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Bent equaliser gives Houllier the perfect boost

Gary McAllister delivered an encouraging bulletin on the health of Aston Villa boss Gerard Houllier after Darren Bent's goal secured a point at Villa Park.

Stand-in manager McAllister visited Houllier, who has been suffering from chest pains, in hospital and spoke to the Frenchman before the game. Bent, one of Houllier's January signings, scored his seventh goal in 12 games after Kenwyne Jones had given Stoke the lead.

"A few of the staff went to see Gerard this morning," said McAllister. "I spoke to him before the kick-off and his main concern, as always, was the players. He wants them to do well. I'm going to go up to the hospital now. All the signs are encouraging. He has got a bit of colour in his cheeks and he doesn't look like a guy who has had a tough couple of days."

McAllister reaffirmed that Houllier will be guided by the specialists as to when he will be fit enough to return to Villa.

"We will be guided by the specialists. We are being totally guided by them. It won't be Gerard or Aston Villa's decision when he comes back. There is no surgery this time. It will be rest and medicine."

McAllister insists Villa are looking upwards in the table after a run of eight points from four games has effectively ended any fears of relegation.

"We are on a good run at the moment so the place is buzzing. We want to keep the run going. Since we lost to Sunderland here in January, we've not done bad," he said.

Stoke's main concern is over the fitness of striker Ricardo Fuller who suffered an Achilles injury after appearing as a substitute with the FA Cup final only three weeks away.

"We are not sure how bad it is," manager Tony Pulis said. "He's going off to have a scan so we won't know that until Monday."

Sunday Indo Sport