Aston Villa 4 (Hayden 5, 68, Barry 45 (p), Ramsey 87) Wolves 0
A much-changed Wolves under-23s were heavily beaten by Aston Villa in a battle between Premier League 2 Division 2 play-off rivals.
Although Wolves tested Villa keeper Jed Steer early on in the contest, with Austin Samuels being denied, it was the hosts who scored the first of their four goals with just five minutes on the clock.
From a Wolves corner which was comfortably cleared by the claret and blue shirts, Villa were able to get players forward quickly and made their counter-attack count when Kaine Kesler Hayden slotted the ball under goalkeeper Jackson Smith – making his first start for the under-23s.
Wolves tried to equalise minutes later when Taylor Perry won and then took a free-kick from the edge of the penalty area, and although he’s scored a couple of direct set-pieces this season, he was unable to get this effort to drop underneath Steer’s crossbar, missing narrowly over the woodwork.
The visitors’ best chance of the opening 20 minutes in their hunt for an equaliser came through Theo Corbeanu, who was once again proving a menace down the right, as he skipped clear of the defence and lifted a cross across the face of goal, but just out of the reach of Samuels, who would have tapped the ball into the net if he had got a toe to the ball.
Villa goalkeeper Jed Steer made a trio of great saves to deny Wolves, firstly to palm behind a terrific shot from 25 yards out from Hong Wan, and then he got down well to deny Samuels who had been played through following a lose pass from the Villa defence. The rebound fell to Owen Hesketh, but Steer was able to dive to his right and push the ball away from danger.
Despite Wolves’ attacking threat, they relied on the woodwork to keep the scoreline down to just the one, when Jaden Philogene-Bidace let fly from 20 yards out, but his dipping effort was kept out by the corner of crossbar and post with Smith beaten.
Villa doubled their lead just before half-time when Hong Wan barged Philogene-Bidace over in the penalty area, and Louie Barry sent Smith the wrong way from the spot. Hesketh was denied from long range once again when his shot, which looked to be heading in, was deflected off a Villa knee and somehow lifted up and over the crossbar.
The second-half was void of many clear chances, although most of the fell Villa’s way. Charlie Farr could have added a third for the hosts having got through the Wolves defence, but the forward dragged his shot wide.
Smith had to be alert when he faced Hayden one-on-one after good play by Villa, but the Wolves keeper was able to get down well to block the Villa captain’s shot, which then struck the post before being cleared.
But there was nothing Smith could do to deny Hayden his second of the afternoon. The right-back again found acres of space on the right before cutting inside and firing a low effort into the bottom corner of the net.
The finishing touches to their victory were made in the 87th minute when Hayden bared down on goal, but instead of trying to secure his hat-trick, he laid the ball into the path of Aaron Ramsey to easily tap the ball past Smith.
James Collins’ side will be looking at bouncing back from their disappointing result when they return to action next Monday when the under-23s play the first of three successive home matches as they take on Newcastle United live on Wolves TV. The following week will see a Black Country Derby at Aggborough.
12/04 Newcastle United (H)
19/04 West Bromwich Albion (H)
26/04 Norwich City (H)
30/04 Reading (A)
10/05 Reading (H)
Villa: Steer, Hayden, Sohna (Chrisene 58), Bogarde, Revan, Raikhy, Chukwuemeka, Barry, Ramsey, Philogene-Bidace (Brunt 75), Wesley (Farr 38).
Unused subs: Zych, Walker.
Wolves: Smith, Scott, Estrada, Tipton, Mayounga, Hong Wan, Diallo (Campbell 66), Perry (Hubner 80), Corbeanu, Hesketh, Samuels.
Unused subs: Arinbjornsson, Hodnett.