Villa look to Yorke

Aston Villa 1 Yorke 76 Everton 0 Attendance: 32,792
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The Independent Online
A DRAB performance by Aston Villa was redeemed 14 minutes from time yesterday by the man who had done most to keep his side's embers aglow. When Dwight Yorke rose to head in Mark Draper's cross, he brought Villa their first Premiership goal in three matches and sent them back towards the heights from which they had started to slip.

For Everton, meanwhile, without a Premiership win for two months, the decline continues.

Like his opposite number, Joe Royle, the Villa manager Brian Little is coming up to the first anniversary of his appointment. In staving off relegation last season he fulfilled the club's first requirement. And when they came out of the traps to beat Manchester United in fine style on the opening day of the season it did not seem too early to think of them as possible championship contenders.

But sustaining that level of form proved difficult, and recent defeats threatened to stick Villa into mid-table anonymity. While Little needed the team to regain their attacking spark, his thoughts in preparing for the match were more defensive with the signing of the centre-back Carl Tiler from Nottingham Forest. In spite of having played only three Premiership matches in the past 10 months, Tiler was drafted straight into the team in the absence of the injured Paul McGrath.

The Villa defence showed some early signs of rustiness, although initially it was Ugo Ehiogu, not Tiler, who looked as if he had not seen a football for a while when his failure to control a back pass after five minutes allowed Daniel Amokachi to brush past him dangerously. But Gareth Southgate was quickly across to cover.

Ten minutes later the confusion arose when Tiler, back-pedalling, attempted a clearance when Southgate was much better placed to do the job. Tiler only succeeded in flipping the ball inside to Paul Rideout, who, considering how much time and space he had, should have done better than hoof it 10 yards over the bar.

All this was encouragement to Everton, who with Andrei Kanchelskis in a teasing mood on the right and the midfield tackling early and moving the ball about well, were looking much the better team. But then, after 25 minutes, a shot out of nothing from Yorke struck the top of Neville Southall's left-hand post as the Everton keeper looked up at the ball hopefully. A subdued Villa crowd suddenly found its voice.

The pattern of the match remained undisturbed however. Before half-time Everton twice more came close to scoring - when Rideout turned beautifully on the left but crossed too hard for Amokachi and Graham Stuart, and from a volley by Matt Jackson following Gary Ablett's back-header.

While Villa as a team were struggling, they had the game's outstanding individual in Yorke, and as long as he was probing the opposition with his silky turns and deft touches, the game was still winnable.

In the 65th minute, after Villa had at last begun to sustain some pressure, Yorke had a goal-bound shot blocked by Dave Watson. It then became clear where Everton's priorities would lie as they took off Amokachi and put on a defender, David Unsworth. Much good it did them.