O'Neill and Villa back in harmony after testing week

Bolton Wanderers 0 Aston Villa 1

Maybe you had to have lost 7-1 last week and faced calls for your head for this to seem good, but that was the way it looked to Martin O'Neill.

Villa came away with a victory that maintains their slim chance of fourth place in the Premier League and O'Neill hailed their determination and – significantly, in view of John Terry's comments last week – fitness. O'Neill was even able to leave James Milner resting on the bench for the challenges ahead. The manager also said he was "overwhelmed" by the fans' positive response to his own comments about his future, while denying they amounted to anything more than his usual self-assessment after a season.

Villa did rediscover some of the qualities that have made them Champions League candidates. They were suffocatingly strong in central defence, where Richard Dunne got right on top of Bolton's talismanic Kevin Davies.

Villa won because of an early touch of technique and instinct from Ashley Young, who curved a right-footer into the far side of the net when given too much space on the left of the area. Unfortunately, there was nothing of that quality in the remaining 80 minutes of the match.

As for Owen Coyle, steering Bolton clear of relegation will be less a case of managerial magic than a simple matter of there being even worse teams in the Premier League, not least his old boys at Burnley. "We were terrific for the first 10 minutes, but after that we never reached the standard we set for ourselves," he said.

Of course, it is not really his side yet, more the one that he inherited from Gary Megson, although one change has been the arrival on loan from Arsenal of 18-year-old Jack Wilshere.

The midfielder was largely responsible for Bolton's bright start and he was still there scrapping at the end; literally, as it turned out, as one of three players booked after the final whistle.

"He shows so much composure for an 18-year-old and the size of his heart isn't in question either," said Coyle, who refused to be downcast by a generally lacklustre display.

"It shows how far we have come that we are disappointed to have got nothing out of a match against a team of their standing," he argued.

Bolton Wanderers(4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Ricketts, Cahill, Knight, Robinson; Lee (Taylor, 77), Muamba, Cohen (Weiss, 65), Wilshere; K Davies, Elmander (Klasnic, 57). Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Samuel, Steinsson, A O'Brien.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; Cuellar, Collins, Dunne, Warnock; A Young, Petrov, Delph (Sidwell, 74), Downing; Carew (Heskey, 69), Agbonlahor. Substitutes not used: Guzan (gk), L Young, Milner, Delfouneso, Beye.

Referee: M Jones (Cheshire).

Booked: Bolton Ricketts, Jaaskelainen, Klasnic, Wilshere; Aston Villa Downing.

Man of the match: Dunne.

Attendance: 21,111.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz