Norwich City Under-23s host fourth-placed Aston Villa at the Lotus Training Centre this Friday (2:30pm kick-off) in Premier League 2 Division 2.
A win could prove pivotal in the Canaries league campaign, as they look to overtake Fulham, as well as keep hot on the tails of Newcastle and Reading, who sit just two points ahead. A win against Villa would also extend the U23s win streak to an impressive three.
Aston Villa are having a comfortable run of results, as they occupy a play-off spot in the league. The Villans have won three, drawn one and lost one of their last five games, painting them as a dangerous side to go up against. In their most recent game, Villa beat 12th-placed Sunderland in a comfortable 4-0 to pick up an easy three points.
The Canaries last met Aston Villa earlier this season in August, as the sides shared the points in a 1-1 draw.
The goal difference doesn’t leave much to be interpreted for the Canaries. The Villans have scored 25 goals this season, the sixth highest tally accumulated by any side in the league, which corresponds closely to their fourth-place positioning.
Villa’s niche comes from their defensive record, with the side only conceding 20 this season, the third best tally in the league. It’s clear that the defence will be hard to crack for the Canaries, but with their recent form, City can remain hopeful of competing with the side, especially after their impressive 4-3 win over Middlesbrough on Monday night.
U23s goalkeeper Archie Mair is looking forward to the game, after making his return from injury against Middlesbrough. Discussing his time out, the ‘keeper said although it was frustrating, focusing on getting back fast was the most important thing.
“Being injured was a frustrating couple months, it wasn’t nice to be out for so long. I just had to keep my head down and get myself back as soon as possible, getting through rehab to get back on the pitch.
“It wasn’t easy at the time, knowing I had to wait until after the Christmas break and New Year, but I’m really glad to be back.”
Speaking on his first game back against Middlesbrough, Mair says he was pleased with his performance and getting minutes as soon as possible.
“I felt good in the Middlesbrough game, I knew that we’d do things to hurt the other team and personally I was just happy to get back on the pitch.
“I thought I did quite well on the night for my first game back, and it was great to get minutes on the pitch and get through the night. This game against Villa is obviously quite a quick turnaround, but I’m feeling good.”
While development of players is the priority of Academy football, results are always a nice bonus. Mair shares that feeling, saying it’s nice to see wins reflect the development of the team.
“Results provide a lift to us, we often played well but without the result going our way so there was always that slight frustration.
“I think now, as a team, we’re more disciplined and understanding of each other. I feel like we’re getting there more and more each game, and of course it’s a work in progress but we’ve just got to keep it up."