VILLA LAY DOWN A STATEMENT OF INTENT AFTER FIVE STAR PERFORMANCE HELPS THEM TO MUCH NEEDED WIN IN EXMOUTH
- James Howe x 4
- Steven Boyce x 2
- Harry Coombe x 1
- Curtis Goff x 1
- Leo Scrace x 1
- Tom Rhodes x 1
With just three points from seven games going into this one, Villa knew they needed a victory to kick-start their season but it was never going to be easy against an Exmouth III side who have suffered just as much in the 2018/19 campaign so far.
On what was a cold and blustery day up on the hills of Exmouth, the home side adapted quickest to the conditions and a fast paced start from the first whistle immediately laid pressure on Villa.
It took Exmouth III just 90 seconds to find the back of the net, attacking in numbers down the right hand side of midfield before teeing up a cross that found Villa defender Dom Tree, who’s attempted clearance bundled off his weaker foot and into new goalkeeper Jake White’s net.
Things soon went from bad to worse as Exmouth III capitalised on their early momentum with a long range attempt by their centre forward that lofted over the Villa keeper and nestled into the bottom corner.
So, 2-0 down in five minutes and it looking like a familiar picture for Villa this season, something was needed to break up play and turn this into a level playing field. Step up Harry Coombe, who managed to rise highest from a Todd Scrace cross and inject some fight back into the tie.
It didn’t take long for Villa to build on their comeback as Steven Boyce added yet another goal to his tally this season, cooly finishing off a chance that left the keeper without a chance.
All square and plenty to play for, Villa started to come into the game and a quick-fire brace from James Howe, who had been toying with the Exmouth defence, soon helped manager Leigh Brooks breath a sigh of relief as he saw his side rewarded for their hard work in all areas of the pitch.
Curtis Goff then joined the goalscoring party, latching on to another long-range pass from Scrace before finding the top left corner of the net with a powerful strike that left the Exmouth III keeper scrambling the ball out of his goalmouth yet again.
Some neat passages of play soon after that helped Villa control this fixture, this time Scrace’s younger brother Leo becoming a star of the show on the left hand side of midfield, a performance that left us wondering whether he is truly ‘The Greatest Showman’.
Half-time came and some experienced words from Brooks and stand-in captain Todd Scrace ensured the boys didn’t get carried away with how things were going. At 5-2 up, many would imagine that was job done but not when it comes to the Villa, who were itching to get back on the field and repeat their performance.
Concentration was certainly an instruction picked up on from the defence who began to play a big part in the second half by controlling the tempo of the game from the back.
Full-backs Dom Tree and Lee Jenner made themselves available on a regular basis to get the ball moved wide immediately from goal-kicks and corners as Villa went chasing for a sixth.
A short break in play led to Liam Holmes hobbling off with a knee injury, a sad sight given his ability to dictate the transition from defence to attack. Nevertheless, he was replaced by Max Rawlings who soon adapted to playing centrally for a change, picking out the gaps in Exmouth’s defence whilst doing the hard work of tracking back.
Exmouth by no means played down to the fact they were trailing by three, and it took a while for Villa to see the game out of sight, Steven Boyce grabbing his second of the game whilst keeping his cool one-on-one with the keeper.
Brooks then made his second change of the game as Tom Rhodes switched with Goff in another attacking substitution. Rhodes’ energy was just what the doctor ordered, running the Exmouth defence ragged with his menacing display of pace in behind the defence, constantly giving the midfielders an option.
It was this change that really helped Howe make it a day to remember, adding two goals in quick succession to leave him on four for the game. Job done, he was soon whisked off for an early shower as Brooks made his third and final rotation, bringing on Freddie Burnett to sure up the defence and let Tree have a stint in the middle of the park.
With the game coming to a close, Exmouth’s spirit was soon dampened even further as Rhodes and Leo Scrace made it double digits for the Villa, matching their highest win ratio under Brooks’ reign. You could tell that goal meant the world to Scrace, who had simply done everything right up until that moment, so you can imagine the roar that came from the bench as he poked home number 10!
Ultimately, it was three points that mattered here but Villa showed they were more than just a side that can find the back of the net. Not once did Exmouth sit back and give up, this was a test of two sides who really wanted to prove a point, and I think in that sense both were winners.
WORDS FROM THE BOSS, LEIGH BROOKS:
I couldn’t be any prouder of my lads after fighting back from two goals down. Unfortunately, the manner in which we conceded concerns me and I’ll be looking to ensure that we continue to minimalise mistakes, especially at the back. The resilience and drive from all eleven lads on the pitch was fantastic, the football we played was the best I’ve ever seen from the Villa sides I’ve managed and to be able to stil build on this and improve excites me as a manager. The result on paper probably looks like we gave Exmouth a hammering but that couldn’t be further from the truth. That Exmouth side played with grit, dug their hells in, kept their heads up and continued to play football until the final whistle. It was by no means a walkover and I felt we earned this emphatic victory.
Next up for Villa is a return to Kensham Park as they look to welcome Central II and push on with a second successive victory that could see them return to the top half of the table.