West Midlands Football Blog
12th August 2016
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Aston Villa

Aston Villa’s opening two games of the 2016/17 season went from bad to worse. A frustrating 1-0 defeat away to Sheffield Wednesday last Sunday preceded an embarrassing 3-1 defeat to Luton Town in the League Cup. Despite dominating in the first half, Wednesday were unable to break the deadlock. After half-time it was Villa who looked more likely to take all three points, until Fernando Forestieri slotted home with just five minutes to go - A draw for either side would have been fair.

For many connected to the Club, the EFL Cup First Round fixture away at Luton was viewed as a confidence boosting exercise. The Villans started well, dominating the League Two opposition and hitting the woodwork a few times. When Jordan Ayew netted the opener after 13 minutes Villa should have gone on to score two or three more before the break, but it was the home side who found the net next as Jake Gray equalised for the Hatters. Suspect defending from Villa in the second half allowed Cameron McGeehan to put Luton ahead before Jores Okore sealed Villa’s fate with a hilarious own goal.

Villa now look to the weekend where they host Rotherham – a team expected to struggle this season. For a team looking to get promoted, this game should be earmarked for three points. On Tuesday, Huddersfield visit Villa Park and the Claret & Blues will hope to get three points from them as well.

Since the Luton embarrassment Villa have looked to strengthen further with James Chester coming in, renewed interest in Miles Jedinak and a £17 million bid for a Serie A teenager, Aston Villa mean business and it looks like Dr. Tony Xia wants to prevent a repeat of the Luton debacle.

thebestofbirmingham predicts:

Aston Villa 2-0 Rotherham United

Aston Villa 2-1 Huddersfield

Birmingham City

The Blues fared better than their neighbours in their opening clash in Small Heath, earning themselves a point after a goalless draw with 2013 champions Cardiff City. By all accounts it seems to have been a fair result, even if the stats slightly favour the Bluebirds.

On Tuesday night the Blues hosted League One side Oxford United, and to the premature joy of their claret & blue neighbours, lost one nil thanks to a Liam Sercome extra-time goal, in front of 7,202 fans. Despite having 21 shots, only eight were on target, prompting worry from manager Gary Rowett, who has seemingly gone out looking for a striker. It looks like that could be in the form of Dundee forward Greg Stewart, who is at the time of writing this, reportedly in the Second City for a medical. Whilst former Paget Rangers striker Jack Storer looked promising, he was lucky to escape the Oxford tie with just a yellow card.

Up next for Rowett’s boys in blue is a trip to Elland Road, where they face Garry Monk’s Leeds United, who languish in bottom place following an opening day 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Queens Park Rangers. Monk will hope to bounce back immediately, and it could be a tough game for the Blues. Following Leeds, the Blues travel back up north to League One champions Wigan Athletic - which should be an easier fixture.

thebestofbirmingham predicts:

Leeds United 1-1 Birmingham City

Wigan Athletic 0-0 Birmingham City

West Bromwich Albion

Premier League football returns for the Baggies as they face a trip to Croydon, where they face fellow Christian Benteke fans, Crystal Palace. It’s not a bad place for the Albion to start, but neither side seems to have done much in the transfer window so it’s hard to tell how West Brom will fair.

Meanwhile the takeover seems to be in limbo and fans have been left puzzled by the Club selling James Chester. Saido Berahino’s move to Stoke City seems to be on hold, whether that’s because of new ownership or the Baggies are just waiting to secure a replacement no one knows.

thebestofbirmingham predicts:

Crystal Palace 2-1 West Bromwich Albion

Wolverhampton Wanderers

A billionaire owner taking over the club and a new head coach at the helm has given Wolverhampton Wanderers fans high expectation going into the 2016/17 season. So at first glance, a 2-2 draw away at relegation favourites Rotherham seems a poor result, but on the scale of things with Wolves going 2-0 down and down to 10 men early in the second half, it doesn’t seem that bad a result.

Two goals in the first 20 minutes put Rotherham up 2-0 and coasting heading into half-time. This was until ex-Chelsea man George Saville beat the offside trap to smartly round the advancing Millers keeper.

Knowing that Wolves were handed a lifeline, they came out from the interval the brighter out the two sides and nearly equalised within the first 60 seconds of the second half. All their effort was thwarted because on the 52nd minute, England under-21 international Dominic Iorfa was shown the red card for a tangle with Jake Forster-Caskey. As Wolves looked to regroup they tested out a 4-3-2 formation and a 3-4-2 formation looking to not go further behind, but also to hit Rotherham on the counter attack. With everything now going against Wolves, against the run of play they got back into the game when two of the new boys combined to get the equaliser. Substitute João Teixeira slid in Icelandic striker Jón Daði Böðvarsson who superbly finished from a tight angle.

Wolves first game at Molinuex this campaign came against League Two side Crawley Town in the EFL Cup. Wolves earned themselves a morale boosting victory 2-1 victory seeing themselves progress into the second round that will have them playing Cambridge United w/c 22nd Aug.

It’s clear that Walter Zenga needs to strengthen his squad if they are to mount a serious play-off push. Speculation continues over the potential signings of Anderson Talisca, Luis Alberto, Peter Crouch and David Nugent, but as yet no statement from any of the clubs involved.

Next up for Wolves is Jaap Stam’s Reading who have seen them pick up 2 wins out of 2 since Stam took over at the helm.

thebestofbirmingham predicts:

Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-1 Reading

Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 Ipswich Town

Walsall

Walsall quickly showed signs of getting over last season’s play-off heartache with a comfortable 3-1 victory against League One new-boys Wimbeldon.

New signing Erhun Oztumer opened his and Walsall’s account for the season with a gloriously taken free kick after only seven minutes. Fellow new boy Simeon Jackson netted a brace on his debut with goals on the 38 & 72 minutes. A consolation penalty for The Dons in the 90th minute from Luke Taylor was only in vain as The Saddlers run away as 3-1 winners.

Mid-week saw The Saddlers take on Yeovil Town in the first round of EFL Cup. Walsall fielded a strong team against their League Two opposition but came up short and were knocked out at the first hurdle. With the both teams failing to break the deadlock in the first 90 minutes, the game went into extra time where The Glovers took advantage of The Saddlers fatigue and took the game 2-0 AET with goals from Campbell and a goal from his own half from Dolan.

Talk this week has be centred on Saddlers starlet Rico Henry being linked away from the Banks’s Stadium. Henry is said to be very sought after with teams such as Bristol City, Leeds and Brentford linked to the 19 year old left sided full back. If Henry is to be moved away from the Saddlers, it is reported that Walsall will request a fee of around £2m.

Next up for Jon Whitney’s men is an away trip to Boundary Park as they take on Oldham Athletic.

thebestofbirmingham predicts:

Oldham Athletic 1 -1 Walsall

Chesterfield 0-1 Walsall

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