Tim Sherwood wasted no time in making himself heard in the Villa Park dressing room and his intervention had the desired effect as Aston Villa left behind a dismal first half to clinch a place in the sixth round of the FA Cup on Sunday.
It may not mean much in terms of the task he faces to keep Villa in the Premier League, but it is the start Sherwood would have wanted.
Appointed only on Saturday, the new manager watched the action against Leicester City from the stands, with the first-team coach, Scott Marshall, in charge of business on the pitch, but made his thoughts known in the dressing room at half-time before Villa imposed themselves with two second-half goals.
Leandro Bacuna put them in front with his first goal since March last year before Scott Sinclair, the on-loan Manchester City winger who had not scored a senior goal since his final appearance for Swansea in August 2012, profited from a Mark Schwarzer fumble to double their lead.
Andrej Kramaric headed home for Leicester in stoppage time but too late to threaten Villa’s progress into the last eight.
“I had a good idea that Tim would be around the dressing room at half-time,” Marshall said. “There was no big statement, but he made a couple of points and passed on some details, some suggestions that they could try and the lads used that in the second half.”
Marshall has no idea yet whether he still has a future at Villa Park, where he was appointed in June 2013, having previously worked under Sherwood’s predecessor, Paul Lambert, at Norwich. He admitted he had spoken to Lambert, who was sacked by Villa on Wednesday, ahead of the Leicester game.
“I spoke to Paul beforehand,” he said. “I’d rather what was said was between us but he gave a bit of encouragement. He wanted the team to do well. I’ve not had an opportunity yet to speak to Tim about his plans. I can say 100 per cent that I’d like to stay. I’d like to help any way I can from now until the end of the season at least.”
Marshall had made five changes from the Villa side Lambert picked for his final match in charge against Hull City, where a fifth consecutive Premier League defeat prompted the club’s owner, Randy Lerner, to act.
Ron Vlaar returned in defence and there were places for Shay Given, Tom Cleverley, Bacuna and Christian Benteke, although Carles Gil and Gabby Agbonlahor were both ruled out by injury and Given has usually played in place of Brad Guzan in cup matches.
For 45 minutes, however, Leicester looked the more likely to take control. Centre-half Marcin Wasilewski hit the post with a header and it took a superb save from Given to keep out a 25-yard rocket from Matty James.
Villa’s play had greater intensity from the start of the second half. Fabian Delph squandered a wonderful chance to head home a Bacuna cross and, when Schwarzer scambled the ball away from Benteke at close range, Villa fans were reminded of the woeful goalscoring statistics – just 12 in 25 Premier League matches – that Sherwood will need to correct.
But after 68 minutes came the breakthrough. Bacuna, who was about to be taken off by Marshall, cut inside Danny Simpson after being allowed time and space on the left and unleashed a wonderful, curling shot beyond the reach of Schwarzer.
Benteke betrayed his lack of confidence when he missed the target when one on one with Schwarzer but Villa fans were able to rest easy when Sinclair doubled their lead a minute from the end, going past Simpson before drilling the ball low at the Leicester goalkeeper, who somewhat bundled the ball into the net.Reuse content