Thursday 23 November 2017

O'Neill's focus on positives

Aston Villa 2
Wolves 2

Sandy Macaskill

Two well-taken goals from John Carew and an admirable performance from Ashley Young meant that this draw was certainly no disaster for Aston Villa, although judging by the sounds from the stands it might as well have been.

Boss Martin O'Neill was far from despondent, however, after a bright start from his side. "In the opening 25 minutes it was as good as we have played in recent times. Scintillating stuff," he said.

Wolves led for the majority of the match -- James Milner having helped them on their way with an own goal after Jody Craddock had snatched an equaliser -- and it left the Villa supporters in chuntering mood as they left. The spectacle might have fallen short by their standards, but for O'Neill there were reasons to be cheerful, not least an excellent period in the first half.

It has gone beyond the point where the Villa fans want more than off-the-ball contribution from their strikers, and their calls for Nathan Delfouneso revealed just how much Gabby Agbonlahor was missed. The striker has scored in every derby this season, but he injured his foot in training on Friday and was unavailable. It represents a serious problem, for while Carew continues to score, Heskey continues to waste his chances.

The match started promisingly, with Young in troublemaking form. The winger rounded Ronald Zubar after 16 minutes and crossed into the area for Carew to sidefoot past Marcus Hahnemann. A goal to the good, the creative juices flowing and with the best defence in the country, Villa should have been set fair, yet still they went into the break trailing.

Wolves had offered little in the way of devilry but when David Jones curled a free-kick high into the box, Zubar intercepted and his touch went straight to Craddock, who found the net. Wolves got their second when Matt Jarvis's chip into the area was diverted in off the sole of Milner's boot.

"We want Delfouneso on," responded Villa Park, but instead they were given Steve Sidwell, whose shot with less than 10 minutes remaining was touched in by Carew.

For Wolves, that there will be a tinge of disappointment that they did not take three points is a compliment to the way they went about their business. "It was a good performance, a fabulous point," Mick McCarthy said.

Sunday Independent

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