Sunday 25 February 2018

Villa stumble towards safety

Aston Villa 0 Southampton 0

Southampton's Steven Davis and Aston Villa's Ryan Bertrand battle for the ball
Southampton's Steven Davis and Aston Villa's Ryan Bertrand battle for the ball
Aston Villa's manager Paul Lambert share a joke with first team coaches Scott Marshall, Gordon Cowans and Shay Given before the match
Aston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor and Southampton's Victor Wanyama in action at Villa Park
Aston Villa's Karim El Ahmadi closes down Southampton's Victor Wanyama

John Percy

Paul Lambert may have taken a step closer towards Premier League survival but apathy appears to have replaced anger at Villa Park.

After a turbulent week, in which Lambert's assistants were both suspended amid claims of alleged bullying, this was a game of mind-numbing boredom as Villa avoided adding another home defeat to the 10 so far this season.

The anticipated protests towards Lambert failed to materialise, with the only clear sign of mutiny a banner with the words 'Sid's Claret and Blue Army', in reference to club legend Gordon Cowans's promotion to first-team duties, unfurled in the Holte End.

There is a sense that Lambert's position is becoming increasingly precarious, especially with the persistent rumours of an impending £200m takeover, and the opposition towards the Scot has increased dramatically in recent months. Another defeat would have only ramped up the pressure but they are now five points above the relegation zone.

"It was a really tough game and I think its a huge point for us after what has gone on this week," Lambert said.

"In the last four games the lads have taken a lot of criticism but I'm proud of the way they played. They have stepped up to the plate when they needed to. We needed to stop losing football matches."

Villa's home record is so shambolic it is remarkable that over 35,000 people continue to turn up every week.

The past week has been one of the most difficult for Lambert to endure, with his long-serving deputies Ian Culverhouse and Gary Karsa both leaving under a cloud.

This was another depressingly familiar performance of little excitement, with Villa taking until the 49th minute to register their first effort of note. Southampton dominated possession, with Luke Shaw impressing in front of David Moyes and Phil Neville, but the visitors only tested Brad Guzan once, the American saving from Steven Davis in the first half.

Adam Lallana should have given Southampton the lead in the 55th minute, with Villa's defence outnumbered, but Shaw's cross from the left was poor. And Southampton were convinced they should have been awarded a penalty 10 minutes from time when Ryan Bertrand appeared to handle Nathaniel Clyne's cross in the area.

"It was a clear penalty and it's unexplainable to me why that penalty was not given," said Mauricio Pochettino, the Southampton manager.

"We feel hard done by because in the last few games we've had decisions not go our way and we would we have more points right now. The players don't deserve that."


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