Football: Sizzling Saunders

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The Independent Online
Aston Villa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5

Saunders 31, pen 66, pen 84,

Froggatt 55, Richardson 73

Swindon Town. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Attendance: 26,637

SWINDON'S mini-revival since veteran Brian Kilcline arrived to add his experience, muscle and ponytail to the Wiltshire defence ran into the buffers with an almighty thump at Villa Park. Whatever hope the visitors had of a result disintegrated in the second half in the face of Villa's lethal pace.

In a first half virtually devoid of flair, it was a minor miracle that a goal was produced. The sides were well matched in their penchant for the obvious although in flashes Dean Saunders did bring purpose to his hurrying and scurrying.

One such moment in the 31st minute put Villa in the lead when Dalian Atkinson's lob caught the Swindon defence square with no one between Saunders and the exposed Nicky Hammond on his goal line. The striker strode forward to hammer his shot into the net from 10 yards.

The best that Swindon could muster in this period was a speculative 20-yarder from John Moncur that had Mark Bosnich sprawling and a Nicky Somerby cross which caused some consternation until sufficient Villa shirts congregated to block Martin Ling's shot.

Ten minutes into the second half, Tony Daley, who had spent the first half at his most pointless, stabbed a cross into the Swindon six-yard box where Froggatt's flying header sent the second goal passed Hammond. Daley began to meander into the middle and his speed, added to that of Atkinson and Saunders, turned the game.

In the 64th minute, Saunders showed the visitors' defence a clean pair of heels to latch on to Ray Houghton's perceptive pass before being pulled down by the desperate keeper. Hammond paid the penalty when Saunders cracked home the inevitable award. Ten minutes later Kevin Richardson swept home the fourth with the Swindon defence in disarray.

As if there was not enough salt in the Swindon wounds, Saunders completed his hat-trick six minutes from time with another penalty, conceded when substitute Dwight Yorke was felled.

When Villa finally shook off their torpor and realised that the respect they had shown Swindon in the first half had been misplaced, the difference in class between the sides was obvious. If manager Ron Atkinson had sent Daley foraging through the middle at the veteran Kilcline from the very first whistle, Swindon's humiliation might well have been even greater.