Football: Villa accentuate the negative to go top

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The Independent Online
Sheffield Wednesday 0 Aston Villa 1

IF THE Australian goalkeeper Mark Bosnich is reluctant to extend his contract at Villa Park, it is not because he is unhappy about the quality of his fellow defenders.

His view after a victory, which took Villa to the top of the Premiership, was that this is the best defence he has ever played behind, so at least he has reached agreement with his manager over something.

John Gregory also put the extension of the purple patch with which his side ended last season down to his robust rearguard. "On the offensive side this was our least impressive display of the season, but on the defensive side we were quite outstanding. Wednesday pressed us hard all through the second half, but there was always someone putting a foot in or sticking his head in the way, and Bosnich had a clean pair of hands."

Indeed, despite an almost faultless defensive display in which the centre- backs Gareth Southgate and Ugo Ehiogu remained calm at the eye of a gathering storm, Villa owe their victory to a couple of superb saves by Bosnich from Wednesday's striker Andy Booth in the last few minutes and another from Paolo di Canio.

It left Hillsborough still waiting to see a goal from the home side this season, and Wednesday's manager Danny Wilson frustrated by another home match lost through his side's inability to convert their chances.

"Our commitment and attitude are not in question, but ruthlessness in front of goal is the difference between successful and unsuccessful teams", he said.

"If we continue to fail to score at home, finding another striker will become a priority."

The unfortunate Booth had the ball in the net after only four minutes but was marginally off-side, and he directed a header narrowly wide before Villa scored the only goal of the afternoon on 37 minutes.

Stan Collymore, back for the first time this season, picked out his striking partner, Julian Joachim, whose half-volley from the edge of the penalty area flew beyond Kevin Pressman's left hand.

It was the only moment of laxness from a Wednesday defence which looked almost as reliable as Villa's. The real difference between the sides was in midfield, where Wednesday's summer signing Wim Jonk was overshadowed by the burgeoning home-grown talent of Villa's Lee Hendrie.

But, for Gregory, the even larger shadow of the departed Dwight Yorke still lingers. "The second half was made for him, when we needed someone to do it for us on the break", he said. "We are always going to miss a player of his ability."

Goal: Joachim (37) 0-1.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Cobian (Barrett, 63), Walker, Emerson, Hinchcliffe; Atherton, Jonk, Carbone, Rudi; Booth, Di Canio. Substitutes not used: Whittingham, Hyde, Briscoe, Clarke (gk).

Aston Villa (3-5-2): Bosnich; Ehiogu, Southgate, Barry; Charles, Wright, Draper (Grayson, 77), Thompson, Hendrie; Joachim, Collymore. Substitutes not used: Ferraresi, Scimeca, Vassell, Oakes (gk).

Referee: K Burge (Tonypandy).

Bookings: Wednesday: Carbone.

Man of the match: Bosnich.

Attendance: 25,989.