Wigan Athletic 1 Aston Villa 2: Davies calls time on Wigan's revival

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Curtis Davies, who likened himself to a pub player three months ago after his only previous start for Aston Villa, remains the reporter's best friend. At least now, though, some of his talking is being done on the pitch.

"I was growing tired of being the most interviewed footballer never to play a game," he said after filling a major role, at both ends, in a victory that took Villa up to seventh in the Premier League. "I'm delighted to score and help us to three important points. It has been a long, frustrating wait just to start a [League] game."

Davies, having made Leicester City look like Brazil when facing them in the Carling Cup in September, must have winced when he saw the JJB Stadium mudbath into which his reputation could have sunk still further. Driving rain and a swirling wind added to the 22-year-old's sense that this match "had nightmare written all over it. You had to make sure you stayed on your feet, otherwise you looked like Bambi on ice," he said.

His manager, Martin O'Neill, need not have worried. The centre-half, on loan for the season from West Bromwich Albion and destined then to become a 9m signing, hardly put a foot wrong.

Davies stood up to the first-half menace that might well have brought Wigan more than Titus Bramble's first goal for the club and, with a fine header from Gareth Barry's corner soon after the restart, gave Villa the momentum to push for a first win in six games.

It was by no means the kind of classic they and Chelsea had served up at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day. Take away the goals and the appalling conditions and you would be hard pushed to recall a genuine incident. But the Wigan manager, Steve Bruce, whose final game with Birmingham City last month was also a 2-1 home defeat against Villa, rightly praised both sides for maintaining a compelling edge to a game that might well, given the weather, have descended into an unrelenting slog.

Wigan will start 2008 back in the bottom three because Gabriel Agbonlahor, having struck an 87th-minute winner in the St Andrew's derby, underlined Villa's admirable second-half resurgence and control here by flicking in a decisive header from Ashley Young's fine run and cross, 20 minutes from time.

"Scoring against the Blues was special but this goal was worth exactly the same to us," Agbonlahor said, following his seventh strike of the season. "We've picked up four points from our two Christmas games and we're knocking on the door to Europe."

While Villa looked upwards after consolidating their status as the Premier League's top away scorers, Wigan were reminded they are still in trouble, despite Bruce's early successes.

"We're a little thin on the ground and didn't have much to chase the game with," Bruce said. "I'll try my utmost to improve the squad in January. But if we keep the same attitude, we'll be OK."

Goals: Bramble (28) 1-0; Davies (55) 1-1; Agbonlahor (70) 1-2.

Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Kirkland; Melchiot, Scharner, Bramble, Kilbane; Valencia, Brown, Landzaat (Olembe, 80), Taylor; Bent, Sibierski (Aghahowa, 63). Substitutes not used: Pollitt (gk), Granqvist, Skoko.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Carson; Mellberg, Davies, Laursen, Bouma; Maloney (Gardner, 60), Reo-Coker, Barry, Young (Petrov, 90); Carew (Moore, 11), Agbonlahor. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Harewood.

Referee: H Webb (South Yorkshire).

Booked: Wigan Bramble; Aston Villa Agbonlahor.

Man of the match: Davies.

Attendance: 18,806.