Football: Villa boosted by Collymore injection

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Aston Villa 3

Collymore 21, Hendrie 71, Joachim 85

Coventry City 0

Attendance: 33,250

Stan Collymore does not have to do much to keep in with the Aston Villa supporters. A league goal every four months will do. The Villa faithful clearly do not want to overburden their prodigal son with too much weight of expectation following his pounds 7.5m switch from Liverpool, so his second Premiership goal - the first came back in August - was greeted with World Cup-winning style celebrations.

It did not matter that Lee Hendrie's goal was better or that Julian Joachim's late third caused their sad local rivals further embarrassment. Stan is their man and they let him know it.

Coventry fans would no doubt consider four months as a mere fraction of passing time - they have waited forever to see their heroes win a league game at Villa Park. Yes, there is still not a Coventry supporter, dead or alive, who has witnessed such a feat. Never really means never to Coventry folk.

But this match was more of a fight than a game, as derby contests so often are. Coventry slip back into relegation trouble after having two players sent off and the referee, Graham Barber, was just the card-happy official required to administer the punishment. There were also six bookings.

Coventry's defender Paul Williams was dismissed in first-half injury time for his second bookable challenge on Collymore. But the Villa striker didn't feel it - he was still enjoying his 21st-minute goal. He was involved in a neat exchange of passes on the edge of the area and then drove in a low left-foot shot which appeared to benefit from a slight deflection.

The defender Gary Breen was then sent off in second-half injury time for shoving Gary Charles in the face. There should be no complaints relating to both dismissals.

Villa lost Dwight Yorke with a calf-strain shortly before the break and he was replaced by young Hendrie. The home side's manager, Brian Little, denied that his own tactical awareness had prompted the change, but how he smiled when Hendrie settled the contest in the 71st minute with a twisting run and confident shot to score.

Coventry's goalscoring chances were few and their manager's tactics extended to sending on his own son, Gavin Strachan, but it did little to help a lost cause and there was further pain to suffer in the form of Joachim's 90th-minute goal. The sprightly winger swung in a hopeful cross from the right and the ball evaded defenders and forwards alike before sailing into the back of the net.

Villa cannot claim they played particularly well, but they needed this win as a morale booster before Tuesday's second-leg Uefa Cup tie against Steaua Bucharest, when they will attempt to overcome a 2-1 deficit and reach the quarter-finals. Coventry did not need this at all and now face a miserable Christmas, during which their ability to survive in the Premiership will be severely tested.