Having described last season’s Capital One Cup semi-final exit to Bradford as the ‘lowest point’ in his tenure, Lambert took no chances tonight and fielded a strong team against Rotherham United to ensure Villa’s safe passage to the third round.
The visiting Millers began brightly and had their chances in the first half, when Revell had the opportunity not once but twice to give the visitors the lead. Steve Evans’ side gave Lambert’s lions a fright after thirteen minutes when Frecklington’s cross from the left looked set to be converted but Revell was unable to connect with it. Agard then sent in a cracking cross from the right but it too went to waste, much to the relief of the quivering lions.
In the 19th minute, claret and blue nerves settled somewhat as Villa broke. Arnason did well to block Weimann’s initial cross but the Austrian moved on the loose ball and his effort from 20 yards out was well-taken and found its way into the far corner of the net.
Twenty-one minutes later, Benteke got his head on a fine cross from Agbonlahor to make it 2-0, and four goals from four games for the ‘Belgian Beast’, before Villa cruised towards the break.
Agbonlahor was unlucky not to score himself just before the break, as his shot from 20 yards went narrowly wide.
At the other end of the pitch, Pringle’s shot from just outside the area flashed wide of the post.
Eight minutes after the restart, Delph made it 3-0, scoring what was an excellent team goal, and his first in a year, as he bolted towards Benteke’s pass and finished in some style.
With the pressure off and Villa’s creative juices flowing, Bacuna crossed for Westwood, whose header was parried at the far post by Shearer.
Rotherham never looked particularly threatening but the North Stand went wild when the travelling fans thought O’Connor’s spiralling free-kick had secured a consolation goal but it was just over the bar.
Sealing another good performance with an all too rare goal meant Delph was named tonight’s ‘man of the match’.
Villa’s victory was a welcome one, exorcising the ghost of Bradford, and, just as importantly, saw the team’s first clean sheet in a staggering thirty-one games.
Unsurprisingly, Lambert was upbeat when asked about the team’s performance, saying “some of the football was excellent” before heaping particular praise on Delph for his “top class” strike.
The draw for the third round followed tonight’s Morecambe – Newcastle game and Villa were drawn at home to Tottenham Hotspur. The third round fixture will be played at Villa Park in the week beginning September 23rd.