O'Neill and Villa back in harmony after testing week
Bolton Wanderers 0 Aston Villa 1
Monday 05 April 2010
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.
Latest in Sport
Liverpool target Marco Reus rejects new Borussia Dortmund contract offer - reports
Manchester United transfer news: Mats Hummels, Thomas Vermaelen and Daley Blind on radar as Louis van Gaal reveals he still wants to sign defender
Arsenal agree new deal with BT Sport - which coincides nicely with advert showing FA Cup win over Liverpool
Divock Origi joins Liverpool before immediately being loaned back to Lille
Scottie dogs in Commonwealth Games opening ceremony 'disrespectful to Muslims', say Malaysian politicians
- 1 What if 35 Palestinians had died, and 800 Israelis?
- 2 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 3 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 4 'Women should not laugh in public,' says Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister in morality speech
- 5 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us