Aston Villa 1 Fulham 1 match report: Paul Lambert raises a half-full glass to Villa's prospects of Premier League survival
Manager insists the pressure is greater on sides newly drawn into the relegation battle
Monday 15 April 2013
For those of a glass half-empty persuasion, it was a case of two points dropped by Aston Villa on a weekend where Sunderland's derby victory 24 hours later sent the Birmingham side slipping one place in the table to 17th, three points clear of a Wigan side with two games in hand. Yet for Paul Lambert, the Villa manager, the glass remained half-full, despite seeing Fabian Delph's own goal deny his team a precious victory against Fulham.
"We're playing well, the feeling is good, the positivity is good," said Lambert – and with some justification, given that his team's recent upturn has brought 10 points from their last five outings, a marked improvement on the 13 games it took to gather the previous 10.
Villa sit level on 34 points with Stoke and Sunderland, and just one behind Norwich, and Lambert's view is that after a season-long struggle, his young team are better equipped to cope with the stressful final weeks than rivals newly sucked into the mire.
"We've been down there most of the year and the situation isn't new to us; what's happened now is we've brought teams into it who haven't been there, and all of a sudden they won't be very sure what's going to happen," he said. "You have to handle the pressure that comes from being down there."
If not at their best on Saturday, Villa still created enough chances to win the game and the mood in the stands was far from the doom and gloom witnessed at other relegation-threatened clubs recently – a fact not lost on Martin Jol, the Fulham manager, whose own team reached the 40-point mark with this draw.
"To be in this position must be difficult but [Lambert] has created an atmosphere that everyone is behind him and this is what you need and what other managers will say – probably what Martin O'Neill said [at Sunderland], and what [Tony] Pulis said at Stoke," Jol said.
"What's happening now is the crowd here is really behind us and the team are bouncing off that," added Lambert. Villa will need to maintain this positive mindset in the weeks ahead as next Monday's visit to Manchester United heralds a tough run-in that pits them against relegation rivals Sunderland, Norwich and Wigan, as well as the Chelsea team that beat them 8-0 in December.
Villa have conceded in 17 consecutive league games but Lambert promised they would "give it a go" at Old Trafford, that glass half-full once again.
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