Robinson's header drags West Brom out of danger zone

Aston Villa 1 West Bromwich Albion 1
Click to follow
The Independent Online

For an hour, this West Midlands derby was about as subdued as the assembly line at Rover. The dismissal of Aston Villa's Liam Ridgewell and West Bromwich Albion's Jonathan Greening then reduced the sides to 10 men, and a stoppage-time equaliser by Paul Robinson not only denied Villa's Darius Vassell the distinction of being the match-winner but lifted Albion out of the relegation zone for the first time since November.

For an hour, this West Midlands derby was about as subdued as the assembly line at Rover. The dismissal of Aston Villa's Liam Ridgewell and West Bromwich Albion's Jonathan Greening then reduced the sides to 10 men, and a stoppage-time equaliser by Paul Robinson not only denied Villa's Darius Vassell the distinction of being the match-winner but lifted Albion out of the relegation zone for the first time since November.

Robinson's goal, his first in two years since he arrived from Watford, was a triumph of patient build-up and adventurous full-back play. Entering the last of the additional three minutes, Vassell's first-half header still separated the teams. Russell Hoult, Albion's goalkeeper, might have been expected to kick long, but he bowled the ball out. A succession of passes led to a cross by the overlapping right-back, Riccardo Scimeca, which skimmed the head of Villa's Mark Delaney before Robinson, his left-sided counterpart, headed in at the far post.

Only five seconds remained, and yet Albion deserved their draw, which gives them 10 points from five matches. They gained fresh impetus following the double sending-off, followed as it was by the substitution of two ineffectual strikers by Bryan Robson. The Albion manager estimated Robinson would have been a 100-1 shot to score. "Paul has just signed a new contract, so he's on a high, and today he has kept everyone high as well," he said. "The character, attitude and camaraderie within the squad is really good. Now we need to keep it going."

His opposite number, David O'Leary, argued that his side had dominated the first half, were a shadow of themselves in the second and gave away a "stupid goal" at the death. The Villa manager could not disguise his anger with the 20-year-old Ridgewell, who first fouled Greening and then twice thrust his forehead into the Albion midfielder's face as they squared up to one another in the 61st minute.

"If you stick your head in someone's face, you deserve to be sent off," O'Leary said. "I'm disgusted and disappointed with him. He has let us down very badly, especially with us having a small squad and at a time when we're struggling for central defenders. He will be punished."

Robson, however, felt Greening was harshly treated by Rob Styles, who is officially the Premiership's most card-happy referee after brandishing his seven red cards in four matches fewer than Mike Riley. "I think Ridgewell actually put his head into Greening's face," Robson said. "I'd have thought most referees would have just told them to get on with it [the game]. We'll certainly be looking at the video with a view to an appeal because I don't think Jonathan deserves a three-match ban."

Villa were looking to redeem themselves following their capitulation at Birmingham City in the previous derby. Despite the muted atmosphere, which had the Albion fans singing, "It's just like being in church", they were worth the lead they seized in the 27th minute. Ridgewell, standing in for the injured Olof Mellberg, met Nolberto Solano's corner kick with a header that Hoult did well to turn on to the bar. Vassell nodded in the rebound, the England striker's first League goal since the opening day of a season in which he went on to miss 19 games with a broken ankle.

Albion did not trouble Thomas Sorensen until the closing minutes of the first half. Yet there was a greater sense of purpose about them after the restart, with Zoltan Gera imposing his creative flair and linking well with Kieran Richardson. All that was missing was some pace up front, and the only surprise was that Robson delayed the introduction of Robert Earnshaw - scorer of a hat-trick in his team's previous away match - until the 71st minute.

By then, Ridgewell's rush of blood had left Villa increasingly stretched at the back, their disarray costing them dearly when Robinson produced his Jeff Astle impersonation. Hoult, who had kept Albion alive with a vital save from Vassell midway through the second half, marked his own reincarnation as a playmaker by running the length of the pitch to join in the celebrations.

Goals: Vassell (27) 1-0; Robinson (90) 1-1.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Sorensen; Delaney, Laursen, Ridgewell, Samuel; Solano (De La Cruz, 64), Davis, Hendrie, Barry; Vassell, Angel (Cole, 80). Substitutes not used: Postma (gk), Hitzlsperger, Berson.

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Hoult; Albrechtsen (Scimeca, 80), Gaardsoe, Clement, Robinson; Gera, Wallwork, Richardson, Greening; Campbell (Kanu, 72), Horsfield (Earnshaw, 71). Substitutes not used: Kuszczak (gk), Moore.

Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).

Booked: Aston Villa Laursen. West Bromwich Albion Robinson, Kanu.

Sent off: Aston Villa Ridgewell (61). West Bromwich Albion Greening (61).

Man of the match: Gera.

Attendance: 39,402.

Comments