Villa's gloss wears thin against non-Leaguers

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The Independent Online
Gravesend & Northfleet 0 Aston Villa 3

Chris Weller went back to prison this morning distinctly unimpressed by the glossy world of Premiership football. Weller is a prison administrator and part-time manager of Gravesend and Northfleet, the Beazer Home League club that forsook home advantage to reap the financial rewards of a third- round tie at Villa Park and came away convinced that had they forced Villa to visit Stonebridge Road things might have been different.

Gravesend were not so much outplayed as, three times, wrong footed by Villa. Weller, moist eyed and a bit resentful, claimed that his team of part-timers and former League cast-offs, "matched them all the way" except in taking goal chances, which was true and an indictment of Villa, thankful that Mark Draper shot them ahead in less than two minutes of the first half and Savo Milosevic again caught Gravesend cold a minute into the second.

In between the first two goals, Villa plunged into relentless disorder. Their passing frequently had the 5,000 Gravesend fans laughing derisively.

As it was Villa's manager, Brian Little, could claim at the end that it was a job he was pleased to get over. But Villa had not faced a non- League side since 1920 and will be hoping to avoid the experience for another three quarters of a century. Even when two up Little was imploring his team to use what should have been massive superiority in possession. It was a vain hope.

Only Dwight Yorke reminded the admirable Jimmy Jackson, Peter Mortley and Matt Gubbins that they were playing against a team supposedly five divisions superior. And only when Tommy Johnson clipped a low shot inside the far post after 73 minutes did Gravesend finally accept what the bookmakers, who made them 20,000-l outsiders, predicted.

Goals: Draper (2) 0-1; Milosevic (46) 0-2; Johnson (72) 0-3.

Gravesend & Northfleet (4-4-2): Turner; Walker (Harrop, 79), Gubbins, Mortley, Lamb; Munday, Gibbs, Jackson, Blewden; Cotter (Best, 78), Powell (Gooding, 75).

Aston Villa (5-2-1-2): Bosnich; Charles, Ehiogu, Southgate, Scimeca, Wright; Draper, Townsend; Johnson; Milosevic, Yorke. Substitutes not used: Farrelly, Carr, Spink (gk).

Referee: K Cooper (Pontypridd).

Man of the match: Jackson. Attendance: 26,021 (at Villa Park).