Vibrant Villa back on track

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The Independent Online
West Ham United 1

Dicks 85 pen

Aston Villa 4

Milosevic 34, 89, Johnson 49, Yorke 55


ASTON VILLA use the width of the park so cleverly through Dwight Yorke and Savo Milosevic that it seems clear that picking an additional man up front would yield more goals. They were forced into the gambit yesterday and the result was the destruction of West Ham.

Villa had not won here since 1985 and the Hammers were on high, having gained 11 points from their last five matches. This excellent contest on a glorious afternoon began with five valid goal attempts in the first 16 minutes, West Ham being cruelly deprived when Iain Dowie's powerful header hit both a defender and goalkeeper before bouncing to safety.

West Ham had the edge but could not quite find the final touch, and in the 30th minute Ian Bishop was turned down for what appeared a clear penalty when his shot was halted by Paul McGrath's arm. Then the most telling event in the match ensued when Andy Townsend, obviously struggling with a foot injury, did the sensible thing and made way for Tommy Johnson. His inclusion meant that Villa changed to a more attacking 3-4-3 formation and the impact was instant. Johnson broke through immediately, his shot flying off Ludek Miklosko's body for Milosevic to pot the rebound from eight yards.

The opening of the second half was a rout. Yorke hit the inside of the near post and failed to score and two minutes later Johnson, from a similar position, hit a left-foot shot inside the far post to score Villa's second. Their third followed on the hour when Yorke fired home his eighth of the season after being beautifully set up by Milosevic as a pale moon rose over West Ham's disintegration.

Harry Redknapp responded by sending on both Marco Boogers and John Harkes. In a wild and woolly next 15 minutes Michael Hughes hit the underside of the Villa bar while Boogers, rising to a corner, headed across Mark Bosnich to see the ball fly off the far post.

In West Ham's favour they never gave up. Julian Dicks, who must now serve a three-match suspension, scored a late consolatory penalty, and in the last minute Milosevic crowned an outstanding match with Villa's fourth. If Villa continue to play to their strengths, with the likes of Johnson feeding off the delightful work of their wide stars, Newcastle may have cause for concern next week.