Villa rely on skill of Yorke

Aston Villa 1 Yorke 76 Everton 0 Attendance: 32,792
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IT WAS Savo Milosevic who was supposed to be leading the Aston Villa attack this season, but as the pounds 3.5m Serb again produced one of his more lumbering performances yesterday, the contrasting figure of Dwight Yorke scored a winning goal that was worthier of his own performance than it was of the team's as a whole.

A drab game appeared to be heading for a goalless draw when Yorke struck 14 minutes from time. Needing to bend away from the goal as Mark Draper curled in a cross from the right, Yorke managed to get enough weight and direction on the ball to send it back and beyond the diving Neville Southall. It was an outstanding piece of skill in a match in which the only others had also come from Yorke.

Aston Villa thus put an end to the brief decline which had seen them lose two and draw one of their previous three Premiership matches. The result, however, could not mask shortcomings in their game. For long periods, Yorke excepted, they showed a lack of inspiration which the crowd responded to with a restlessness that eventually turned to outright frustration.

For Everton, however, the problems appear to go even deeper. They had marginally the better of the first half, drawing encouragement from a bout of uncertainty in the Villa defence, but as their manager Joe Royle said, they never presented any real threat where it mattered. They have not now won in the Premiership since 30 August, and a mounting injury list did not need the addition of Daniel Amokachi, who left Villa Park on crutches after damaging his knee. The uncomfortable truth is that a year on from the departure of Mike Walker, their league form has hardly improved.

Little was also appointed to Villa around the same time as Royle went to Everton. Having fulfilled the club's first requirement of keeping the club up, he can now look back on a generally solid start to the new season. The wisdom of his purchase of Milosevic, however, must still be open to question. Three goals in 13 matches is not in itself enough to condemn a man - though it does not compare so well to Yorke's seven in 14 - but his lack of pace and uncertainty about when to dribble and when to pass are aspects of his game which are persisting worryingly.

For Villa's latest acquisition, the centre-back Carl Tiler signed from Nottingham Forest in midweek, it was also an unhappy afternoon. When he went off with a hamstring injury a quarter of an hour from the end he could look back on a match which had begun with him very lucky not to land his new team in a lot of trouble.

The problem arose after 14 minutes when Tiler, back-pedalling, attempted a clearance when Southgate was clearly much better placed to do the job. Tiler only succeeded in flipping the ball inside to Paul Rideout, who should have done better than hoof the ball 10 yards over the bar.

With Andrei Kanchelskis in a teasing mood on the right and Everton's midfield moving the ball about purposefully, Villa were not really in it until the 25th minute when, out of nothing, a shot from Yorke struck the top of Neville Southall's left-hand post as the Everton keeper looked up at the ball hopefully.

Although Everton had a couple more half-chances before the break, Yorke was to prove the decisive factor, lifting Villa's game early in the second half with some silky turns and deft touches, and maintaining belief long after it seemed to have drained out of his colleagues. The reward duly came.