Murphy in position to stall Villa's Europe aim

Aston Villa 0 Charlton Athletic 0
Click to follow
The Independent Football

A mini-revival worth seven points in three games had given Aston Villa belated hopes of scraping into a Uefa Cup place, especially now that neither of the possible FA Cup winners will need one, but it looked a fairly fanciful notion as Charlton easily broke their momentum in a tepid stalemate at Villa Park.

A mini-revival worth seven points in three games had given Aston Villa belated hopes of scraping into a Uefa Cup place, especially now that neither of the possible FA Cup winners will need one, but it looked a fairly fanciful notion as Charlton easily broke their momentum in a tepid stalemate at Villa Park.

Charlton will draw more satisfaction from the result in view of their stuttering form but the performance of neither side merited many compliments.

Alan Curbishley, the Charlton manager, had joked that he was worried about his bonuses - all linked to finishing in the top 10 - after watching his side win only one match in nine in their poorest run of the campaign.

The real concern, however, is that their end of season slump repeats itself year after year. In only one of their five seasons in the top flight since promotion in 2000 have their last five fixtures yielded more than one victory.

Their body language at Villa Park, initially at least, did not encourage much hope of a change to that pattern, the home side pushing them back into their own half for the larger part of the opening 45 minutes.

Villa ought to have scored in that period but Dean Kiely did well to keep out a rocket from Thomas Hitzlsperger, Carlton Cole could not quite keep his balance to convert a cross from Juan Pablo Angel and, when Cole returned the favour, Angel's run was a fraction too late.

Just before half-time, with Villa stretched to contain a four-man Charlton breakaway, Francis Jeffers wasted the chance with a wild shot from outside the box that Thomas Sorensen watched sail harmlessly over the top.

All things considered, it could hardly be described as suitable entertainment for a bitter Birmingham evening.

Gareth Barry created some excitement with a curling shot that went respectably close but then Jeffers and Cole continued the theme of the night by shooting woefully wide.

Villa thought they had a lead when Nolberto Solano's cross-cum-shot beat Kiely only for Danny Murphy to head off the line. Charlton should have had it moments later when Hermann Hreidarsson was allowed to meet a Murphy corner with a free header but missed the target. After Cole had also missed with a header, Hitzlsperger drove a low shot wide.

At least Villa had designs on winning, sending on Darius Vassell as a third striker; Charlton looked happy to play for a draw.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Sorensen; De la Cruz, Barry, Samuel, Delaney; Solano, Davis, Hendrie (Vassell, 74), Hitzlsperger; Cole (L Moore, 84), Angel. Substitutes not used: Postma (gk), Djemba-Djemba, Berson.

Charlton Athletic (4-5-1): Kiely; Kishishev, El Karkouri, Fortune, Hreidarsson (Perry, 87); Rommedahl (Euell, 75), Murphy, Holland, Hughes, Johansson; Jeffers. Substitutes not used: Andersen (gk), Thomas, Fuller.

Referee: B Knight (Kent).

Comments