Agbonlahor and Bent boost optimism

Aston Villa 2 Wigan 0
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The Independent Football

Alex McLeish knows that the jury is out at Aston Villa and always will be. Controversially transferring his allegiance from St Andrew's to Villa Park during the summer was laden with danger, the mutual loathing of the rival fans representing a burden that he will have to carry week in, week out. For ever.

Still, the early signs are encouraging for the Villa manager. An unbeaten seven-match start to the Premier League campaign has quietened the dissenters, for now, and the blossoming partnership of Darren Bent and Gabby Agbonlahor up front – a vibrant mix of speed and strength – is another cause for optimism.

It was too much for Wigan Athletic on Saturday, their defence bludgeoned into submission by the bullocking runs of Agbonlahor and the immovable muscle of Bent. A goal apiece, both neatly constructed and expertly executed, was a fair reward for McLeish's enterprise in combining the pair.

"There were people who said that me and Gabby couldn't play together because we are too similar," Bent said. "But we complement each other well and, hopefully, it will continue. We only played one striker at times last season and, when we did play two, it tended to be me and Emile Heskey.

"Gabby looks strong, fast and dangerous. I don't think there are too many strikers playing better than him. When you have someone with that kind of pace up front, it makes the job easier for you. He is always going to get past people and expose them. That's going to help both of us and the team."

That Agbonlahor has been hindered by a persistent back problem makes his fluid performances – and return of four goals this season – all the more admirable.

"I've still got the pain now and I'm on painkillers," he said. "If I can get it sorted, though, I could be really on fire."

Good news for McLeish. "Gabby is such a powerful beast," the Scot observed. "And he's a kid who can get even better. If I can keep improving this guy I've got a real gem on my hands." Bad news for defenders. The Wigan quartet were twisted every which way in pursuit of the elusive duo and, but for the acrobatics of Ali Al Habsi, the goalkeeper, could have been punished further.

Scorers: Aston Villa Agbonlahor 36, Bent 62.

Substitutes: A Villa Heskey 6 (Ireland, 58), N'Zogbia 6 (Bent, 74), Weimann (Agbonlahor, 86). Wigan McArthur 5 (Stam, 56), Maloney 6 (Diame, 71), Sammon (McCarthy, 85). Booked: A Villa None. Wigan Caldwell. Man of the match Agbonlahor. Match rating 6/10.

Possession: A Villa 52% Wigan 48%.

Attempts on target: A Villa 10 Wigan 9.

Referee M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

Attendance 30,744.

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