Carling Cup – City 2 Villa 3
This should have been no contest. After all they had a virtually full-strength team, unbeaten in the Premiership this season and the Mighty Martin; we fielded a patched-up, injury – ravaged mid-table Championship side with as many regulars missing as playing. Yet we had a stirring game which went right to the wire with very little to choose between the sides and a crowd of over 27 000 certainly got their moneys-worth.
This was heralded as the night when the City faithful would pay tribute to arguably the best manager we have ever had but Martin was in no hurry to emerge from the tunnel and there was barely time for a decent round of applause before the game kicked off.
City dominated the first five minutes and then went a goal down in Villa's first attack. Agbonlahor got free in acres of space down the right by timing his run to perfection. The City defence, having been turned, was in disarray and Agbonlahor's low cross was tapped in by Angel as if on the training ground.
The City of not so long back would have buckled at this point but Kelly's men – and boys – rolled up their sleeves and gave as good as they got. We saw Welsh running at defenders and tackling aggressively and even Sylla, with some urging from the crowd, got stuck in. It was no more than we deserved when a shot from a left-wing corner was blocked but fell to Stearman who dispatched it past Taylor (he who was on loan here not long ago) with ease…..