treating the game as a warm-up for their forthcoming season, Pele showed the touches that had made him the greatest player in football.

On such an occasion, the score is unimportant. Villa won but the players would admit that the opposition didn't mind losing. The game itself was an exhibition, although Villa seemed to take things seriously and refused to let the Brazilians display their skills as much as they would have liked - with one exception. Even in a friendly Pele was obviously as competitive as ever, showing the determination that separates the best from the rest. He couldn't stop Villa from taking the lead after six minutes with a Pat McMahon header from a cross by Ray Graydon. Graydon himself made it 2-0 with just under an hour gone, scoring from a penalty after Bruce Rioch had been fouled. In the 72nd minute Edu showed a piece of typical Brazilian genius when pulling a goal back with a brilliant curling free-kick from 25 yards out.

The result didn't really matter. Villa could say that they had beaten arguably the world's best team. 54,437 people could say that they'd seen Pele in the flesh. And the greatest footballer in history could say that he'd played at the game's greatest arena.

1976/77: 15th December, 1976, FL Division 1: v. Liverpool, 5-1

This was Villa’s second season back in the top tier and were showing great potential. In this match, Villa thrilled a near 43,000 crowd with 45 minutes of breath-taking, football which completely annihilated the mighty Liverpool of the Kevin Keegan era. Villa were 5-1 ahead by the interval, and the Birmingham Post said: "League leaders Liverpool were taken apart by the speed, skill and determination of the entire Villa side as they attacked almost from the first whistle." In midfield Villa were winning virtually everything. The remorseless tackling of Alex Cropley, a ferocious glutton of a ball-winner, the marathon-running of Frank Carrodus and the power and distribution of human dynamo Dennis Mortimer, was magnificent. Andy Gray (2), John Deehan (2) and Brian Little did all the scoring damage. Liverpool pulled a goal back in the 40th minute, but it was too late for them! Such was the enormous entertainment value of that initial period that the second 45 minutes were regarded as a 'close battle'. The players, perhaps breathless, showed less venom than before. Yet there were still plenty of chances created, at both ends, and although there was no further scoring, Villa were good value for this emphatic win. It was certainly quite a night for a young man called Charlie Young, who made his debut at centre-half for Villa. Liverpool, despite this result, went on to lift the Football League championship at the end of the season, but Villa had made it known for sure that they were back in the top-flight and meant business!

Team:  Findlay; Gibson, Robson, Phillips, Young, Mortimer, Deehan, Little, Gray, Cropley(Buttress), Carrodus.

1980s

1983/84: 27th August, 1983, FL Division 1: v. West Bromwich A. 4-3

Team details and scorers provided by Jorgen Bolin , with many thanks. An unusually high-scoring and (as usual!) hard-fought Baggies 'derby', with Evans, Walters, Shaw and Ormsby grabbing Villa's goals.

Team: Spink; Williams, Evans, Ormsby, Gibson; Curbishley, Mortimer, McMahon, Walters; Shaw, Withe.

1989/90: 5th November, 1989, FL Division 1: v. Everton 6-2

Everton had had quite a successful run in the 1980s, and they came to Villa Park with a good start to the season and expecting to come away from this game with at least a point. They included Martin Keown (signed from Villa) who was expected to become a significant cog in their defence. Everton were in for a big surprise that night! The match was live on television and it was bonfire night; what a cracker it turned out to be! Gordon 'Sidney' Cowans scored in the first couple of minutes and Olney and Platt added two more for a good half time lead. Second half we added three more; Platt and Olney again and Kent Nielsen. There was even time for a Paul McGrath own goal! From this result, Villa's performances improved and the team eventually finished as runners-up in the championship race that season. Everton? They seemed to go downhill after this match, and it was not too long before Keown went back to his first club (Arsenal)!

Team: Spink; Price, Gage, McGrath, Mountfield, Nielsen, Daley, Platt, Olney, Cowans, Ormondroyd, Heath.

1990s

1990/91: 24th October, 1990, UEFA Cup Round 2 (first leg) v. Inter-Milan 2-0

Another televised match which had us all on the edge of our seats with Villa playing with great composure against this great Italian side that included Jurgen Klinsmann. Villa were without McGrath, but it seemed to make little difference! The first half was ignited by a thunderous drive from distance by Kent Nielsen that gave Villa the lead. The second goal (in the second half) was created by Gordon Cowans with a sublime chip over the defence that David Platt fastened on to and put the team 2-0 up! Villa did not really look like losing that night (and might have scored more), but the second leg went to Inter's favour and Villa bowed out of that year's EUFA Cup on a 2-3 deficit.

Team: Spink; Price, Gray, Comyn, Mountfield, Nielsen, Daley, Platt, Birch, Cowans, Cascarino.

1991/92: 24th August, 1991, FL Division 1: v. Arsenal 3-1

THIS was a sweet victory for Ron Atkinson's team - and it came against the reigning League Champions, who had lost only five of their previous 50 First Division matches, suffering just one defeat during the whole 1990-91 campaign.
 
Villa had won one and drawn one of their opening two League matches under Ron Atkinson - and were keen to make amends for a midweek home defeat at the hands of the boss's old club, Manchester United - this after having won away against Atkinson's previous side, Sheffield Wednesday, on the first Saturday of the League programme.
 
Atkinson sprang a surprise before the kick-off against the Gunners by including 18-year-old former West Bromwich Albion defender Ugo Ehiogu for his first full game of his career, and also in the side a fit-again Tony Daley, who had figured in only three games since February.
 
In front of a near-30,000 crowd, the match started off at a cracking pace in a cup-tie atmosphere.
 
Villa threatened first but England centre-back Tony Adams nipped in to stop Cyrille Regis breaking through down the middle. At the other end, Paul Merson volleyed over the bar after Paul McGrath had been robbed by Alan Smith.
 
It was all action - and from a teasing Gordon Cowans free-kick, Shaun Teale's header was just too high. Regis then went close with a header and following a brilliant inside-the-back pass by Gary Penrice, Daley's low cross was turned fractionally wide of his own upright by Paul Davis.
 
The skill of Swedish international Anders Limpar was causing the Villa defence a few problems and when he whipped past Ehiogu, Daley was back to thwart the onrushing David Rocastle. The opening goal finally arrived on 40 minutes - and it was Villa who scored first - from the penalty spot after Daley had been floored inside the box by a clumsy challenge by Nigel Winterburn. Steve Staunton, a summer signing from Liverpool, stepped up to drive the ball past David Seaman for his second goal of the season, having netted at Hillsborough seven days earlier.
 
Arsenal bounced back immediately and Nigel Spink saved well from Limpar. Then on the stroke of half-time, Teale was booked for bringing down Limpar - and from the free-kick Limpar set up Smith for an equaliser.
 
Villa started the second-half without Staunton, Paul Mortimer switching to left-back - and it was Mortimer who stopped a promising Arsenal attack when he intercepted a short pass from Rocastle.
 
On 53 minutes, Villa regained the lead with a brilliant goal from Penrice - his first for the club. Mortimer broke up another Arsenal raid and his lovely lofted past over David O'Leary found Penrice, who darted past Dixon before beating the advancing Seaman with a right-foot shot from ten yards.
 
A few minutes later, Penrice almost scored again with a 20-yard bullet which was a fraction too high. Andy Linighan was cautioned for a foul on Regis and the McGrath turned a drive over his own crossbar as Arsenal searched for a second equaliser. It never came - and Villa surged forward to make the game safe with a magnificent third goal on 77 minutes. Daley accepted a short pass from Cowans and a cut across the penalty-area before unleashing an explosive shot which gave Seaman no chance whatsoever.
 
Villa had registered a great victory - and how the fans celebrated Ron Atkinson's first home triumph. And there was one other aspect of the match; Arsenal's centre-half would, 12 years later, become Villa's manager.

Team: Spink; Ehiogu, Staunton(Price), Teale, McGrath, Richardson, Daley, Penrice(Yorke), Regis, Cowans, Mortimer.

1992/93: 19th September, 1992, Premier League: v. Liverpool 4-2

Acknowledgements to Wayne Homer.
Dean Saunders had completed his £2.3m switch from the Reds only a couple of weeks before this game and you could sense he had a point to prove to Souness who had allowed him to leave Anfield. It was a full house as was always the case with Liverpool games and the atmosphere was electric. Villa started slowly and Liverpool should have taken the lead when Holte End Hero Ronnie Rosenthal rounded Nigel Spink only to hit the crossbar from six yards with nobody around him!! Former Villa Boy Mark Walters put Liverpool ahead only for Deano to equalize a minute before half time, putting the ball through the legs of David James after a good cross from Froggatt. In the second half Villa were on fire and some of the football was brilliant to watch (as was most of that season under Big Ron). If I remember rightly, Dalian put us 2-1 up after a Parker mis-hit and Deano "megged" James again to make it 3-1. Parker then finished a sparkling move to make it 4-1. Deano then hit the outside of the post to deny him a hat-trick. Rosenthal scored a late consolation goal for the Scousers to make the scoreline a little bit more respectable!

1993/94: 27th February, 1994, FL Cup (Semi-Final, second leg): v. Tranmere Rovers, 3-1

(Villa went through after extra time and 5-4 on penalties).
After losing the first leg 3 - 1 at Prenton Park everything looked so bleak, but it could have been worse as Villa had been losing 0-3 until Dalian Atkinson pulled one back very late in the match to give a hint of a chance for the second leg. In this second leg, Villa scored first through Dean Saunders (2-3 aggregate!) and some tension is taken away. Then (what a scene!) an unlikely second goal through Shaun Teale, and what a goal it was (3-3 aggregate!).
 
Into the second half, and disaster strikes when Bosnich brings down John Aldridge in the box. Penalty! Aldridge scores (3-4!). Depression! It seemed like an age and then Dalian Atkinson scores with about two mins left on the clock! 4-4! Extra-Time is entered into, but no goals. The match is to be settled on penalties. This is where Bosnich the hero takes over, as he makes two glorious saves for Villa to win the shoot-out 5-4! Villa were through to the final to meet Manchester United, where Villa turned on the style to beat Man U comfortably. But Tranmere must have frightened Villa in this semi-final - it was that close!

Team: Bosnich; Cox(Ehiogu), Barrett, Teale, McGrath, Richardson, Houghton(Fenton), Townsend, Saunders, Atkinson, Daley.

1994/95: 11th February, 1995, Premier League v. Wimbledon 7-1

Brian Little was less than 3 months into his reign as manager, and was gradually pulling the team into shape. But with Wimbledon in 9th place and Villa in 14th, no-one guessed that the outcome could be so emphatically in Villa's favour! And after Wimbledon had taken an early lead, it was thought that Villa would have to fight their way through this! Tommy Johnson scored a hat-trick, and Saunders 2 goals, though some thought he should also have been awarded a hat-trick.
 
11 minutes: Barton (Wimbledon) scored with a right foot shot from within the penalty area. The goal came from open play and assists were credited to both Harford and Holdsworth.
12 minutes: Own Goal scored with a left foot shot from within the penalty area. The goal came from open play and assists were credited to both Saunders and Staunton.
22 minutes: Johnson scored with a header from within the penalty area. The goal came from open play and assists were credited to both Charles and Saunders.
26 minutes: Johnson scored with a left foot shot from long range. The goal came from open play.
38 minutes: Johnson scored with a right foot shot from close in. The goal came from a corner and assists were credited to both Staunton and Teale.
48 minutes: Saunders scored with a right foot shot from long range. The goal came from open play and an assist was credited to Staunton.
67 minutes: Saunders scored with a right foot shot from within the penalty area. The goal came from a penalty and an assist was credited to Taylor.
83 minutes: Yorke scored with a right foot shot from close in. The goal came from open play and assists were credited to both Johnson and Saunders.

Team: Bosnich; Charles, Small, McGrath, Teale, Staunton, Taylor, Townsend, Johnson, Yorke, Saunders.

1994/95: 22nd February, 1995, Premier League v. Leicester City 4-4

Leicester came into this game rooted at the bottom of the league, and Villa were now in 9th place. A confortable win for Villa was therefore anticipated, and when Villa led 4-1 after 65 minutes, their fans were happy and thinking there would be another 7 Villa goals in the offing as occurred only 2 weeks earlier! But Villa clearly forgot that the threat of relegation might be enough for the Foxes to try harder! And so it happened.
 
8 minutes: Saunders scored with a left foot shot from within the penalty area. The goal came from open play and an assist was credited to Staunton. 1-0.
37 minutes: Staunton scored with a left foot shot from long range. The goal came from open play and an assist was credited to Charles. 2-0
60 minutes: Yorke scored with a right foot shot from within the penalty area. The goal came from open play and assists were credited to both Johnson and Charles. 3-0
61 minutes: Robins scored with a right foot shot from within the penalty area. The goal came from a throw-in and an assist was credited to Lowe. 3-1
65 minutes: Johnson scored with a left foot shot from long range. The goal came from open play and assists were credited to both Taylor and Ehiogu. 4-1
77 minutes: Roberts scored with a header from within the penalty area. The goal came from open play and an assist was credited to Galloway. 4-2
80 minutes: Lowe scored with a left foot shot from within the penalty area. The goal came from a corner and an assist was credited to Poole. 4-3
And then, after 90 minutes (at the death!), Lowe scored with a header from close in for the Foxes! 4-4. The goal came from a corner and an assist was credited to Roberts.

Team: Bosnich; Charles, Staunton, Ehiogu, McGrath, Teale, Taylor, Townsend, Johnson, Yorke, Saunders.

1998/99: 7th November, 1998, Premier League v. Spurs 3-2

Dion Dublin, a £5.75million midweek capture from Coventry, made a dream debut for Premiership leaders Aston Villa with a two-goal blast which helped his new side re-write the record books. Villa created an unbeaten start in the Premiership to 11 matches - their best opening to a campaign for 65 years.
 
Dublin quickly made an impact but it was initially the wrong sort as he was booked after only 80 seconds following an aerial challenge with John Scales. Collymore clipped the crossbar with a long range effort but Steffen Iversen should have put the visitors ahead when he stabbed the ball wide from close range after Michael Oakes had beaten out a shot from David Ginola. It proved costly as Dublin, who had already served warning to Tottenham by heading an Alan Wright free-kick just wide, delivered his double goal blast. The first followed a 31st minute from Wright which Tottenham made a mess of trying to clear - and in nipped Dublin to poke the ball home from close range. It made him an instant hero with the Holte End - and four minutes later he had the 40,000 full house in raptures for the second time. This time Anderton and Scales appeared to leave the ball for each other and Dublin needed no second invitation to take advantage of their hesitancy. He surged into the Tottenham area unchallenged and coolly slipped the ball wide of the badly exposed Baardsen. Iversen had another chance to reduce the arrears when he was picked out by a right-wing cross from Ruel Fox - but he sent his header straight at Oakes. Graham tried to rectify matters by bringing on Vega and Andy Sinton at half-time in place of Ruel Fox and Justin Edinburgh. But within three minutes their hopes of a revival appeared to be killed off as Collymore came up trumps with Villa's third goal. He initially miscontrolled a through-ball from Lee Hendrie but was in so much space that he had time to adjust before hammering a right-foot shot past Baardsen. The North London club rallied and Anderton did come close to reducing the arrears with a thunderous 25-yard effort which hit the crossbar and bounced down on the line. But Villa looked as if they would score every time they ventured forward with the help of some dreadful defending. Baardsen beat out a powerful Collymore free-kick and came out to deny Hendrie on the edge of the area while Dublin sent a header only inches wide. Tottenham finally opened their account in the 65th minute. Ginola was brought down just inside the area by Ehiogu and the resulting spot-kick was drilled home by Anderton. Then Vega gave Tottenham real hope when Scales flicked on an Anderton corner and he applied the finishing touch - but Villa survived by the skin of their teeth and the final whistle was greeted by relief as much as joy.

Team: Oakes, Wright, Southgate, Ehiogu, Watson, Taylor, Collymore, Merson, Dublin (Draper 82), Barry, Hendrie.

 

1998/99: 13th December, 1998, Premier League v. Arsenal 3-2

This contribution was provided by VillaTalk regular John Lewis, with many thanks.
Our last home game before Christmas 1998 was witnessed by 39,217 people who had come to see their table-topping favourites have it out with the reigning champions in preference to Christmas shopping! This was a real game of two halves and one that will be equally well remembered for a tragic accident at half time. In the first half, Arsenal handed out a lesson to the pretenders to their title, with Dennis Bergkamp applying 2 clinical finishes to balls from Anelka on 14 and 45 minutes, that had looked to have sealed the game. Certainly those amongst the crowd that had booed off the home team at the break must have felt so. The club had arranged a parachute demonstration for half time when RAF parachutists dressed as Santa were due to drift down onto the playing field. Tragically it was a very blustery day and one of these parachutists clipped the edge of the old Trinity Road stand at Villa Park as he came down and horrified spectators could only look on helplessly as he then plunged the remaining 100 feet onto the track at the edge of the pitch with his parachute now useless. Thankfully he survived the awful fall and was able to return to Villa Park some time later to get the applause he so rightly deserved but he sadly lost a leg due to the accident. Following this, it just didn't seem right to play a game of football, but the decision was made to do so and after a 15 minute delay, Villa bombarded the Arsenal defence with what appeared a "what have we got to lose" mind set. Joachim scored our first on 62 minutes, giving Seaman no chance with a curling right foot shot from a ball from Hendrie. Then just 3 minutes later Dion Dublin equalised, when he just got to a mishit shot from Thompson and diverted the ball past David Seaman. The game looked like ending in a thoroughly entertaining draw until Thompson's 83rd minute corner found Dublin who blasted the ball into the roof of the Arsenal net for his ninth goal in 7 games since moving from Coventry City. This must go down as one of our best comebacks at Villa Park and those 3 second half goals scored in front of the Holte End gave those Villa fans present a great start to the Christmas festivities and reason to have hopes of a successful new year.

Team: Oakes, Wright, Southgate, Ehiogu, Watson, Taylor, Thompson, Joachim (Grayson 86), Dublin, Barry (Collymore 54), Hendrie.

1998/99: 8th May, 1999, Premier League v. Charlton A. 3-4

Alan Curbishley's side showed fantastic fighting qualities all through this penultimate match of the season, but at 3-3 the game finally looked up with Petterson given his marching orders after bringing down Julian Joachim. It was a game that will live in the memory for a long time and even the Villa fans joined in the applause at the final whistle in recognition of Charlton's never-say-die attitude.
 
The game got off to an explosive start with two goals in the first seven minutes - with Gareth Barry scoring at both ends of the pitch. In the third minute, Charlton gave themselves an enormous boost when Barry, under pressure from Graham Stuart, could only help a John Robinson centre into his own net. But four minutes later, the England Under-21 international made amends after a dreadful mistake by Charlton defender Richard Rufus. There appeared little danger when Paul Merson overhit an intended pass in the direction of Joachim. But Rufus, instead of letting the ball run harmlessly through to Petterson, panicked and sent a pass across his own area. The ball fell straight to Barry and his first-time effort from the edge of the area flew past a stranded Petterson for the equaliser. Villa had the lion's share of the possession with Barry making full use of the space in surging forward down the left while Merson was also heavily involved. Charlton were content to rely on the counter-attack but they showed plenty of the kind of commitment expected from a side in their precarious position. After the initial excitement there were few goalmouth incidents in the remainder of the half. The closest Villa came to breaking the deadlock before the interval came from Barry who tested Petterson with a rasping 20 yard drive. At the other end a mis-hit back-pass from Colin Calderwood almost caught out Oakes who had to race out of his goal to clear from Clive Mendonca. Curbishley's battlers gave themselves further hope of staying up when Mendonca restored their lead in the 56th minute. Jones turned the ball onto Mendonca and he skated away from the challenge of Gareth Southgate before planting a rising shot past Oakes. This time their advantage lasted nine minutes before Joachim dragged Villa level for the second time with his 15th goal of the campaign. Barry and substitute Darius Vassell combined down the left before feeding Joachim and he cut the ball across the onrushing Petterson for the equaliser. But incredibly Charlton went in front for the third time in the 68th minute. Jones outpaced Southgate and squared the ball back to Mendonca whose shot ballooned up to Robinson at the far post and his header was ruled to be over the line before Barry's clearance. However, for the third time Villa stormed back and, with Southampton in front at Wimbledon, what looked to be the most crucial time. Wright sent in an inswinging corner, Ugo Ehiogu had one effort blocked and Joachim squeezed the ball in from close range. Charlton's task became even greater with the Petterson sending-off in the 80th minute but then up popped Mills to ensure their fate will not be decided until the final day of the season.
 
For Villa there was a disappointment. It was in the corresponding match at Charlton in December that Villa had won 1-0 and had gone back to the top of the league. That was virtually Villa's last push for the championship, as their season then went into a comparative decline, Villa finally finishing 6th.

Team: Oakes, Watson, Calderwood (Vassell 61), Southgate, Wright, Stone, Draper (Ehiogu 61), Taylor, Barry, Merson,Joachim.

1999/00: 30th January, 2000, FA Cup 5th Round v. Leeds 3-2

This contribution was provided by VillaTalk regular John Lewis, with many thanks.

David O’Leary’s high-flying Leeds side came to Villa Park confident of continuing their FA Cup run at our expense. But, Benito Carbone, giving his best performance in a Villa shirt, had other ideas, and he produced a hat-trick of memorable quality to power Villa into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in front of a 30,000+ crowd.

Villa went behind twice in the opening 45 minutes and looked to be struggling to keep a purposeful and motivated Leeds side within reach. Leeds had gained midfield control, looked dangerous on the break and appeared untroubled by what Villa had to offer up front. But a remarkable turnaround after the break saw Villa camped in the Leeds half for much of the rest of the game and David O'Leary's side were left to defend desperately.

Leeds started strongly and Ian Harte hit their first after 13 minutes. Stephen McPhail floated in an inswinging corner which Eirik Bakke headed downwards. Gareth Southgate and Ugo Ehiogu were unable to clear and the ball found Ian Harte on the edge of the penalty area. The ever-dangerous Irish defender hit a first-time effort which found the left-hand corner of the net.

Villa continued to struggle to make any impression up front. But against the run of play Villa got back on level terms with Carbone’s first of the game. A punt into the penalty area found Steve Watson who headed back across goal and Carbone took one touch to get the ball under control and volleyed a measured low and hard shot past Martyn and into the corner of the net.

Leeds were back in front on the 38th minute. McPhail played a one-two with Harte before delivering a left-wing cross that Bakke beat Wright to and headed past James. Could Villa come back yet again? Possibly, but it seemed unlikely at that point that we could go on to win it.

Villa brought on Mark Delaney for Watson at half-time, pushed more bodies forward and began to get behind the back of the Leeds defence. On 58 minutes Carbone scored a fabulous second. He received the ball some 40 yards from goal and, spotting that Martyn was off his line, hit a dipping effort into the corner of the net leaving the keeper well beaten. Leeds were now on the back foot, the crowd were right behind Villa and after 69 minutes we went in front for the first time as Carbone completed his hat-trick. The goal was made by the bravery and skill of Paul Merson, who having received the ball from Joachim ran into the box, flicking the ball over Leeds defenders twice before meeting his second flick and heading the ball back across goal despite a desperate lunge by Duberry to find Carbone who put away a close-range header. Carbone pulled his shirt off and went wheeling away in delight to celebrate in front of the Holte End. Merse left the field with blood gushing from his head after his clash of heads with Duberry. Leeds staged a late rally and referee Graham Barber added on five minutes injury time but Villa were not to be denied and after such a vibrant game, Villa fans began to feel that this just could be the season they again made an FA Cup Final appearance.

Team: James, Ehiogu, Southgate, Barry, Watson (Delaney 45), Stone, Boateng, Merson (Hendrie 72), Wright, Joachim, Carbone. 

2000s

2001/02: 6th January, 2002, FA Cup 3rd Round v. Man United, 2-3

Villa crashed out of the FA Cup in a pulsating tie that would surely have graced the Millennium Stadium in May. John Gregory made three changes to the starting line-up from the New Year's Day draw at Sunderland, with Paul Merson, George Boateng and Juan Pablo Angel all returning to the 11. Out went Steve Stone, Dion Dublin and Hassan Kachloul. Stone was named on the bench, the other two failing to make the 16.

United recalled England skipper David Beckham, but on-fire striker Ruud van Nistelrooy dropped to the bench, while Ryan Giggs and Fabien Barthez were not in the 16.

The match started at a cracking pace, with players from neither side being allowed much time on the ball in the opening minutes. Angel had the first effort of any description in the fifth minute, firing high and wide from the edge of the United box. Staunton blocked a Scholes effort two minutes later. Veron fired wide on 13, but with both defences largely on top, there very was little for either keeper to do in the first 15 minutes or so.

Beckham finally called his former team mate Schmeichel into action on 25, but though powerfully struck, the England skipper's shot went straight to the Villa No1. Incidents continued to occur during the first half and Silvestre robbed Angel on 44, as the striker latched onto Merson's flick and was just set to pull the trigger.

Chadwick should have opened the scoring within 60 seconds of the restart, but fired over after meeting Keane's incisive through ball. The youngster the shot wide moments later. United demands for a penalty on 50 were ignored by referee Graham Poll. He waved play on as Solskjaer went down under pressure from Staunton. Seconds later Villa had the lead. Hendrie squeezed a pass through for Taylor and the evergreen midfield ace fired past Carroll in the United goal.

It was two on 54 and again Taylor had a hand. This time he was applying the pressure as Phil Neville nodded Merson's lob past his own keeper. Villa's second goal prompted the introduction of van Nistelrooy and within seconds the Dutch ace fired straight at Schmeichel. The same man fired wide of the target on 61. Staunton and Mellberg combined to deny van Nistelrooy five minutes later as the visitors threw everything forward in a bid to grab a lifeline.

United may have been pressing for a goal, but it should have been 3-0 60 seconds later as Vassell powered over a cross from the right and Angel failed to make contact by the narrowest of margins.

But since van Nistelrooy came on there had been a sense that United would recover, and Solskjaer gave the visitors hope on 78 with a brilliant solo effort, ghosting into the Villa box and firing past Schmeichel at the near-post.

It was 2-2 two minutes later as van Nistelrooy turned and fired into the roof of the net, giving  Schmeichel with no chance. Another two minutes passed, before the Dutch ace completed a dramatic turnaround, slotting home
from an acute angle. United's second and third prompted disgraceful pitch invasions from the United fans, completely ruining what, for the neutral, must have been a cracking tie.

Villa tried to ignore the obvious distractions and Samuel broke down the right on 85, only for his cross to be met by Carroll at the near-post.

The tie faded as a spectacle following the pitch invasions and though Villa looked for a way back in, there was none. The United followers invaded yet again after the final whistle.

Scorers: Villa: Taylor 51, Neville 54 (og). Man U: Solskjaer 77, van Nistelrooy 80, 82

Team (starting): Schmeichal; Samuel, Wright, Mellberg, Staunton, Boeteng, Merson, Taylor, Angel, Vassell, Hendrie. Subs used: Barry, Hadji, Stone.

2002/03: 18th December, 2002, FL Cup (Quarter-Final) v. Liverpool 3-4

Villa, who fought all the way, took a 22nd minute lead when Darius Vassell converted a penalty but this advantage was cancelled out within five minutes when fellow England international, Danny Murphy, slotted home a free-kick.

Liverpool were always in contention to the delight of manager Gerard Houllier following their worst spell for 18 years.

Villa, who were without their injured skipper, Steve Staunton, suffered a further setback during the delay before kick-off when Ronny Johnson dropped out of the side with a hamstring injury to be replaced by Mustapha Hadji. It was the former Coventry City player's first start of the season.

Villa were far from outplayed at the start and Liverpool's defence was often at panic stations as indicated when Djimi Traore brought down Vassell for the penalty that was converted by the Villa striker.

But Liverpool's quality emerged brightly when Danny Murphy slotted home a 27th minute free kick after Oyvind Leonhardsen had brought down Milan Baros.

Leonhardsen should have made amends but he wasted a fine opportunity after being set up by the industrious Gareth Barry.

Michael Owen was a handful but the versatile J Lloyd Samuel gave a masterly display to earn top marks for Villa.

But in the 54th minute Baros demonstrated his own class when he collected a John-Arne Riise pass and drilled home a low right-foot shot.

Baros set up Steven Gerrard for Liverpool's third goal in the 66th minute but Villa refused to lie down and Thomas Hitzlsperger pulled back a 72nd minute goal with another of his left-foot specials which whistled past Chris Kirkland.

It set up an explosive finish with Dion Dublin notching an 84th minute equaliser only for the industrious Murphy to complete a seven-goal thriller with Liverpool's winner following a pass from Gerrard.

Team: Enckelman, De la Cruz, Mellberg, Samuel, Barry, Hendrie, Hitzlsperger, Leonhardsen, Hadji, Vassell, Dublin. Subs: Postma, Allback, Angel, Kinsella, Edwards.

2003/04: 17th December, 2003, FL Cup (Quarter-Final) v. Chelsea 2-1

This match proved to be a defining moment for Villa! After having 15 months of very average performances apart from the odd game, Villa went into this match being in the lower reaches of the Premiership and up against a team that this very season had been injected with more than £100,000,000 of investment from its new Russian chairman. The Chelsea 'all-stars', though, had just had a league 'blip' of dropping 5 points in two matches, but everyone thought that Chelsea would be back up for this one with the semi-final the prize. Chelsea (in this match) were subsequently described as the team of the arts, whilst Villa were labelled the team of grit, as they held Chelsea at bay with good performances from all Villa players on view, notably Sorenson, McCann and Angel, ably supported by Mellberg, Johnsen and Barry. There were no weak players, however, although Vassell still did not meet his standard of a year or two before.

But it was Villa that had the outstanding player in Juan Pablo Angel, who scored a spectacular early opener and was a constant threat with his movement and touch. Angel's goal was pure class. Taking advantage of a Chelsea defender's failure to control a high ball from Villa's defence, Angel collected the ball 40 yards out, swerved delightfully away from Terry (the Chelsea centre-back), and from more than 20 yards hit a curved shot inside Sullivan's left-hand post. Then, late in the second-half, when Neil Sullivan failed to hold the Colombian's shot, McCann followed up to slide in the decider. At 1-1 deep into the last quarter, punters had been expecting Chelsea to press on and win, but Villa then proved they had iron in their soul! It was Sorenson (after a superb save from Cole on 39 minutes and a good stop from the same player on 82 minutes), who made a terrific point blank save from Terry in injury time that prevented another Chelsea equaliser and secured Villa's place in the semi-finals, against Bolton Wanderers.

Team (4-4-2): Sorensen; Delaney, Mellberg, Johnsen, Samuel; Hendrie (Hitzlsperger, 70), McCann, Whittingham, Barry; Vassell (S Moore, 52), Angel (Crouch, 83).

 

2003/04: 12th April, 2004, Premier League v. Chelsea 3-2

Chelsea came to get revenge after being tipped out of the League Cup the previous December, but Aston Villa's three goalscorers Darius Vassell, Thomas Hitzlsperger and Lee Hendrie, did not cost Villa a single penny in transfer fees in sharp contrast to the millions spent by Chelsea who suffered a rare setback.

The measure of Villa's outstanding win was a true reflection of their finishing power as they raced in sixth spot and another step closer to European football next season.

Chelsea's surprise defeat opened the door for Manchester United to move closer to the runners-up spot and was due in the main to their indifferent finishing. The result hardly justified Claudio Ranieri including only three players from the side held to a draw by Middlesbrough on Saturday but there was no dramatic improvement in a game of contrasting fortunes.

The Champions League favourites made a blistering start and threatened to over-run Villa when Hernan Crespo put them ahead after only nine minutes when Adrian Mutu's shot hit the post and bounced back into the path of the Chelsea striker. Villa, to their credit, held on grimly in this period to produce their best result of the season.

The game, however, effectively changed direction as a result of a 36th minute penalty when Mario Melchiot needlessly fouled Gareth Barry. Vassell converted the spot-kick to immediately raise Villa's hopes. But Villa's purple patch occurred in a three minute spell at the start of the second half when shell-shocked Chelsea were completely destroyed as a result of some uncharacteristic weak defensive work.

Unlike Chelsea and their star-studded squad Villa are down to the bare bones after releasing 12 players during the season. But they surprised a lot of people by enjoying a better than expected season. This was exemplified with their unlikely success over a Chelsea side which conceded only three goals for the second time this season.

Chelsea, beaten for only the sixth time this term, had no excuse as they were caught cold at the start of the second half.

The Londoners failed to heed the warning when Vassell had a shot parried by Marco Ambrosio when the ball rebounded into the path of Peter Crouch who amazingly shot wide of an open goal. But this was all forgotten two minutes later when Vassell put a short pass into the path of Hitzlsperger.

Much to the delight of the Villa fans the German hammered in a powerful left-footed low drive past Ambrosio. Before a shell-shocked Chelsea had any time to recover they found themselves deeper in trouble in the 51st minute. A throw-in to the near post by Jlloyd Samuel was flicked on by Crouch to Hendrie who swivelled and shot from close range for the third goal.

Ranieri used his three substitutions but Villa were in no mood to allow Chelsea back into the game despite some industrious work by Scott Parker. But they were generally off the pace and never really threatened to pull the game out of the fire with Crespo obtaining his second goal in the last minute of the game.

Team: Sorensen, De la Cruz, Mellberg, Johnsen, Samuel, Hendrie (Whittingham 55), McCann, Hitzlsperger, Barry, Vassell (Dublin 88), Crouch (Luke Moore 82). Subs not used: Postma, Ridgewell.

2004/05: 28th August, 2004, Premier League v. Newcastle Utd 4-2

Juan Pablo Angel helped to turn up the pressure on Newcastle United boss Sir Bobby Robson as Aston Villa pulled off a stunning victory in a six-goal thriller at Villa Park. Sir Bobby's position was at the centre of intense speculation after a winless start to the campaign and Angel's 82nd minute strike to seal Villa's win only added to his problems.

Robson gambled on dropping the United legend Alan Shearer to the bench for only the second time in five years to try and spark a change in fortunes for his team and the move almost paid dividends. Patrick Kluivert, who was called up in place of Shearer, scored his first goal for the club since his arrival from Barcelona.

Kluivert's 27th minute equaliser cancelled out Villa's fourth minute opener from skipper Olof Mellberg. Central defender Andrew O'Brien then looked to have put United on course for a badly needed success.

It was Carlton Cole who dragged David O'Leary's side level in the 53rd minute before Gareth Barry fired Villa in front after 71 minutes. Substitute Angel, who is on the comeback trail after knee surgery, sealed the success eight minutes from time as Villa secured only their second home win against United in 12 attempts. Robson did send on Shearer in the 76th minute but by then the damage had been done - leaving United with just two points from their opening four games. In contrast, Villa can boast a 100 per cent home record and the success was just the response that O'Leary wanted after their 3-0 defeat at Charlton in midweek.

Newcastle were caught cold after just four minutes as Mellberg produced a carbon copy of the goal he scored in last Sunday's local derby at West Bromwich Albion. Ironically, that goal was also a fourth minute header. The only difference was that this time Mellberg converted a corner from Nolberto Solano. At The Hawthorns he had headed home a free-kick from Thomas Hitzlsperger.

The shock of conceding so soon rocked Newcastle and they were fortunate not to fall further behind two minutes later when Cole headed just wide. But Newcastle proved to be made of stern stuff as they worked their way into the game and the only real surprise was that it took them until the 27th minute to equalise.

Laurent Robert caused chaos in the Villa area after 11 minutes with a centre that fell to Jermaine Jenas whose shot was then hacked to safety by Mellberg. Jenas then headed a Robert centre inches over the bar eight minutes later before Nicky Butt forced goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen into a smart save after 19 minutes.

Despite all their pressure, United were still fortunate not to fall further behind when goalkeeper Shay Given did well to turn away a shot from Darius Vassell with his feet in the 25th minute. It proved to be a vital save by the Republic of Ireland international as United were able to draw level two minutes later when Kluivert finished off a classy move. The Dutchman was picked out by a neat pass from Butt. Kluivert was closely marked by central defender Mark Delaney, but he skilfully turned the Welsh international before beating Sorensen with a low drive from 12 yards. That goal really sparked Kluivert into life and it needed a stunning save from Sorensen to stop him scoring his second.

Danish international Sorensen had to be at full stretch in the 35th minute to tip an 18-yard drive from Kluivert over the bar. But that save only served to frustrate United for 60 seconds. When Villa failed to fully clear a corner from Robert, Craig Bellamy fired in a second centre that O'Brien deftly headed home from six yards.

Having seen their advantage taken away, Villa made a determined bid to try and draw level before half-time and almost succeeded when Solano crashed a 39th minute close-range header against the bar. While they managed to escape on that occasion, their luck failed to hold and they were pegged back nine minutes into the second half.

United were undone after a powerful run and shot by Barry. Given was unable to hold his low drive and the rebound fell kindly for Cole who forced the ball over the line with his chest from a yard. Villa had noticeably stepped up a gear at the start of the second half and they were able to pen United back for long spells.

While Sorensen did have to beat away a 56th minute free-kick from Robert, Villa always looked the more threatening side in attack. That proved to be the case when Solano whipped in a pin-point cross 19 minutes from time. It whistled across the face of the United goal and flew straight to Barry who headed home at the far post.

The introduction of talisman Shearer came too late to save United and Angel ended their comeback hopes when his shot from 20 yards bounced off O'Brien and looped over the stranded Given to sum up the Magpies' dismal day.

Team: Sorensen, Delaney, Mellberg, Barry, Samuel, De la Cruz, McCann, Solano, Hitzlsperger (Hendrie 60), Cole (Angel 70), Vassell (Moore 86). Subs not used: Postma, Whittingham.

 

2008/09: 26th December, 2008, Premier League v. Arsenal 2-2

Only a few weeks before, the Villa had scored a magnificent and unexpected 2-0 win at Arsenal, and since then had been undefeated in the League, the last three games having been won. Villa went into this match in fourth place, three points ahead of the Arsenal and threatening take-over of Arsenal's claim to be the fourth of the top-4.

Villa and Arsenal went into the game with absentee problems. For Arsenal, Adebayor and Fabregas were unavailable, and Johann Djourou was replaced at late notice by Kolo Toure, after pulling up in the warm-up. Arsenal’s other change was the appearance of utility man Diaby in place of French full-back Gael Clichy, who was among the substitutes.

In front of a capacity 42,000+ crowd, Villa had both captain Laursen and fellow-defender Cuellar out through injury, causing Villa to play two full-backs out of their natural positions, and the usually susceptible Knight as Davis' partner. Carew remained unavailable after several weeks absence with a back injury.

Villa were happy to press forward from the off and saw a James Milner cross whistle inches above Ashley Young’s leap. And they nearly secured a sixth-minute lead when Steve Sidwell crashed a header from Gareth Barry against the woodwork. Martin O'Neill and Arsene Wenger were both seen prowling around their technical area like caged tigers - MON would be happier with his team's start.

On 11 mins, Curtis Davies gets his angles all wrong as he heads wide from a fantastic Gareth Barry centre from the left, and misses a very good chance. Minutes after, Zat Knight makes a wondrous last-ditch tackle to deny the onrushing Robin Van Persie, who looks ready to pull the trigger from close-range. Then Luke Young, not renowned for his attacking instincts, fires in a slightly-deflected 20-yard drive, which Manuel Almunia does well to tip over.

Villa again spurned a brilliant chance in the 20th minute. Agbonlahor produced a burst of pace to go beyond William Gallas but saw his bending effort saved by Almunia and as Sidwell ran in to convert the rebound, Gallas deflected his shot wide.

Luke Young had been here, there and everywhere in the opening stages of this clash. If only the supporters had a chant for him.

Alex Song was booked in the 25th minute for a cynical foul on Stiliyan Petrov as Villa, looking for a fourth successive league win, continued to press. 'Holte Enders In the Sky' reverberated around Villa Park - and rightly so!! Villa were excelling.

Almunia made another sublime save in the 34th minute when Milner beat the advancing Arsenal defence to slide in and connect with Luke Young’s cross from deep, only for the Spaniard to get down quickly and smother the ball as it came off the post.

Toure was next in the book for fouling Agbonlahor. From the resulting free-kick Davies found himself in space and hooked a brilliant chip-shot goalwards only to see it hit the bar. Barry then saved Villa as he made a crucial tackle inside the box but somehow Arsenal hit them with a sucker punch in the 39th minute. Denilson collected the ball near the half-way line and burst forward. When his pass to Eboue broke loose inside the box, following Reo-Coker's error in not clearing first-time, the Brazilian kept sprinting forward and reached it first to fire home an unlikely opener.

Wenger then sent youngster Aaron Ramsey on for fellow midfielder Song shortly before the break while Villa again came agonisingly close. Nigel Reo-Coker’s launched ball forward was met by Agbonlahor and with Almunia beaten, it needed Bacary Sagna’s acrobatic clearance to keep their lead intact as the ball came close to looping over the line.

The Villa had dominated the first-half, but reached half-time a goal down. And, amazingly and against all odds, Villa were two goals down barely three minutes into the second half. Diaby won the ball near the half-way line on the right touchline and did brilliantly to break forward quickly. He fed Eboue on the edge of the box but continued his run to collect the return ball and fire past the despairing Brad Friedel.

On 55 mins Villa finally get some luck of their own as Robin Van Persie's close-range drive fires into Brad Friedel's right-hand post. The Dutch forward should really have scored. Five minutes later, Curtis Davies does brilliantly to block Samir Nasri's goalbound shot.

Villa were still fighting, however, and they got a lifeline in the 64th minute when referee Lee Mason awarded a penalty. James Milner released Agbonlahor down the right with a simple ball and when Gallas made a clumsy challenge, the England striker went down. Stand-in captain Barry stepped up to send Almunia the wrong way, while the two managers exchanged heated words on the touchline.

Villa’s hopes of an equaliser looked slim but were boosted by the awarding of four minutes of added time and their prayers were soon answered. The ball came to Barry from Petrov's cross into the box and when the ball landed in the path of stand-in defender Knight, the centre-back smashed home a late left-footed equaliser from around 12 yards, showing excellent finishing skills.

The closing stats revealed the extent of Villa's superiority.

Villa: 12 shots on target, 5 off target; 3 attempts had hit the woodwork.

Arsenal: 6 shots on target, 2 off target; 1 attempt had hit the woodwork.

Team: Friedel; Reo-Coker, Davies, Knight, Luke Young; Ashley Young, Sidwell, Barry, Petrov, Milner; Agbonlahor.

2009/10: 20th January, 2010, FL Cup (Semi-Final, second leg) v. Blackburn Rovers 6-4

Aston Villa battled back from a 30-minute horror show to reach the Carling Cup final after an extraordinary last-four, second leg with 10-man Blackburn.

Villa, 1-0 first-leg winners, were behind to a Nikola Kalinic brace before Stephen Warnock powered the ball home.

James Milner's penalty when Christopher Samba saw red, a Steven Nzonzi own goal, a touch by Gabriel Agbonlahor and an Emile Heskey strike seemed enough.

Then Martin Olsson and Brett Emerton gave Rovers hope before Ashley Young scored.

The goalkeeper, who has started all of Villa's cup ties this season, looked even more uncertain as the visitors took the lead.

David Dunn's corner tempted the American into an ill-advised attempt to punch the ball and Kalinic, who hit the post twice in the first leg, comfortably outmuscled Warnock to nod home.

Four of Kalinic's five goals since arriving at Ewood Park in the summer have now been in the League Cup and he forced James Collins into a lunging block after wriggling free down the left.

The Croatian then started and finished the move that put his side ahead for the first time in the tie. After laying the ball into the path of Pedersen, Kalinic continued his run into the box and was on hand to tap home after Guzan had done well to push away Olsson's header.

Villa needed an immediate response to lift their fans and Warnock provided it inside four minutes, ruthlessly dispatching a finish after Ashley Young's cross cleared a tumbling Ryan Nelsen.

The momentum was with O'Neill's side and the match swung decisively the hosts' way as Agbonlahor's pace took him clear of Samba in the race for a long ball over the top.

The defender's desperate sliding challenge only succeeded in earning him a straight red card and conceding a spot-kick. Milner confidently converted the penalty once Atkinson had waved away protests from Blackburn's players. With Carlos Cuellar and Warnock pushing forward, Villa soon had the depleted Blackburn rearguard stretched.

Samba's absence was notable as his team-mates failed to deal with Downing's inswinging corner and Ngonzi put the ball into his own net just before Richard Dunne could.

Five minutes later, Milner's fierce shot deflected off the arm of the cowering Agbonlahor to beat Robinson's dive and prompt the unfurling of the free flags distributed to the home supporters.

When Heskey was slipped in by Milner's cute pass and rounded Robinson to score, it appeared the tie would then turn into a procession but Olsson's strike kept the encounter competitive. The young Swede flung himself into the air to send a spectacular overhead volley past Guzan before loudly exhorting more of the same from his side.

Robinson made superb saves from Heskey and Agbonlahor before Emerton's apparently harmless volley found its way past Guzan to breathe life into Blackburn's faint hopes with six minutes remaining.

However, the required onslaught never came and Young curled a finish past the outstretched Robinson to put Villa into their first final since the 2000 FA Cup.

Team: Guzan; Cuellar, Collins, Dunne, Warnock; Ashley Young, Milner, Petrov, Downing (Sidwell 86); Agbonlahor, Heskey

2010s

2010/11: 13th November, 2010, Premier League v. Man United 2-2

Villa's midfield injury list was of crisis proportions as Jonathan Hogg was called on as a third-choice option to make his debut. Already in the team were the youngsters Albrighton and Bannan, who had been building a reputation for some games before this one.

This was probably Villa's best performance against United since 1995 when goals from Taylor, Draper and Yorke gave Villa their last home league win against them. Their then bunch of kids would go on to dominate English football after that 3 – 1 defeat but Villa's own kids ran Fergie’s current team very, very close in this match! United looked shell-shocked by the way Villa had opened them up in the second half and went into a 2-0 lead in a four minute spell after 72 mins, making it appear (with 15 minutes play left) that Villa would win in this fixture for the first time in 15 years. Within a few minutes of that, Downing also went very close with a rasping effort from distance.

The first half gave little indication of what the second half had in store for us and Villa hit a lot of wayward passes in the first 20 minutes. Both teams cancelled each other out and there was a lack of action in both penalty areas. But the second half was so different and on 66 minutes Villa had a ten minute purple patch during which Villa were denied by the woodwork twice and scored two fine goals through Ashley Young (penalty, after a slicing move had ripped open United) and Albrighton (who again finished off a slicing move).

Stung by United's wilingness to be torn apart, Ferguson sent on replacements, and one - Macheda (who created havoc for Villa at Old Trafford two years before) - took only 5 minutes to give United hope with a rasping shot from the edge of the area. Even Houllier admitted afterwards that he felt at that point United would get another - and they did. But though United were allowed 5 minutes of extra time for no reason, they could not turn the game round completely in their favour.

United's ability to get something from nothing at Villa Park (this time after an unbeaten record in the preceding 12 games of this season) again manifested itself. But Villa outplayed them for the majority of the second half and stopped them from having a scoring opportunity for all but the last 10 minutes of normal time except after the first 15 minutes. Villa came so close to being the first team to beat them this season and that they left with a point knowing they had got out of jail against a injury-hit team showed that Villa were getting better with each game. Villa's youngsters had done well, and could just form the nucleus of a trophy-winning future Villa team.

Team: Friedel; L.Young, Collins, Dunne, Warnock; Albrighton, Ashley Young, Bannon, Hogg, Downing; Agbonlahor

2013/14: 28th September, 2013, Premier League v. Man City 3-2

Not having super-scorer Benteke nor Agbonlahor available (plus two other leading players unavailable) for the home league match versus high-flying Man City left Villa looking like a mosquito without a tail. Indeed, the manager chose a 3-man defence with the addition of 2 wing-backs, with City dominating the exchanges in the first-half and forcing back the two wing-backs to act purely as extra defenders. In this period the Villa managed to restrict City to one goal without putting any shots on goal themselves and enjoying only about 30% possession.

What happened in the second half was pure theatre, as Villa (still not keeping more than 34% possession) twice came back from behind and then actually took the lead with 15 minutes to go – and won! City, despite all their possession and shots, still did not put enough pressure on Villa's keeper.

This win was the first time that Villa had won against a top side at home for quite a while, and also prevented a record as the worst home start of the season since 1946.

Villa's side had a marked difference to the team last reported (in 2010). No-one in the 2010 side played this time (Agbonlahor was injured this time, Albrighton was on the bench and all the other players had been transferred), and virtually all the players in 2010 were from the UK and Ireland. This time the team consisted of just 3 UK and Ireland players.

Team: Guzan; Bacuna, Vlaar, Baker, Clark, Luna; El Ahmadi, Weimann, Delph, Sylla; Kozak

2013/14: 29th January, 2014, Premier League v. West Bromwich A. 4-3

Villa had returned to a series of lackluster home performances, and when Albion went 2-0 ahead after 9 minutes, the first a cracking drive from distance on 3 minutes that surprised everyone, the second an unfortunate diversion by Delph to score an own goal. The worst was feared, but within 3 minutes Villa pulled one back.

Having restored equality within another 10 minutes, Villa amazingly went 3-2 up in the 36th minute when Delph received a nod on from Benteke, swept passed his marker and cracked in a thunderbolt off the bar. It was end-to-end stuff and though Albion soon after drew level again, and the second half had subsided in the entertainment stakes, a penalty was awarded to Villa, which Benteke put home with aplomb.

Both sides had other good opportunities to score and the result could have been 6-5.

Team: Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Bertrand; Bacuna, Westwood, El Ahmadi, Delph; Weimann, Benteke

 

2017/18: 10th March, 2018, Championship v Wolves 4-1

Villa were lying in 3rd place and had a good run since the beginning of the year. However, Cardiff were keeping Villa away from the second automatic promotion place as Villa came to play the league-leaders, Wolves. A game that really needed to be won to keep up the chance of auto-promotion, but Villa fans feared the worst against a skilful Wolves side.

Villa took an early but scrambled lead, but Wolves scored an almost similar scrambled equaliser 12 minutes later. The Villa had been slightly the better team at half-time in an energetic and fine match.

In the second half Villa were precise and successful, scoring three further goals, all well taken, particularly the last, scored by Bjarnason, who beat three players before stabbing home from outside the penalty area. Villa then relaxed a bit and Wolves might have pulled a goal or two back in the closing minutes.

Team: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Taylor; Snodgrass, Jedinak, Hourihane, Adomah; Grealish; Grabban. Subs: (second half)  Bjarnason (Adomah), Lansbury (Hourihane), Hogan (Grabban)