Match report: Villa Res 4-0 Newcastle Res
It was a happy return to Villa Park for Villa's high-flying reserves as they cruised to a 4-0 victory over Newcastle United.
Gary Gardner, Callum Robinson, Andreas Weimann and Samir Carruthers scored as the second string ran riot against the North East outfit.
The victory puts Villa on course for a fourth Reserve League South championship in five seasons with their lead at the top stretching to nine points.
The last time the reserves took to the field at Villa Park was 11 months ago when Gardner's brace and a Marc Albrighton strike earned a 3-1 victory over Liverpool.
The form book suggested the boys in claret and blue were capable of producing a similar outcome here.
Kevin MacDonald's team came into this clash on the back of four straight wins, while the Magpies had been on the end of a 6-3 defeat at Everton and a 6-0 thrashing at Manchester United in their last two outings.
The away side fielded four players - Dan Gosling, Mehdi Abeid, Phil Airey and Ryan Donaldson - with first team experience.
Nevertheless, Villa's experienced attacking line-up proved too strong for Peter Beardsley's team despite suffering the blow of losing Nathan Delfouneso to injury after 23 minutes.
Delfouneso's striker partner Weimann and midfielder Carruthers took centre stage in the early stages.
Weimann's snapshot deflected for a corner while Carruthers saw his left-foot volley turned around the post by goalkeeper Alex Baird.
Newcastle's shot-stopper Baird continued to stand in Villa's way.
On 30 minutes he made a brilliant two-handed save to keep out Weimann's rising drive after the Austrian ran on to an inch-perfect through ball from Bannan.
There was nothing he could do, though, about Gardner's long-range rocket which gave the hosts the lead on 34 minutes.
The 19-year-old was well-positioned to power a 20-yard shot high into the roof of the net following a neat reverse pass from Daniel Johnson.
Villa looked to turn the screw with Carruthers hitting the post with a shot from the edge of the box, before Baird made a double save to thwart Gardner and Johnson's close-range attempts.
There were a couple of opportunities for Newcastle but Benjamin Siegrist was at his best in the Villa goal.
Firstly he made a brave block after Phil Airey beat the offside trap and on the stroke of half-time he got down to push Mehdi Abeid's shot around the post.
But Villa quickly moved through the gears in the second period.
It took until just five minutes after the restart for Robinson to add to the scoring when he tapped home from close range after a delightful exchange between Carruthers and Johnson.
On 55 minutes it was 3-0, Weimann getting the final touch to score from close range after a mazy run and cross from the left by Gardner.
And Carruthers finally got the goal he deserved on 68 minutes, firing into an empty net after Gardner's run caused havoc in the Newcastle penalty area.
In truth, however, it could have been a cricket score.
Sub Courtney Cameron's effort drilled an effort inches wide of the far post, Baker headed over from a Bannan corner and Enda Stevens came close to scoring on his Villa Park debut but again Baird was well positioned to tip around the post.
Carruthers, Bannan and Baker all struck the woodwork too during a thrilling second period.
VILLA: Siegrist, Lichaj, Williams, Baker, Stevens, Carruthers, Gardner, Johnson, Bannan, Delfouneso, Weimann. Subs: Cameron [for Carruthers, 71], Barrett, Webb, Grealish [for Johnson, 74], Robinson [for Delfouneso, 23].
NEWCASTLE: Baird, Logan, Riley, McDermott, Henderson, Streete, Richardson, Abeid, Airey, Gosling, Donaldson. Subs: Kitchin [for Logan,HT], Mitchell, Taylor [for Richardson, HT].