Football: The Collymore conundrum leaves Little speechless

Aston Villa 1 Southampton 1
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The Independent Online
Stan Collymore gave his first interview in months to Radio Five Live on Saturday, presumably on the premise that, unlike certain sections of the press, they would not be able to distort what he had to say. Disgruntled of Cannock need not have bothered because his performance - or lack of it - at Villa Park later in the day spoke volumes.

The time for friendly cuppas round at Stan's could soon be over for Brian Little, and the tough talking may have already begun if the Villa manager's non-appearance at the after-match press conference was anything to go by. It may be Christmas but goodwill, it seems, has all but been exhausted at Villa Park, the home for wayward strikers.

It is as well for Little that the next round of the Uefa Cup, which has buoyed Villa in this otherwise disappointing season, is not until the spring. But with Atletico Madrid as their quarter-final opponents he would be ill advised to rely on Europe sustaining their season much after that.

The question to be asked on Saturday - and not for the first time this season - was how could a club spend pounds 10.5m on two attacking players and look so poverty-stricken in that department? The indolent Collymore, who has finished the first half of the season with a pitiful haul of two goals, failed to muster a single decent strike, while the profligate Savo Milosevic at least got in a position to miss.

Without the injured Dwight Yorke, it took a midfielder, Ian Taylor - again, not for the first time this season - to save their skins with the sort of consummate finish that the front two never looked capable of matching. If there was any justice in the world, he would have gone home with their pay-packets. As leading goalscorer he has, after all, been doing their job for them.

As it was Villa were fortunate to scramble home with a draw against struggling Southampton. Matt Le Tissier had the ball in the net with a spot of quick- thinking that one does not always associate with the languid one five minutes from time only for David Elleray, the referee, to disallow it after momentarily appearing to give it. Elleray's explanation that the free-kick was taken in the wrong position was fair enough, but his admission that he would have allowed the kick to stand had it gone wide invited controversy.

Southampton could have taken all three points with or without Mr Elleray's indecisiveness had they been a shade more forthright in their own finishing. Then again only an amazing double save by Paul Jones from the defender Ugo Ehiogu (well, it would not have been from a Villa forward, would it?) kept them in the game until Taylor struck.

It was appropriate that the match should come to rest on a defensive howler, Steve Staunton misreading both the flight of Jones' clearance and the danger posed by the predatory Norwegian substitute Egil Ostenstad, who, despite much absence this season, still knows where the goal is - unlike one or two people I could mention.

Goals: Taylor (64) 1-0; Ostenstad (72) 1-1.

Aston Villa (3-5-2): Oakes; Southgate, Ehiogu, Staunton; Charles, Draper, Taylor, Grayson (Hendrie, 68), Wright; Collymore, Milosevic. Substitutes not used: Joachim, Nelson, Scimeca, Ghent (gk).

Southampton (4-3-1-2): Jones; Dodd, Monkou, Lundekvam, Benali; Oakley, Palmer, Richardson; Le Tissier; Davies (Ostenstad, 36), Hirst. Substitutes not used: Williams, Robinson, Hughes, Flahavan (gk).

Referee: D Elleray (Middlesex).

Man of the match: Monkou.

Attendance: 29,343.

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