O'Neill upbeat despite sharing spoils with the neighbours

Wolves 1 Aston Villa 1
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The Independent Football

Considering that Aston Villa had already beaten Chelsea and Liverpool and suffered their only defeats against Wigan and Blackburn, an obvious conclusion from Saturday's stalemate at Molineux was that they have trouble disposing of lesser opposition.

Martin O'Neill, however, was having none of it. ''This was always going to be a tough game for us,'' the Villa manager said. ''It was a derby, which makes it hard in itself, against a side playing with plenty of spirit and enthusiasm. I'm just disappointed we didn't get to grip with the game early enough.''

If there was disappointment at the eventual dropping of two points after his side had taken the lead 11 minutes from time, O'Neill could take some positives from this highly competitive West Midlands derby. Villa put a poor first-half performance behind them to enjoy the better of the second, while their defence stood firm in the face of some enterprising play from Wolves, for whom Karl Henry was a tower of midfield strength and Michael Kightly a constant source of danger.

On this evidence O'Neill's main concern might be in midfield, where Henry and Segundo Castillo got the better of Steve Sidwell and Stiliyan Petrov. Wolves also looked a real force going forward, with Kightly always trying to support Kevin Doyle and Ebanks-Blake. The result could have been very different had Peter Walton awarded a penalty for what looked like a blatant pull by Dunne on Doyle in the third minute. It was not the first time this season that Wolves have not been given what seemed a clear spot-kick.

Even if Wolves faded in the second half, their response to Gabriel Agbonlahor's sixth goal in eight games was admirable. Within four minutes Ebanks-Blake had smashed a penalty into the roof of the net after Sidwell had brought down Kightly.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Hennessey; Zubar, Craddock, Berra, Elokobi; Edwards (Milijas, 75), Henry, Castillo, Kightly (Halford, 86); Ebanks-Blake (Iwelumo, 86), Doyle. Substitutes not used: Hahnemann (gk), Stearman, Keogh, Jarvis.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; Cuellar, Collins, Dunne, Warnock; Milner, Petrov, Sidwell, A Young; Agbonlahor, Carew (Heskey, 71). Substitutes not used: Guzan (gk), L Young, Delph, Reo-Coker, Gardner, Clark.

Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).

Booked: Wolves Zubar; Aston Villa Carew, Warnock.

Man of the match: Henry.

Attendance: 28,734.