Misery mounts for Houllier as Jarvis stirs relegation pot

Aston Villa 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1
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The Independent Football

As weeks go, this one has been as bad as it gets for Aston Villa's manager, Gérard Houllier. First he was forced to contend with the Midlands club's latest off-field controversy, Richard Dunne and James Collins's unsavoury quarrel with backroom staff, which led to the pair being fined a combined £200,000.

Then, having predicted a spirited response from his team, the Villa Park crowd were subjected to one of the most anaemic performances of the Frenchman's tenure as Matt Jarvis's masterful volley earned Wolves a warranted victory. "We want Houllier out," came the chant.

Three weeks ago Villa thrashed Blackburn 4-1, but nothing has gone to plan since Houllier sent an under-strength side out in the FA Cup against Manchester City days later. They are now just a point off the bottom three and patience is wearing thin. Even before the kick-off a banner proclaiming 'Had enough, Houllier out' was unfurled on the Holte End but swiftly confiscated by stewards.

"I share their frustrations," Houllier said. "They are not happy with me, I'm not happy with what we're doing at the moment. The fans need to support the team. I have told the players we have eight Champions' League games to play now. I am convinced we have what it takes to survive. I know what I am doing."

With Collins and Dunne among a long list of defensive absentees, the 21-year-old midfielder Chris Herd was given his first Premier League start as a centre-back.

Looking susceptible in defence and bereft of ideas going forward, Villa required a change. Houllier acted before half-time by replacing Nathan Baker, the 19-year-old left-back, with Fabian Delph, another midfielder, in the 33rd minute.

The change failed to have the desired impact, as within five minutes the home side were behind from a cross from that left channel. Nenad Milijas delivered it, Christophe Berra flicked on to Jarvis who took the ball on the volley with a low strike in off the right post.

Villa should have been awarded a penalty in the 53rd minute when Darren Bent was upended by Richard Stearman just inside the penalty area, but Phil Dowd gave a free-kick.

Bringing on Robert Piresand Gabriel Agbonlahor for Marc Albrighton and Nigel Reo-Coker was unpopular, and Villa and Houllier's day was summed up with 10 minutes remaining when Jean Makoun slotted in Ashley Young only for his fierce effort to ricochet off the underside of the crossbar.

Wolves, meanwhile, remain in the relegation zone but by virtue of goal difference alone. Their manager, Mick McCarthy, said: "I think it was a deserved victory. Overall, we dominated the game. Anybody who was here wouldn't have to be the brightest light on the Christmas tree to recognisethe tension.

"When you're getting beaten at home, it doesn't matter who you are."

Attendance: 38,965

Referee: Phil Dowd

Man of the match: Jarvis

Match rating: 7/10