Home » EPL, Latest » Match Report: West Brom 0 Aston Villa 0

Alex McLeish describes every point as a “prisoner” and so the one his Aston Villa side gained in a derby littered with missed opportunities may equate to a get-out-of-jail-free card as they strive to survive.

With Wigan’s thrashing of Newcastle moving them level on points with Villa, McLeish faces an another anxious end to the season. He will be hoping he does not suffer two relegations in quick succession with both clubs from England’s second city.

But at least he had something to smile about after a miserable run of form, which led to the dreaded vote of confidence from his board after Tuesday night’s home defeat at the hands of fellow strugglers Bolton.

While Villa’s forward line were denied by some good stops from Ben Foster in the West Bromwich goal, the visitors’ defence and goalkeeper were also kept busy, with Shay Given making one outstanding save in stoppage time to maintain parity.

And Lady Luck also smiled on McLeish, with referee Mark Clattenburg and his assistants failing to spot a blatant handball by Alan Hutton early in the second half, when Villa’s Scottish full-back stopped Liam Ridgewell’s goalbound header with his arm.

A penalty and red card at that stage would surely have done for Villa, although McLeish pointed out that they had two penalty claims of their own, against Chris Brunt and Jonas Olsson, which were ignored by the referee.

“If that [Hutton] was a penalty, so was the time Brunt handled the ball and then Olsson,” said the manager.

“Every point is a prisoner in this league, and we’ve dropped some silly ones this season. That was better than none, and it’s certainly not the worst point in the world.”

West Brom manager Roy Hodgson agreed, and suggested it might be enough to seal Villa’s survival. “Points like that are what it takes to keep you up, and I think Villa will be in the Premier League next season.

“But if our last effort had gone in, it would have been difficult for them, given results elsewhere.”

Indeed, Given, who turned 36 last week, showed all the sprightliness of a teenager to scramble back across his line to keep out Peter Odemwingie’s half-volley in the final minutes.

“It was a phenomenal save,” added Hodgson. “It was an entertaining derby despite the scoreline and I was happy with a clean sheet and a point, and very happy to confirm that, for the first time in goodness knows how many years, we will finish above Villa.”

It could have been different, though. Foster thwarted the efforts of Chris Herd and Charles N’Zogbia, and saved at the feet of the onrushing Gabriel Agbonlahor in the first half.

West Brom had good chances too, with Odemwingie’s shot cleared off the line by a diving header from Carlos Cuéllar, who was outstanding in the centre of defence alongside Richard Dunne, who returned from a long-term injury. Cuéllar threw his body in front of shots time and again, while Dunne used his experience to keep West Brom at bay and help Villa gain a valuable point. “Dunne is a leader and put in a brilliant performance,” said McLeish.

Olsson had a volley blocked on the line and Odemwingie almost scored with a back-heel, and full-back Billy Jones hammered a shot into the side-netting deep in stoppage time.

Villa face Tottenham next weekend and travel to Norwich on the final day, and with his side sitting three points above the relegation zone, McLeish will be hoping to avoid the final-day agony he suffered with Birmingham last May.

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