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Clean sheet makes the case for Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa defence

Villa optimistic for the new season after gaining four points from six

Aston Villa’s goalless draw with Newcastle United featured last on the 50th anniversary Match of the Day on Saturday but Paul Lambert could at least draw satisfaction from a second clean sheet for his new-look defence.

After two seasons in which rookies’ simple mistakes were a recurring feature of Villa’s defensive play, Lambert can now call on two experienced full-backs in newly recruited Aly Cissokho and the recalled Alan Hutton, together with Philippe Senderos, who has hit the ground running in his partnership with Ron Vlaar.

“The back four are on top of their game at the minute,” Lambert said. “They are experienced lads who know the game. What is really pleasing is their will to win and not concede. That is a big factor.”

Further upfield, both managers will have seen room for improvement, not least a Newcastle side yet to score this season.

After a quiet afternoon for his new French frontman Emmanuel Rivière, manager Alan Pardew reiterated his complaint about the high price of British forwards. “It’s such a shame,” he said. “If we could have some realism around our own strikers, maybe they’d get more opportunities.”

Lambert is hopeful of the injured Christian Benteke returning before too long, but added: “We’re not going to rush him”.