Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers ground out a 0-0 draw on Saturday afternoon in a game that, with the presence of some exciting attacking players on both sides, promised far more than it delivered.
Mick McCarthy named an unchanged side for the third league game in succession, keeping faith with the XI that had propelled Wolves to the upper reaches of the division with two victories in two games. Alex McLeish was forced into one change; full-back Chris Herd replacing the injured, and Queens Park Rangers-bound, Luke Young.
The opening 10 minutes was an even if unspectacular affair; Wolves perhaps pressing forward more but Villa looking more composed with the ball. Wolves were however territorially superior, taking the majority of possession for the opening stages and, despite Villa’s assuredness, Wolves worked so hard to dispossess their hosts Villa struggled to create anything meaningful. Despite that, it was Villa who had the best chance of the opening 30 minutes when Agbonlahor outstripped the Wolves right-back and squared for Heskey, who could only divert the ball wide.
Villa’s inverted wingers were a constant outlet but the Wolves full-backs, aided by their midfield colleagues, stood firm. Stephen Hunt was similarly involved for Wolves while Matt Jarvis looked dangerous on the rare occasions he received the ball, with Villa preferring to show both Wolves wingers down the line onto their unfavoured foot, while Wolves attempted the same with Agbonlahor – only N’Zogbia was treated differently of the four wingers in action. Wolves chose not to show the Frenchman outside and onto his weaker right foot, but inside to his stronger left, and also to the traffic of Wolves’ tenacious midfield. With both sides’ wide players well marshalled, the game drew to a dull scoreless draw at half-time.
Villa were ascendant in the early part of the second-half as Wolves previously emphatic pressing slowed, giving the home side the space to work the ball into good areas and pepper the Wolves goal with dangerous efforts, drawing two saves from Wayne Hennessey and a goal line clearance by Kevin Doyle. McCarthy responded to Villa’s surge by withdrawing his two starting wingers, Hunt and Jarvis, in place of the more solid Kevin Foley and George Elokobi, who dropped to left-back with Stephen Ward moving to midfield. The changes halted Villa’s momentum. There was still precious little attacking intent from Wolves and strikers Kevin Doyle and Steven Fletcher were mere bystanders as McCarthy appeared to settle for a point.
Having nullified Villa’s threat Wolves showed no intent to produce their own, instead stroking the ball around the centre of the pitch without really attempting to break down Villa’s defence. Karl Henry and Jamie O’Hara sat deep in Wolves’ midfield and protected the back four, not allowing Villa the kind of space their speedy attack needed in which to fully operate. A Darren Bent cross troubled Hennessey in the final 10 minutes but tellingly the England striker found himself in a wide position with only one teammate for support in the penalty area, compared to Wolves’ half-dozen. Bent later put a far post header over the crossbar, but with Villa disjointed and Wolves content with a point, the tie petered out to a disappointing, goal-free end.