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Dean Campbell’s late FA Cup stunner for Stevenage knocks out Aston Villa

Dean Campbell’s late FA Cup stunner for Stevenage knocks out Aston Villa

Stevenage could only name six substitutes but two of them, Jamie Reid and Dean Campbell, scored the goals, in the 88th and 90th minutes, that enabled the League Two title chasers to pull off the shock of all the shocks in this remarkable FA Cup third round and come from behind to beat seven-times winners Aston Villa, 59 places above them in football’s pecking order.

Villa thought they had finally brought an end to their abysmal third-round record when with two minutes remaining, leading through Morgan Sanson’s first-half goal, Leander Dendoncker received a ball from his goalkeeper Robin Olsen on the edge of his own box.

It is the kind of customary risk Premier League midfielders invariably take. But as the Belgium international attempted to turn past his man, Campbell was not having it. The Scotland youth international, on loan from Aberdeen, dispossessed Dendoncker, who proceeded to pull his shirt just outside the penalty area before taking his foot away, just inside.

Graham Scott initially awarded a free-kick before glancing over at his assistant who justly flagged for a penalty. After all, Campbell had earned the advantage to get into the box. Reid, who scored in the second-round win at Kings Lynn, kept his composure from 12 yards to drill in the spot-kick, sending Olsen the wrong way. Dendoncker was sent off.

Villa, who lost at this stage of the competition for the seventh successive season, were shell-shocked. Jake Reeves, impressive throughout, was allowed to take a short corner to Campbell, left free by Villa. He ventured into the corner of the penalty area before drilling his shot past Olsen at the near post.

Unai Emery may have made eight changes to his Premier League side but, having won the Europa League three times with Sevilla, the FA Cup was high on his agenda after winning three of his first four games in charge at Villa Park. Instead, the glory of a fourth-round trip to Stoke City belongs to Stevenage.

Defeated just once in 15 games, and that to Portsmouth in the Football League Trophy, Stevenage’s confidence never dipped. Their social media team even suggested, at 1-0 down, that Philippe Coutinho’s substitution took longer than usual because Villa had to dig him out of Luther James-Wildin’s back pocket first.

It had been calculated that Stevenage’s 3-1 win over Newcastle United in 2011 ranked third in the top 50 third-round shocks of the past half-century. This one at least equals that. For Villa, the ignominy will be hard to shake off.

The FA Cup represented Villa’s main opportunity of glory this season. Surely that is more glamorous than any late surge towards seventh in the Premier League and the allure of the Europa Conference League. Opportunity also knocked for several players who have become peripheral at Villa Park but none really grasped theirs.

Stevenage celebrate after Jamie Reid levelled things up on 88 minutes against Aston Villa.

Stevenage had broken through in the 17th minute only for Luke Norris to time his run off the back of Matty Cash just too early. Danny Rose finished neatly with a low side footed effort into the bottom of the corner before the VAR assured Scott the offside flag had been correctly raised.

Coutinho, afforded his first start since his mentor Steven Gerrard was sacked in October, was one with much to prove. But the former Liverpool star too often cut back inside on to his right foot to dispatch shots that rose too high or allowed Taye Ashby-Hammond, the goalkeeper on loan from Fulham who helped Boreham Wood reach the fifth round last season, to save comfortably.

Sanson was another keen to show Emery he deserves a future here. Signed from Marseille for £16m two years ago, he scored his first goal for Villa on his first start since last February. It was a beautifully worked goal, full of one-touch layoffs. Coutinho fed Douglas Luiz and when Leon Bailey invited Danny Ings to play in Sanson, the Frenchman took a touch to steady himself before dispatching a crisp drive into the far bottom corner.

If the sizeable home crowd thought the floodgates would open, the 3,000 Stevenage fans had other ideas. Norris, having scored in the previous two rounds against Gateshead and Kings Lynn, almost extended his cup heroics but his cross-shot deflected off the top of the woodwork.

Stevenage continued to acquit themselves with credit in the second half, even after Bailey crashed a shot wide from close range and Ings shot over after what seemed like a million passes. Steve Evans’s side were content to allow Villa possession and then look for their chances on the break or from set-pieces.

The captain Carl Piergianni headed Jake Reeves’ corner wide. The latter then steered a shot from 20 yards just wide. Stevenage were still in this, even as Calum Chambers tickled a shot just wide from Coutinho’s last contribution amidst a raft of substitutes. Stevenage could only name six, a measure of their squad depth. What they lacked in resources, they more than made up for in heart and belief. How their fans celebrated on the final whistle.

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