Football: The bottom draw

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The Independent Online
Aston Villa 1

Southampton 1

AS NEWS filtered through of Oldham's fifth goal and Middlesbrough's fourth, there was not very much going on at Villa Park.

And despite there still being a pair of goals to be scored, that judgement endured: at no stage did Aston Villa and Southampton manage to emulate the excitement of those two games being played in the North.

Dalian Atkinson's third goal in as many games was cancelled out by Micky Adams, and the game returned to the stalemate from which it had briefly awoken. Until then, proceedings on the pitch had merely made us more keenly aware of those players who were daydreaming.

A dour struggle in which neither side could impose any real pattern, cried out for the flair of the injured Tony Daley or Perry Groves, one of Southampton's Friday signings. When Matthew Le Tissier limped off on the half hour after a tackle by Steve Staunton, to be followed by Dwight Yorke, who had clearly produced the wrong answer in a late fitness test, a goalless draw seemed in prospect.

Villa's chief threats had come from the combination of the two Steves - Staunton and Froggatt - down the left flank, and it was from there that the deadlock was finally broken. Froggatt's initial cross was too deep, but it found Frank McAvennie, who returned the ball for Atkinson to score at the far post.

Adams, sent off at QPR in midweek, redeemed himself 12 minutes from time, tapping in from five yards after Kerry Dixon had screwed the ball back for Ian Dowie to set up the chance.

Aston Villa: N Spink; E Barrett, S Staunton, S Teale, P McGrath, K Richardson, R Houghton, G Parker, D Yorke (F McAvennie, 37 min), D Atkinson, S Froggatt (U Ehiogu, 76 min). Sub not used: L Sealey (gk). Manager: R Atkinson.

Southampton: T Flowers; J Kenna, M Adams, T Hurlock, R Hall, K Moore, M Le Tissier (I Dowie, 37 min), G Cockerill, K Dixon, D Speedie, F Benali. Subs not used: T Widdrington, I Andrews (gk). Manager: I Branfoot

Referee: K Morton (Bury St Edmunds).

Goals: Atkinson (1-0, 65 min); Adams (1-1, 78 min).

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