It says something for Wolverhampton Wanderers' excellent start to the season that, on the day they had another fleeting taste of life as Premier League leaders, questions were asked about the methods that took them there.
Having played well to take maximum points from their opening two games, they showed a more attritional side in prising a point from a subdued Midlands derby that drew a crowd more than 8,000 down on when they won at the venue in March.
The spectacle, TV version or otherwise, was less than riveting but there were few apologies from the Wolves camp. "We made sure we shut the back door and we were backs to the walls for a good portion of the game," said their new signing and captain, Roger Johnson. "We came through with a clean sheet, so I'm happy. We aren't going to turn our noses up at a point here."
Johnson gave the watching Fabio Capello food for thought but was grateful to his club manager for the tactical tweaks that halted Aston Villa in their tracks during a prolonged onslaught around the hour mark. Mick McCarthy withdrew his international wingers Stephen Hunt and Matt Jarvis in favour of the much more defensively minded Kevin Foley and George Elokobi and the changes ensured they were never under the same threat again.
Villa have also had a satisfactory start – pleasing even for the way Alex McLeish has been accepted by the supporters after his cross-city move from the relegated Carling Cup winners Birmingham. The manager is a good friend of McCarthy's and enjoyed the tactical battle of wits, even if the clean-sheets-all-round outcome was more gratifying for two craggy former central defenders than it was for the paying fan.
Substitutes: Aston Villa Bannan 6 (N'Zogbia, 74), Albrighton (Delph, 84). Wolves Elokobi 6 (Hunt, 66), Foley 6 (Jarvis, 66), Vokes (Fletcher, 89).
Booked: Aston Villa Delph. Wolves Stearman, Henry, O'Hara.
Man of the match Ward. Match rating 6/10.
Possession: Aston Villa 49% Wolves 51%. Attempts on target: Aston Villa 5 Wolves 2. Referee M Atkinson (W Yorkshire). Attendance 30,776.Reuse content