Aston Villa Club Focus – Frustration on derby day sees Villa lose unbeaten home record

Controversy was the word of the day at Villa Park yesterday as West Brom came from behind to clinch victory in a Midlands derby with Aston Villa. Chris Herd’s dismissal for the home side ultimately changed the game and saw Alex McLeish’s men go on to lose their unbeaten home record in the league this season, a week after losing their overall unbeaten league record at the hands of Manchester City.

Herd’s dismissal was strange in the fact that nobody really knew what was happening. Assistant referee Darren Cann, considered one of the game’s top assistants, spotted an apparent stamp by the Aussie midfielder on Baggies defender Jonas Olsson. On later video evidence, there appeared to be an off the ball tussle in the penalty area between the two men and referee Phil Dowd decided to award West Brom a penalty and subsequently dismiss Herd.

West Brom missed the penalty with the score at 1-0 to Villa and before the red card, Villa seemed to be in control. Striker Darren Bent had missed a great chance before he slotted home a penalty after 23 minutes. Bent and his strike partner Gabriel Agbonlahor then raced over to the travelling Baggies support and cupped their hands behind their ears, listening to the blood-curdling cries from the West Brom fans.

Bent’s recent England form has seen him become a standout in the Villa side and the England man looked impressive against West Brom, creating plenty of chances for both him and his Villa teammates. With Wayne Rooney’s suspension keeping him sidelined for the opening three group games of Euro 2012, Bent will feel that he definitely has the talent and opportunity to become England’s leading hitman for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

Villa boss McLeish pointed to the dismissal of Herd as the reason for his side’s defeat as well as their lack of competitive edge when it came to the 50-50 challenges. McLeish is now facing a difficult task of reviving his players following two tough losses in consecutive weeks. The former Birmingham City boss also backed Alan Hutton, who had drawn criticism from Baggies manager Roy Hodgson following a challenge that left striker Shane Long injured.

McLeish said: ‘Long was maybe favourite to get to it, but I thought Hutton had gone for the ball. He’s collided on the follow through and that’s what’s injured Shane. Was it a savage tackle? I don’t think it was. Not everyone gets injured with those challenges’.

Herd was apparently distraught with himself for the sending off and believed that he was to blame for the defeat, but the Villa players will rally around their combative midfielder and get themselves prepared for next weekend’s away trip to Sunderland. McLeish has no real injury worries after the successful return of Welsh international defender James Collins to the side on the weekend and the imminent return of loan signing Jermaine Jenas, who is recovering from an injury picked up in training.

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