Wigan Athletic 1 Aston Villa 2: Davies quits Dog and Duck to send Villa home happy

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The Independent Online

At last Aston Villa have their first Premier League victory over Wigan Athletic and Curtis Davies can look back on his last performance without cringing. The on-loan West Bromwich Albion defender described himself as worthy only of the Dog and Duck team after his only previous start for the club, at home to Leicester City in the Carling Cup.

Here, he was commanding in place of the suspended Zat Knight and, as a bonus, scored the second of the three headed goals produced by a game which lifted Villa one place to seventh and reminded Wigan of the uphill fight they still face to avoid relegation.

"Curtis was 5,000 times better than against Leicester," said his manager, Martin O'Neill. "His second-half performance was terrific, a great effort. Things are in place for him to come here permanently. It took us some time to come down from our exploits at Stamford Bridge and adjust to the conditions. But I am delighted we [have] still only lost once away since February."

Villa's first-half display matched the wretched weather and after the breathlessness of their 4-4 Boxing Day classic against Chelsea, Titus Bramble's first league goal since he helped Newcastle United beat Chelsea in May 2006 left them facing the more sobering thought of a sixth-consecutive game without a victory.

The otherwise impressive Martin Laursen saw the defender steal a yard on him at Ryan Taylor's 28th-minute left-wing corner and power a header in over the blameless Scott Carson. On the balance of play, Wigan might have been further ahead at the interval as they allied an inventiveness across a bog of a pitch to their aerial threat at Taylor's set-pieces.

But Villa, having drawn their previous three games and having shared the points home and away with Wigan last season are not the Premier League's leading away scorers by accident.

They lost John Carew to a leg injury after an innocuous first-minute challenge by Paul Scharner and saw Shaun Maloney bring the only first-half save from Chris Kirkland, but they produced more composure after the restart. In driving rain and a blustery wind it was no surprise that the equaliser, after 55 minutes, also came from a corner, Davies powerfully meeting Gareth Barry's in-swinging right-wing kick to defeat Denny Landzaat on the line.

Steve Bruce, who was on the end of a 2-1 defeat at home to Villa towards the end of his Birmingham City reign, has achieved much in little time at the JJB Stadium. Three previous games against top-10 opposition since his appointment had brought two wins and a draw, but this became an increasingly challenging mission against a team beaten only once in 15 away games.

Although opportunities remained scarce, Villa were rewarded for one of the game's better moves when, 20 minutes from time, Luke Moore fed Ashley Young, whose fine cross from the byline on the left was glanced in off the bar by the head of Gabriel Agbonlahor for his seventh goal of the season.

The nearest Wigan came to salvaging a point was when Taylor's free-kick looped off a defender and onto the roof of the net. Bruce's team are back in the Premier League's bottom three but, the manager said: "I thought we deserved something.

"We were the better side for an hour and Ryan Taylor is as good as I have worked with for set-pieces."

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