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Match report: Bristol Rovers 1-1 Villa

Stiliyan Petrov update Picture gallery: Images from Pirates draw
Match report: Bristol Rovers 1-1 Villa

Villa continued their unbeaten start to pre-season as we drew 1-1 here at the Memorial Stadium.

Jordan Ayew opened the scoring just before half-time with a neat finish.

But it wasn’t enough on a chilly night as Matt Taylor fired past Mark Bunn late on to ensure parity for the Pirates.

The draw followed victories over Telford and Worcester at the weekend and an 8-0 training match victory over GAK Graz in Austria.

There were promising performances from Jack Grealish and Alan Hutton as Roberto Di Matteo had plenty to ponder as we continued our journey into the new season.

Grealish, in particular, looked lively as he played the full 90 minutes.

The manager will have been keen to see the tricky forward for the duration after the previous season, which saw the popular Brummie held back by injuries.

He’s undertaken a fitness regime over the summer – including strengthening work on his troublesome ankle – and Di Matteo will have been pleased with what he saw here.

Ayew started strongly for the claret and blues, once again wearing their new Under Armour kits for the 2016/17 campaign.

He wasn’t scared of shooting from distance – a feature of his pre-season play to date – although both early efforts were well stopped by the goalkeeper.



Ayew and Grealish were certainly seeing plenty of the ball in those early stages – and Grealish was unfortunate with several incisive balls to the young and hungry Rushian Hepburn-Murphy.

Fellow young starlet Andre Green also looked sharp as he looked to impress the new Villa boss.

Ayew finally opened the scoring on 41 minutes and it was what Villa deserved after a strong half.

Mark Bunn and Joleon Lescott came on at the break for Pierluigi Gollini and Nathan Baker and there were a flurry of subs for us on the hour mark, prompting the overzealous pitch announcer to declare: “Coming on for Villa is absolutely everyone.”

Inbetween times, Grealish showed brilliant trickery on 49 minutes to play a one-two with Ayew but the keeper came out to collect well.

Hutton floated a good ball into the box on 53 minutes but it was just too strong for Hepburn-Murphy, who was looking to pounce at the back post.

Just before the hour mark, Joe Bennett showed good defensive resolve to break up a Pirates attack.

Taylor levelled matters for the hosts inside the final 10 minutes with a low shot.

Villa could have won it on 84 minutes when sub Scott Sinclair fired marginally wide while the keeper showed good instincts to fly out as Rudy Gestede zoned in on target moments later.

Gary Gardner had two efforts in the final few moments, firing over from open play and then after a neat pull-back free-kick from Grealish.

Villa: Gollini, Hutton, (Elphick, 62), Okore, Baker (Lescott, 46), Bennett (Cissokho, 62), Westwood (Gana, 62), Tshibola (Gardner, 62), Green, Ayew (Sinclair, 62), Grealish, Hepburn-Murphy (Gestede, 62).

Paul Brown
By @paulbrownavfc 20th July 2016