Aston Villa end FA Cup woes as Matty Cash strike sees them past Middlesbrough

Matty Cash - Aston Villa end FA Cup woes as Matty Cash strike sees them past Middlesbrough

To put Aston Villa’s dreadful recent FA Cup record into context, their last victory in the competition heading into this fixture was before the Brexit vote. It was a time when Micah Richards was a player rather than a national treasure as a pundit on television studio sofa. Rémi Garde was manager and Wycombe Wanderers were seen off in a replay, with the best part of a decade passing since.

That run without a win, stretching back to 2016, was ended with two minutes left on the clock at the Riverside Stadium, with Matty Cash’s winner that deflected in off the backside of Emmanuel Latte Lath. Cue wild celebrations at the Villa end, who travelled down the M1 celebrating victory. Many would have forgotten what an FA Cup victory felt like.

Unai Emery has pulled off miracles since he arrived at Villa and his latest is getting the team into the hat for the fourth round. He described it as a victory of maturity and progression. Given he oversaw the last season’s defeat to Stevenage, it was a huge stride forward to get past the first hurdle. The priority this season has been maintaining high-flying status in the Premier League and also the Europa Conference. But how these Villa fans would love a trip to Wembley again after reaching the final just a year before their losing streak started.

Emery held a meeting at the team hotel before his squad set off for the Riverside and he went around his players asking how they had fared in the cup. “We were speaking before the match about how successful they were in this competition. Not a lot. Only Emi Martinez and Calum Chambers,” said Emery. Chambers was on Arsenal’s open-top bus parade in 2015, but he was not involved in the final.

“A long time ago, Aston Villa was successful with seven titles and we are here for another step ahead in this club, trying to be in different competitions and be contenders. One of these is the FA Cup. We know this is very difficult but we are ambitious as well. We will respect the competition and respect the opponent as well.”

While Villa have suffered unfortunate draws during their dismal run – Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham have knocked them out – it is a shameful record for a club steeped in cup tradition. They have not always had top-flight status during the period of losses, yet always had players who win a tie on a given day.

Here, they came close to scoring through Ezri Konsa hitting the post with a header, while Tom Glover pulled off a series of excellent saves. But just as the match was heading towards what nobody wanted – a replay – Cash popped up with his late winner.

Matt Cash (C) - Aston Villa end FA Cup woes as Matty Cash strike sees them past Middlesbrough
Cash's deflected strike was the difference to deny the Championship club victory - Getty Images/George Wood

“The manager made it really clear when we spoke at the hotel,” said Cash. “We talked about how far we had been in the he asked the players. Since I have been here, I haven’t been past the third round so it was nice to finally do it.”

Boro themselves could have been forgiven for having eyes on a bigger prize. They are hosting Chelsea in an EFL Cup semi-final on Tuesday with Wembley in their sights against a team that have looked the definition of ‘beatable’ at times this season. Michael Carrick’s team, however, were effective on the counter-attack and could have been ahead through Morgan Rodgers or Isaiah Jones.

“I’m hugely proud,” said Carrick. “The disappointment the lads feel show how well we did in the game. I was delighted with them because it wasn’t easy against such a good team. They got the calvary on at the end off the bench. We played some good connections and were dangerous at times, We stuck to our shapes and we made some saves but mainly from set-plays, It gives us confidence going into Tuesday.”

With the replay looming, Cash’s winner came in the 88th minute, with Villa working the ball around the penalty area from a short-corner routine. Cash tried his luck with a 25-yard drive and the deflection wrong-footed Glover. It was harsh on the goalkeeper after the evening he had.

“I’m taking that. It’s on target so I’m taking it. A goal is a goal so I’m buzzing with it,” added Cash. “I’ve worked in training outside the box on my finishing and sometimes it goes in. We worked on having three around the edge to get space and either pick a pass or shoot. I felt the instinct was to shoot.”

For Emery, it was reward for his team staying in control of the tie. “We played with passion and maturity,” he said. “We are growing up with our mentality in matches like that. At the beginning, we wanted to win and tactically they played a good match and they were better than us in some transitions and in 90 minutes anything could have happened but we were always in control of the game.

“We can improve our mentality in matches like this which is why I am happy. We are going into each competition trying to do something. In the FA Cup we have to think it is a very good way to give our fans emotions, it is prestige and it is very difficult, shorter than the Premier League. We are going to try it.”

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