Aston Villa 0-0 Wigan

Aston Villa 0-0 Wigan

By Owen Phillips

Wigan keeper Chris Kirkland clears his lines

Aston Villa missed out on the chance to overtake Chelsea and Liverpool and go second in the Premier League on a frustrating day against resolute Wigan.

Villa were lacklustre in a dull first half, which saw Wigan’s Maynor Figueroa denied by keeper Brad Friedel.

But the home side upped the pace after the break and bombarded the Wigan goal.

Zat Knight hit the post, Paul Scharner twice cleared off the line and Gabriel Agbonlahor, Emile Heskey and John Carew were all denied by last-ditch blocks.

The frantic finale seemed unlikely for more than an hour in a below-par home display, but Villa created enough chances in the last quarter to have won two home matches.


The day began with a minute’s applause for former Villa manager Vic Crowe and 1957 FA Cup winning captain Johnny Dixon, who both died earlier this month.

And Villa started in confident fashion, looking eager to mark the occasion in fitting style and build on their fine 1-0 win over Portsmouth in midweek.

Agbonlahor and home debutant Heskey saw plenty of the ball in the early exchanges, and all signs pointed to a victory that would put Martin O’Neill’s side at least temporarily level on points with Premier League leaders Manchester United.

Heskey almost got on the end of a hanging Gareth Barry free-kick, and the Villa skipper had a shot deflected wide after a driving run from midfield.

But apart from Heskey’s pace and power, the home side offered little in attack and Wigan coped with the minimum of fuss.

Chris Kirkland easily tipped over a looping Agbonlahor header and the lively Heskey, facing his former side just eight days after leaving them, also headed straight at Kirkland.

But the Latics, who were thumped 4-0 in the reverse fixture in October, finished the half stronger and started to play with confidence.

Scharner tried his luck from 30 yards but was off target before Wigan created two excellent chances to take the lead.

Brad Friedel superbly blocked with his feet as Daniel De Ridder raced through on goal following a lovely dummy from Scharner.

And the American keeper then stretched to tip over Figueroa’s header from Michael Brown’s clipped cross when Villa failed to clear a corner.

But O’Neill’s men stepped up a gear on the resumption and started to create chances.

Knight’s downward header bounced up and beyond Kirkland and onto the far post but Curtis Davies was unable to tap in the rebound and the visitors somehow cleared their lines.

Agbonlahor also blazed over the bar after a neat turn on the edge of the box, and another goalmouth scramble saw Wigan escape with their goal intact when Agbonlahor’s close-range header was cleared off the line and then bobbled onto the post.

And within minutes Wigan had another remarkable escape after the third almighty goalmouth scramble of the second half.

A Villa break saw Brown’s defensive lunge penalised as a pass-back.

Carew, playing his first game since November, had his shot superbly blocked by Scharner and the same player then reacted brilliantly to stop Luke Young’s stinging volley.

But despite the constant late pressure, Wigan held on for a valuable point.


Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill:
“A draw was frustrating in that we had some great chances but could not score, but apart from that I was delighted with all the other areas of our play. We are 12 games unbeaten in the Premier League, which is great.

“Wigan had drawn with Liverpool only a couple of days ago and they are a fine side.

“They had a couple of chances but the second half belonged to us but we could not force the ball in.

“But the effort from my players was phenomenal.”

Wigan manager Steve Bruce:
“It was backs to the wall for us for much of the time.

“We were out on our feet after the midweek game we had against Liverpool.

“We rode our luck a bit but we had two good chances and should have scored from both.

“In the second half it was an onslaught and we had to hold on.

“Our attitude was terrific and we got away with a point.”