No rift with Darren Bent insists Paul Lambert after Christian Benteke repays gamble pays off for Aston Villa against Reading

Aston Villa 1 Reading 0

Villa Park

Even with the kind of long-term redevelopment that Paul Lambert envisages, it is necessary to win matches and Aston Villa, having predictably taken only a point from back-to-back meetings with Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal, needed to win this one against Reading, another side languishing in the bottom three of the Premier League.

It comes at the beginning of a sequence that also brings them up against Harry Redknapp's Queen's Park Rangers and Stoke City, the success of which may end up shaping their season. So the goal scored by their striker Christian Benteke 10 minutes from time, after 80 minutes of unfulfilled opportunities, could be an important one. Villa's win was only their third at home in the Premier League in the whole of 2012, their first since mid-September.

The result came against growing speculation over the future of Villa's record signing, the England striker Darren Bent, who was left out of Lambert's squad for the second time in four days despite having apparently recovered from an ankle injury.

Bent, who cost £24m when he moved to the Midlands from Sunderland in January last year on a four-and-a-half year contract, has started only one match in the past two months.

Yet Lambert denied again last night that there was any rift between him and the player, said to be a target for both QPR and Liverpool. The club denied a story, circulating on Twitter, that Bent had to be brought back to the stadium to take his place in the stands after initially storming out.

"I kept with the players who I used on Saturday because I thought they deserved the chance to continue," Lambert said. "I've no problem with Darren and if I had I would tell you. It is the same for him as any other player – it is up to me to look at everyone in training and pick a side I think gives us the best chance to win a game."

Yet by choosing to do without Bent's experience – and a career record of a goal every other game – Lambert seemed to be taking an enormous risk, one that was compounded by Villa's failings in front of goal before Benteke got them off the hook.

Benteke wasted an inviting chance after 17 minutes when his attempt to place the ball from only 10 yards out allowed the Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici to make a save. Then Andreas Weimann, who was set up by Benteke, fired the ball high and wide from a similarly close range.

Reading might, perhaps should, have gone ahead with Villa unable to take a grip on the contest until the last third of the opening half, when they began to mount more concerted attacks but they still looked in need of some quality near goal.

Villa's performance in a goalless draw against Arsenal last weekend, in which they did as much as their opponents to merit a win, suggested they were making progress but last night their enthusiasm was too often undermined by untidiness and imprecise passing. Reading, whose defeat at Wigan had been their first in five matches, were willing battlers, so much so that the longer the scores remained level, the more nervous Villa became.

Again, chances presented themselves for Villa after the break, but Ciaran Clark headed wide unmarked from a corner and Brett Holman, after making his own opportunity with a jinky run on the right, could only find the side netting.

But Lambert's frustrations were ended – and a more difficult post-match interrogation avoided – with 10 minutes remaining as Benteke climbed over Adrian Mariappa to head home a corner from Barry Bannan, in the process claiming his third Premier League goal since his late August move from the Belgian club Genk.

Man of the match Benteke.

Match rating 6/10.

Referee L Probert (Wiltshire).

Attendance 28,692.

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past