Football / FA Premiership: Villa make capital

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The Independent Online
Aston Villa. . . . . . .3

Richardson 15, Atkinson 43, 68

West Ham United. . . . .1

Allen 30

Attendance: 28,869

MENTION home sweet home to Aston Villa these days and they immediately think of north London. Their Coca-Cola Cup quarter-final win over Spurs in midweek was their sixth win at either White Hart Lane or Highbury in eight visits under Ron Atkinson. But, in fact, any old Londoners will do and West Ham became the seventh club from the capital to fall to Villa in 11 matches. Only Wimbledon, naturally, have bucked the trend with a victory.

In contrast to their resilience away from Villa Park, Atkinson's men had taken only one point out of the last 12 at home. But the Hammers went the way of all London flesh - 18 of Villa's 37 points have now come from this source.

A capital show, in fact, for the home supporters although West Ham's boisterous following had to suffer a third defeat in six games despite their lively contribution. Missing Burrows and Butler, they looked in danger of being swamped by Villa's effervescent start crowned by Kevin Richardson's drilled 25-yard shot to open the scoring after 15 minutes.

But the Hammers rallied bravely, equalising with a sweetly executed goal, Martin Allen burying a header past the rooted Mark Bosnich from Keith Rowlands's diagonal cross.

Villa looked in danger of wandering down a familiar home cul-de-sac at that point but they restored their advantage two minutes before half-time when Andy Townsend's looping 40-yard cross was lost by Rowlands allowing Dalian Atkinson to nip in and toe-poke past Ludo Miklosko.

West Ham's crosses were a constant threat and the visitors should have equalised too when Lee Chapman sneaked round Bosnich's blind side to head fractionally wide.

But Villa made the game safe with another sweetly executed goal. Ray Houghton threaded a ball into the path of Atkinson who crashed a first-time shot into the roof of the net. 'I can't ever remember having a dull game against West Ham because they always play smashing football,' Ron Atkinson said afterwards.

Villa are back in London next Saturday - Chelsea beware.