Whatever Aston Villa's Premier League form – and it has been mostly dire this season – their cups runneth over. Through to the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup, they reached the fourth round of the FA Cup with a none-too-convincing victory against Ipswich Town.
En route to the last four of the League Cup, in which they face Bradford City in the first leg at Valley Parade on Tuesday, Villa have beaten Tranmere Rovers, Manchester City, Swindon Town and Norwich City. Excluding Manchester City, a not too testing passage, perhaps. Ipswich, Norwich's East Anglian rivals, hail from the nether regions of the Championship and might have been expected to be despatched with some ease. Yet such is Villa's frailty these days, they had to recover from being 1-0 adrift at half-time and rely on a superbly executed header from Andreas Weimann in the 83rd minute to book their place in the next round.
At least Darren Bent, Charles N'Zogbia and Gabby Agbonlahor returned from injury and played influential roles in the stuttering win. With three of their more experienced players back and able to provide guidance to the abundance of young bucks in the team, maybe Villa can resurrect their league campaign. "It's really pleasing to have the three of them back," Paul Lambert, the Villa manager, said. "We need them. It's always tough to play sides from a lower division and it was a bit of a setback when we conceded the first goal. It'll be tough against Bradford also – and that's a massive game for the team and the club."
Ipswich, gradually climbing the table since Mick McCarthy replaced Paul Jewell as manager in November, belied their position by going ahead when Michael Chopra got the better of Nathan Baker. Chopra's low shot appeared to be heading wide until Eric Lichaj diverted it into his own net.
Bent, all action and intent on his comeback after nearly a month out with a hamstring problem, equalised 36 seconds into the second half, driving home a low shot. "A typical finish," Lambert said. "That's Darren down to a tee." McCarthy was not so generous. "I'm chewing about that goal," he said. "It changed the course of the game."
Villa still huffed and puffed, though not as badly as they do in most of their league fixtures, and were grateful when Weimann, a substitute, expertly flicked home a cross from Joe Bennett. Ipswich were ko'd in a cup; next on the list, Bradford City.