Aston Villa are through to the fourth round of the FA Cup after a nervy 2-0 victory over Wycombe Wanderers in the third round replay at Villa Park.
Late goals from Ciaran Clark and Idrissa Gana spared Aston Villa’s blushes for a second time as the Premier League strugglers overcame League Two side Wycombe.
Villa Park was the scene of Wycombe’s semi-final appearance in 2001, and with Wanderers heroic in defeat to Liverpool that day, it was a similar story on Tuesday night.
The League Two promotion hopefuls had more than held their own against a much-changed, but still strong, Villa team and created the better chances before Clark headed home with 15 minutes remaining.
Substitute Gana sealed a fourth-round home tie against Manchester City at the end of the month with a second goal in the final minute.
Villa came into the game buoyed by taking four points from the two Premier League games since the original tie at Adams Park.
Garde wanted to maintain that modicum of momentum, acknowledging in the build up to the match that last season’s run to the final went hand in hand with Premier League survival – although any such repeat this time round would be nothing short of a miracle.
But the seemingly uphill battle for top flight survival remains his priority and that was reflected in the Frenchman’s team selection as he made nine changes. Only Ashley Westwood and Jordan Ayew remained from the team that started against the Foxes.
The decision to swap so many players made picking up that momentum difficult and Villa, with teenage midfielder Jordan Lyden making his full debut, were largely kept at arm’s length by Wycombe until late on.
There were early chances as Rudy Gestede headed wide and Ayew jinked past his man down the right-hand side of the penalty area before sending a rising right-foot shot into the side netting, but that was all Villa could really muster and the best chances of the first half were created by the underdogs.
Brad Guzan got down to his left to push away Sam Wood’s first-time strike before a huge let off for Villa just before half-time as Guzan failed to collect Joe Jacobson’s left-wing cross and Garry Thompson sent his header over the crossbar.
Villa fashioned another half-chance at the start of the second half as Gana, on as a half-time sub for Carlos Sanchez, set Ayew on a marauding run down the right and he flashed a low shot across goal and past the far post.
Wycombe once again created a better opportunity and when the unmarked Thompson headed Wood’s cross wide in the 61st minute it was followed by a chorus of boos from some disgruntled home supporters.
Villa improved afterwards with Scott Sinclair twice going close – his second effort, after a mazy run into the penalty area, was brilliantly diverted over the crossbar by Aaron Pierre’s last-ditch sliding challenge.
Gestede then scuffed a shot into Matt Ingram’s arms before Villa made the breakthrough with Clark heading Westwood’s cross home from eight yards out.
Garde’s team were finally on top and Gana got his first goal for the club in the 90th minute to seal Villa’s passage through and extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to four games by steering a low shot into the bottom corner of the net from inside the penalty area.