Football: Taylor puts in zip

Aston Villa 1 Taylor 64 Southampton 1 Ostenstad 72 Attendance: 29,343
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The Independent Online
According to stop watches in the stands, both halves of the contest at Villa Park yesterday were under the required 45 minutes. The apparent deduction of a total of 27 seconds was presumably referee David Elleray's Christmas gift to the fans. Mr Elleray has sometimes been criticised for his apparently fastidious interpretation of the laws but he clearly knows a thoroughly indifferent game when he sees one and is understandably unwilling to subject fellow observers - of whom there were a healthy 29,343 yesterday - to more than is absolutely necessary and less if possible.

There were few imaginative touches by either side though a draw was eventually a fair result. Both defences exhibited inadequacies by way of confirming that the trade in Britain remains in decline but since only two goals were scored perhaps the strikers' art is nothing to write home about either.

Villa, whose league form has perked up, excluding, inevitably, their attendance at Old Trafford, might have taken the lead inside 10 minutes when Claus Lundekvam allowed Savo Milosevic to skip past him, but the central defender atoned by dashing back to kick the resultant angled shot off the line. In retaliation,David Hirst barged his way through two defenders only to have his left-foot shot saved.

A minute before the interval Paul Jones made a smart reflex save to deny Ugo Ehiogu after Steve Staunton's free-kick from the left and repeated it from the rebound but these were sparse incidents.

The match's best move led to its first goal in the 64th minute. Gary Charles, sprightly almost throughout, played a swift ball to Mark Draper who alertly put it into the stride of Ian Taylor. The midfielder scored his sixth goal of the season comfortably. Milosevic might have made it two but missed the target much to his displeasure. This could only have increased two minutes later when Jones' clearance found the substitute Egil Ostenstad, who controlled it with his head, outstripped Staunton and scored.

Hirst might have won it for Southampton four minutes from the end, or by Mr Elleray's reckoning three minutes and 50 seconds. It gave everybody time to do some shopping.

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