West Bromwich Albion 0-0 Aston Villa | Premier League match report

It was not the victory that would have put to bed any relegation fears, but this hard-fought point, on a bitterly cold afternoon when Alex McLeish unusually spent almost the entire match glued to his seat, could prove to be invaluable for Aston Villa.

With two matches remaining, Villa sit three points above the bottom three and, although Bolton Wanderers and Queens Park Rangers both have a game in hand, the Midlands club have a superior goal difference that may be crucial.

It certainly could have been a lot worse for Villa here. Shay Given made a superb save in the 90th minute to keep out Peter Odemwingie's close-range volley, Carlos Cuéllar headed a shot from the West Brom striker off the line earlier in the second half and Alan Hutton was fortunate not to receive a red card and concede a penalty when he clearly handled Liam Ridgewell's header four minutes after the interval.

Villa, however, deserved a point and would have scored but for a combination of Ben Foster's excellent goalkeeping, Gabriel Agbonlahor's profligacy and Emile Heskey's startling lack of conviction in front of goal. It is difficult to think of any other centre-forward who would have chosen to pass when the ball dropped at the former England international's feet eight yards out only two minutes from time.

McLeish, however, took encouragement from a battling performance at the end of a chastening week. "We certainly don't think it's the worst point in the world because it's still in our hands and we've still got two games to go," he said. "One of the guys in the dressing room will get the goal that matters for us over the next two games, I'm positive of that."

Although McLeish accepted Hutton handled from Ridgewell's header, the Villa manager claimed, somewhat dubiously, that the incident was no different to one involving Chris Brunt in the first half, when the Albion midfielder appeared to know nothing about the ball striking his hand.

"It did [hit Hutton's arm] but I thought it was very similar to Chris Brunt's. It's a reactionary jerk, they're trying to make a movement," the Villa manager said. "We had a better shout when [Jonas] Olsson slid along the ground and dragged it with his arm when Ciaran Clark's shot was going into the bottom corner. So we feel a little disappointed that we didn't get that decision. But maybe the ref [Mark Clattenburg] didn't see it."

Olsson may well have been lucky on that occasion, although Heskey could have scored seconds before when the ball dropped invitingly at his feet, only for the striker to pass to Clark, a defender playing in midfield.

Agbonlahor also should have done better with two decent chances in the first half when he broke clear but Foster, who also denied Chris Herd and Charles N'Zogbia either side of half-time, saved from the Villa forward on both occasions.

Although frustrated that the assistant referee failed to spot Hutton's handball, Roy Hodgson said that he had no complaints with the outcome. "I think a draw was a fair result," the Albion manager said. "Villa did well and worked very hard. I thought the two goalkeepers were very good, in particular Given's save in the last minute from Peter Odemwingie was something quite phenomenal."

McLeish, who is normally an animated figure in the technical area, was still in his seat at that point, which felt like a conscious change of approach on the back of the abuse he received towards the end of Tuesday's defeat against Bolton, although he disputed that was the case. "My seat was in the middle and it was a bit of a chore getting past Peter [Grant, Villa's assistant manager], so I just let him stay out there and pass the messages," he said. "We just want to be cool and not be frantic from the technical area. It just didn't seem appropriate somehow today."


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