Aston Villa U21 – Match Report vs. Sutton United (19/09/23)

Aston Villa U-21’s travelled to struggling League Two side Sutton United in the first round of the EFL trophy. The Premier League 2 side instantly played with a game plan in mind, wanting to build short from the back, play through the thirds and dominate possession of the ball as Sutton United sat off and tried to launch counter attacks. Villa’s U-21’s were the better side for much of the first half, winning an early penalty before Sutton eventually grew into the game later in the first half and began to exploit space in wider areas but couldn’t find a final ball.

The away side deservedly scored a second goal midway through the second half, and it looked as if they would go on to win the match comfortably. But Sutton pushed forward as Villa’s U-21’s dropped off and began to look leggy as the home side threw bodies forwards, scoring with just over 10 minutes to go and now with the momentum they pressed forward and leveled the match late in stoppage time, after a long ball forward was flicked to the back post taking the match to penalties, but it only delayed a result for the young away team as Aston Villa U-21’s kept their cool to win 7-6 on penalties.


  • A1 – Very good, could play higher
  • A2 – Strong potential to play higher
  • B1 – Good, strong player at level
  • B2 – Potential to be a strong player at level
  • C – Average for the level, rewatch
  • D – Below average in this match

Tommi O’Reilly

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: English
  • Age: 19
  • Date of birth: 15/12/2003
  • Club: Aston Villa U21
  • Career: Aston Villa
  • Position: Attacking Midfielder
  • Other Positions: Central Midfielder
  • Preferred foot: Left

Aston Villa U-21’s captain Tommi O’Reilly played as the attacking midfielder in the Premier League 2 sides 4-2-3-1 formation and was the main outlet for defenders trying to play through the lines, before supporting attacks with later runs into the box.

Standing at 1.70m tall, the diminutive attacker had a low centre of gravity, a short burst of acceleration and close control when moving with the ball making him very effective when shifting away from pressure. Very composed with the ball at his feet, he would wait for midfielders to get close to put a tackle in, before efficiently pushing himself forward into the space they had left, maximising his physical ability by timing his movements perfectly.

This awareness of space didn’t stop without the ball either, with O’Reilly impressively picking up pockets of space right across the final third looking comfortable on all sides but favouring the left. He made late runs from midfield, again showing good timing and won a penalty which he later converted, as well as picking his moments to drop deeper to aid with the build-up.

He actively scanned, and constantly found space behind the Sutton United midfield and would try to turn and face goal as often as possible, getting his head up quickly and had the vision to spot runs ahead. Although on the night his execution of through balls wasn’t quite right, the resilience to keep trying and his passing not being far off showed the potential he has.

Technically he looked strong, capable of one and two touches and weighted some shorter passes inside nicely for team mates to move onto. Although towards the end of both halves especially, his technical level did drop, potentially a stamina issue but his first touch became loose and his speed of body and mind to find pockets of space dropped slightly too, as Sutton pushed higher as his team looked to defend their lead.

Rating – A1

Tommi O’Reilly showed exactly why he’s not only been nominated for Premier League 2 player of the month but has also been on the bench for Aston Villa’s senior side with an impressive show from an intelligent and fluid attacking midfield player.  His awareness of space, composure and confidence particularly shone and whilst he does need to improve on how he protects the ball against more physical opposition when he can’t shift past, improving his stamina levels to keep his consistency up across a full match and fine tuning some technical elements of his game he more than looked ready for a step up from Premier League 2 level.

Omari Kellyman

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: English
  • Age: 18
  • Date of birth: 15/09/2005
  • Club: Aston Villa U21
  • Career: Derby County (Y), Aston Villa  
  • Position: Striker
  • Other Positions: Attacking Midfielder
  • Preferred foot: Left

Omari Kellyman was the starting striker for Aston Villa’s U-21’s, standing at 1.91m tall, he could protect the ball, compete in the air with the opposition and had good acceleration over shorter and longer distances and was physically very capable for somebody that’s only recently turned 18.

Omari showed a good understanding of his role, had the awareness to drop off the front to help his side build with the ball, but also looked to time his runs in behind and run the channels. His movement for his goal on the night particularly showed his awareness of space, from deep he moved off his marker into the box and held his position for a clear cut back rather than continuing to run into opposition defenders.

Whilst he often protected the ball well when dropping into deeper positions, this could be inconsistent and is something he will look to improve on in the coming years. But his overall variation with the ball was very good, capable of linking of one and two touches, using his quick feet and physical strength to shift the ball past closer defenders, as well as showing the vision and execution to play clipped passes into wider areas or through balls into central runners. Although he did under hit some shorter passes/ layoffs he clearly has plenty in his arsenal.

Kellyman worked hard and got back into deeper positions quickly and although put in some challenges to win the ball back, he did give away needless fouls to a side that wanted to get players forward from set pieces. His taller frame allowed him to be effective in both boxes, but his marking when defending corners would need to improve. As he was left behind by a short run at the front post which stopped him having the chance to use his aerial ability and importantly gave away a goal scoring chance.

Rating – A1

Despite his age Omari Kellyman impressively already shows signs of having the physical attributes required to play at a high level, his variation on the ball and clever movement off the ball is far greater than what you’d expect for a typical 18-year-old. Although he will be wanting to improve how he protects the ball and his technical execution of shorter/ layoff passes, his skillet already shows signs of a second striker/ attacking midfielder role but with the physical attributes of a lone striker, and I’m sure there would be plenty of potential suitors in the Championship and League 1 if Aston Villa decide to loan him out for first team experience.

Josh Feeney

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: English
  • Age: 18
  • Date of birth: 06/05/2005
  • Club: Aston Villa U21
  • Career: Fleetwood Town (Y), Aston Villa
  • Position: Central Defender
  • Other Positions:
  • Preferred foot: Right

Josh Feeney started as a central defender in a back four for Aston Villa’s U-21’s, he stood at 1.93m tall and competed exceptionally in the air, winning multiple duels, and clearing the ball into safer areas. He had a leggy stride and could build speed up to match opposition attackers and had the upper body strength to disrupt and even win the ball back.

Physically Feeney looked very strong but he showed a lot of the skills required for a modern ball playing defender. He showed good composure throughout and wanted to continue to play under pressure, he quickly got into positions to receive the ball from his keeper, and then had the vision and execution to play passes through the lines into midfield and attacking midfield or clipped passes into wider areas, he was very comfortable and confident with the ball at his feet.

Not just capable with the ball without it he read the game well, moving across to make interceptions, he marked opponents tightly to make the most of his physical attributes and could screen and track runners. Checking his shoulder and adjusting his position in line with the movement of opposition strikers. His leadership qualities were also evident with how he could actively be seen trying to push the defensive line up the pitch after dealing with crosses to stop the team sitting too deep. As Sutton put pressure on to get an equaliser he was caught ball watching, as a longer ball was sent in he should have stuck with his man, but instead watched as a flick on went over him and into space at the far post which lead to the leveller, but it was difficult with the whole team being so deep by that point and there being so many oppositions players forward.

Feeney put in a very positive performance but an area he will want to work on is his decision making when with the ball, it was clear he was more than capable, but he was guilty of overplaying trying to play a pass that wasn’t on, which gave the opposition a chance to counter dangerously in Villa’s first third. Although his passes through the lines were strong, his level dropped when trying to play longer passes into runners in the channel, and an occasional through ball was under hit enough to again give the opposition a chance to counter.

Rating -A1

Josh Feeney showed all the attributes needed to be a modern ball playing defender, very capable with the ball especially when playing through the lines but also defended diligently, marking tightly, reading the game to make interceptions and used his tall frame to look very strong when dealing with aerial duels. He will want to continue to improve on his execution with the ball, as well as his decision making in when to pick to play a more dangerous pass, but nonetheless it was another performance in this young side which looked ready to play first team football.

Rico Richards

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: English
  • Age: 20
  • Date of birth: 27/09/2003
  • Club: Aston Villa U21
  • Career: West Bromwich Albion (Y) Aston Villa U-21’s
  • Position: Right winger
  • Other Positions: Attacking Midfield
  • Preferred foot: Left

Former West Bromwich Albion youth player Rico Richards started on the right wing for Aston Villa’s U-21’s and wanted to get into positions to isolate himself against the opposition fullback. Standing at 1.82m tall he had a smaller and agile frame, and good acceleration over shorter distances.

Richards was positive and wanted to attack with the ball at every opportunity, trying to get past his defender on 1 touch to try and catch them by surprise and could easy drop his shoulder and change direction to get past tackles. When in more settled possession he had the vision to play shorter passes inside before using his acceleration and awareness of space to get forward and run behind his fullback.

Without the ball he showed good awareness of space again, by moving into more central areas when striker Omari Kellyman dropped deep and was alive to opportunities behind the opposition defensive line, wanting to make an outside to inside run to attack the box but didn’t receive the ball in these situations on the night.

Richards showed he was capable of a good technical level but would need to work on how he protects the ball when he can’t get past his marker, and his first touch which he could overhit when trying to shift forwards. Trying to add more variation to how he passes the ball would also make him less predictable in possession as well.

Rating – A2

Rico Richards displayed several attributes that made him a dangerous wide player, his mentality with the ball, how he could attack full backs, time his runs in behind and play around pressure made him a valuable asset in wide areas. He needs to continue to work on his physical and technical execution, but if he continues to develop he will be another member of this Villa U-21 side that will be attracting interest from clubs in League One and the Championship for some first team experience.

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