Football: Villa raise head of steam

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The Independent Online
Aston Villa 2

Staunton 15, Saunders 85

Ipswich Town 0

Attendance: 22,241

ASTON VILLA'S simmering early-season form showed signs of coming to the boil yesterday, although an 85th-minute goal from Dean Saunders was required to settle nerves. In their previous two home games Villa had surrendered one-goal leads in the dying minutes but, one scare apart, Ipswich posed a negligible threat.

Their one moment came with 20 minutes remaining when a back pass by the Villa full-back Phil King was intercepted by Chris Kiwomya in acres of space. However, a moment's hesitation allowed Earl Barrett to make a saving tackle.

A third defeat for the East Anglians leaves them facing a long winter's struggle while Villa can travel to Internazionale this week in good heart. Italian spies saw them win for a second successive time, although Villa were far more impressive here than in beating Coventry 1-0. They had to wait only 15 minutes for a sorely pressed Ipswich defence to crack when Dean Saunders ran round Mick Stockwell and fed the overlapping Steve Staunton who fired low into the corner. Craig Forrest in the Ipswich goal turned Andy Townsend's volley on to the bar and stuck out a hand at the near post to keep out a Dwight Yorke volley at the start of the second half. Staunton hit the bar from a corner worked short and Saunders hit the post from three yards a minute before rounding the keeper and evading the evergreen John Wark to clinch the result by rolling the ball into an empty net.

Ipswich brought a double save from Nigel Spink - replacing the injured Mark Bosnich - in the first half but perhaps their best hopes were not on the field at all. Their South American signings, Adrian Paz of Uruguay and Mauricio Tarricco of Argentina, were in the stand awaiting work permits before joining the struggle. One trusts they will not have cold feet.

Villa are unbeaten in a low- key start but they look in good shape for when the real battle starts on Thursday.