Aston Villa avoided any potential Carabao Cup drama against Barrow as we sealed a 6-0 win away from home to advance to the third round.
As with many of these early-round cup ties, particularly on the road, there is always a danger of a slip up against a lower-league side who are undoubtedly keen to make an impression and claim a major scalp.
There was no such joy for Barrow in midweek though, with Villa producing a professional and clinical performance to put six past the home side and move on to the next round.
Dean Smith will be delighted with what he saw, and he’ll hope that the confidence and fitness boosts that came with the victory carries through to the Brentford game on Saturday.
Cameron Archer stakes his claim
It was a memorable night for the 19-year-old Walsall native, as he bagged a hat-trick on his first senior start and produced a display full of promise.
From the class of his finishing to his pace and movement off the ball, there was so much to like about his display and it will arguably give Smith something to think about.
Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins are undoubtedly still ahead of him in the pecking order, but with Wesley seemingly heading for the exit door and Keinan Davis coming back from an injury, there could be a chance for Archer to make a lasting impression this season.
Chukwuemeka, Philogene-Bidace making a case
While we wait to see if Villa add more reinforcements before the transfer deadline, in Carney Chukwuemeka and Jaden Philogene-Bidace, Smith has two young players really pushing to be more involved.
Both impressed enough at the back-end of last season to earn their first senior appearances, and it looks as though they’ll be heavily invested in the senior squad this year.
Whether it was Philogene-Bidace’s superb assist for Archer’s third or Chukwuemeka oozing class with his first touch and direct running as he drove forward from midfield, there is real excitement with these two.
Hourihane shows his class and professionalism
Amid ongoing questions as to whether or not he will still be at the club beyond transfer deadline day, Conor Hourihane wore the captain’s armband in this one and produced a fine performance.
His distribution from midfield was excellent, and he used his experience to his advantage to control the tempo and possession in midfield for the most part.
It will be disappointing to see him go if he does secure an exit, but he certainly hasn’t let the speculation bother him on the pitch.
Guilbert ready to push Cash
Aside from his excellent finish to grab a goal, Frederic Guilbert put in a good performance and showed that he’s got the characteristics that Smith wants from his right-back.
Matty Cash is expected to remain first-choice when fit, but if Guilbert doesn’t opt to move on before the deadline, there is certainly a place for him in the squad and potentially even in the starting XI if he grabs his opportunities and impresses like he did in this game.
Crucial minutes for players lacking match fitness
Whether it was Matt Targett after his struggles against Watford or fringe players like Hourihane, Guilbert, Axel Tuanzebe and Kortney Hause, this was a perfect outing for them to build their fitness up.
Given our pre-season schedule was heavily disrupted, it has been a far from ideal start to the campaign in terms of preparation.
That’s what made the win over Newcastle Utd so important and impressive last weekend, and it’s hoped that we’ve got the squad in good shape now to get the three points against Brentford ahead of the international break.