Villans show signs of life but goals still in short supply
Marc Wilson came agonisingly close to grabbing a scarcely deserved winner for Stoke as they played out a goalless draw with midlands rivals Aston Villa at the Britannia Stadium last night.
With Peter Crouch and Darren Bent unable to make their returns from illness and injury respectively, both sides lacked attacking quality in the first half, although Villa did hit the woodwork through Emile Heskey, who was subsequently forced off with a recurrence of his Achilles problem.
Stoke were also without Glenn Whelan, who was unavailable due to a calf injury, while Stephen Ireland was left out for Villa.
Wilson almost broke the deadlock in the 69th minute when his header struck the the bar.
Heskey came agonisingly close to putting Villa ahead in the 21st minute, his header from Charles N'Zogbia's corner striking Thomas Sorensen's left-hand post.
After becoming the first player to be booked, for a disputed foul on Agbonlahor, Huth then went close again when he was picked out by Dean Whitehead's free-kick.
Heskey failed to emerge for the second half, so Nathan Delfouneso was introduced by McLeish. After Carlos Cuellar had produced an important header at the back post to prevent Jonathan Walters from connecting with Ryan Shotton's cross, the sub came close to giving Villa the lead in the 53rd minute.
Agbonlahor broke clear down the left before squaring for his strike partner, but Delfouneso's toe-poked finish was blocked by Sorensen.
Stoke were left cursing their luck moments later as Wilson met Etherington's centre with a firm header from 10 yards out, only to be denied by a combination of crossbar and Agbonlahor.