Saturday 16 December 2017

O’Neill frets on Dunne injury blow to Villans

Carew 16, 82
Craddock 23, Milner og 38

Sandy Macaskill

THE sensation was certainly one of frustration for Aston Villa fans as they made their way home having watched their side fall five points behind fourthplaced Tottenham, but it was easier to sympathise with Martin O’Neill as the Villa manager contemplated the curiosity of their disenchantment despite still being in with a chance of the Champions League.

He has more serious problems than his supporters’ high expectations, not least an Achilles injury to Richard Dunne. “He did well to come out for the second half,” O’Neill said. “He was very sore at half-time.”

Dunne has been the linchpin in Villa’s defence but it would offer O’Neill an opportunity to prevent discontent. Carlos Cuellar could deputise, with Luke Young presumably able to take the Spaniard’s place at rightback. It would be a popular move among fans, not that O’Neill is motivated by that (as his decision to replace Dunne with Marc Albrighton demonstrated).

The butcher’s bill is growing, Gabby Agbonlahor is the latest addition after damaging a foot ligament in training. It has been a poor few weeks for the striker, a stomach complaint laying him low before feeling a twinge in his groin last week against Wigan, a result of playing so many matches. Some might say Villa’s failure to consolidate in January is coming home to roost.

It is clearly tempting for fans to whinge at a derby draw – they were not amused by Jody Craddock’s equaliser or James Milner’s own goal – but Villa remain in the race for fourth, though much might depend on how they fare against Sunderland on Wednesday.

There has been some silky play, too, such as the first 25 minutes of this match, with Ashley Young at his brilliant best in front of Fabio Capello. The winger’s timing was good, for while Emile Heskey must have lost ground (for how long can he seriously count on his contributions without the ball making up for his ineffectiveness with it?) and Milner slightly blotted his copy book, Young shone on an otherwise murky afternoon, his sublime cross setting up John Carew’s first goal.

The only problem as far as England is concerned is that Capello has concerns about how Young deported himself at England camps; apparently he was not himself when surrounded by the other international players, though anyone who has seen or spoken to the 24 year-old would find it difficult to believe he is the shy and retiring type. “There’s been talk that when Ashley goes to England he’s not the same vibrant fellow,” O’Neill commented.

“There is a tendency to be a bit quiet, but it doesn’t mean that you should desert your character. He has to go in and perform. I don’t think there’s many playing wide now that are shining as he is.” (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; Cuellar, Collins, Dunne (Albrighton, 72), Warnock; A Young, Milner, Petrov, Downing (Sidwell, 77); Carew, Heskey. Substitutes not used: Guzan (gk), L Young, Delfouneso, Beye, Clark.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-1-1): Hahnemann; Zubar, Craddock, Berra, Ward (Mancienne, 64); Foley, Guedioura (Elokobi, h-t), Henry, Jarvis (Iwelumo, 89); Jones; Doyle. Substitutes not used: Hennessey (gk), Ebanks- Blake, Keogh, Milijas.

Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne and Wear).

Booked: Aston Villa Petrov; Wolverhampton Wanderers Guedioura, Zubar.

Man of the match: Young.

Attendance: 37,562.

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