Stan's calamity saves Pleat's seat

Aston Villa 2 Staunton 32, Taylor 49 Sheffield Wednesday 2 Collin s 26, Whittingham 42 Attendance: 32,044
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The Independent Online
Stan Collymore's goal drought continued as Villa twice had to come back from behind to salvage a point against a Wednesday side determined to banish their dreadful start to the season and ease the pressure on manager David Pleat.

The match had been prefaced by an admission from David Pleat that his job would be on the line in the event of more calamities in keeping with last week's crushing defeat at home to Derby but Wednesday, for whom the Italian duo, Benito Carbone and Paolo di Canio, were outstanding, attacked Villa with a confidence surprising from a side with only one Premiership win so far. A point was thoroughly deserved.

Still reeling from the setback at Liverpool that brought their revival to a jolting halt, Villa looked unsure, defending with uncharacteristic sloppiness. Indeed, they might have gone behind three times in the opening 20 minutes. Carbone saw a header hit the crossbar before Guy Whittingham grazed an upright from 20 yards and then failed to connect when di Canio pulled back a Carbone cross, inviting him to score.

But Wednesday's positive opening was rewarded. Villa, not for the first time, backed off when Jim Magilton gained possession on the left, allowing time for a measured far post cross. Whittingham met it and set up Wayne Collins, a yard from the goal-line, with a simple task.

Villa fans voiced their disapproval and the loud groan that rose when Gareth Southgate and Alan Wright got in one another's way prompted the England defender to remonstrate with the dissenters on the Holte End. To make matters worse, Collymore squandered a glorious opportunity to end his current blight after Sasa Curcic's pass had put him clean through.

In the event, the equaliser was not long coming, a spectacular one, too, following Mark Draper's collision with Carbone. Picking up the lose ball, Steve Staunton's 30 yard shot canoned in off the left-hand post.

The goal launched Villa's best spell of the first half, in which Collymore would surely have levelled had he not trodden on the ball when Wright found him in the box. Then Yorke turned Dejan Stefanovic only for Clarke, keeping his place ahead of the recently signed Bruce Grobbelaar, to save.

Just as the portents were looking brighter for Villa, however, Whittingham out-jumped the diminutive Wright to steer home a far post header from di Canio's left-wing centre.

But just as Villa could not preserve parity, neither could Wednesday hold their lead a second time. Four minutes into the second half, Ian Taylor shot past Clarke after Fernando Nelson had spotted him unmarked. Collins then spurned an authentic "sitter" at the other end, somehow heading wide when it seemed impossible so to do after di Canio's perfect cross.