Villa forget Reo-Coker to pile more woe on Pompey

Aston Villa 2 Portsmouth 0
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The Independent Online

After a day off, Martin O'Neill will arrive for work at Aston Villa today and assess this victory – which was not quite as comfortable as he would have liked – but will probably press the rewind button to watch Gabriel Agbonlahor's goal again. He will talk to his physio to get an update on Emile Heskey's ankle, which was crunched by Tal Ben Haim and led to the England forward limping off and needing an ice pack, and then he will look and see if Nigel Reo-Coker has driven into Bodymoor, the training ground.

O'Neill, the Villa manager, has said he is happy to accept Reo-Coker back into the fold after their public contretemps last week. If he does, it should be a chastened Reo-Coker because this Villa side showed they can cope without him, even if they were playing Portsmouth, who now have made the worst start in the history of the Premier League with six games and six defeats.

Steve Sidwell and Stilian Petrov had more responsibility to hold the midfield in Reo-Coker's absence, but Sidwell believes that Thursday's incident will be forgiven, even if the swearing and grabbing can't be forgotten. He said: "You can see how the gaffer is on the sidelines, he's no different in training. It's the same with Nige, he's a passionate person. I'm sure it's going to be forgotten, put to bed. They're too big characters to let it ruin things. I've talked to Nige and he's going to get his head down. I'm sure they're going to have a chat about it."

This was Villa's fourth consecutive win in the Premier League, lifting them to sixth place. O'Neill's solution to dropping Reo-Coker was to put John Carew alongside Agbonlahor, but it was Nadir Belhadj's foul on Petrov that brought the first goal. James Milner's penalty was emphatic. For the second, Agbonlahor wriggled past the hapless Ben Haim, finishing his run with a curling shot into the top corner.

Paul Hart, the Portsmouth manager, was desperately clutching for positives afterwards, but his striking options are limited and his defence is shot to pieces. If this run continues the only positive may be that Hart will stay in the job, because no one would want to take over from him.

Aston Villa (4-1-4-1): Friedel; Cuellar, Dunne, Collins, Warnock; Milner; Sidwell, Petrov, Young, Carew (Heskey, 66; Delph, 80); Agbonlahor. Substitutes not used: Guzan (gk), Delfouneso, Delph, Shorey, Beye, Gardner.

Portsmouth (4-1-3-2): James; Van den Borre, Kaboul, Ben Haim, Belhadj; Mokoena; Boateng, Brown, O'Hara; Piquionne (Webber, 76) Smith (Kanu, 76). Substitutes not used: Begovic (gk), Mullins, Williamson, Utaka, Yebda.

Referee: S Attwell (Warwickshire).

Booked: Aston Villa Cuellar, Agbonlahor.

Man of the match: Petrov.

Attendance: 35,979

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