Glory days seem so long ago...

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Dave Good­er­ham

ONE SIDE still com­ing to terms with the Cham­pi­onship against op­po­nents who know the sec­ond tier only too well played out a goal­less draw at Port­man Road.

Both have proud his­to­ries but the present day is a lit­tle more con­cern­ing for As­ton Villa, with eight points from their first eight matches, and Ip­swich, the long­est-serv­ing club in the Cham­pi­onship.

On the ev­i­dence of yes­ter­day’s dis­play, both sides will need to show more qual­ity if they are to make a re­turn to the top flight af­ter a drab en­counter which only burst into life dur­ing eight min­utes of in­jury time.

Villa en­joyed the greater pos­ses­sion but were tooth­less in the fi­nal third – though credit must be given to Ip­swich’s never-say­die de­fend­ing that has been moulded from man­ager Mick McCarthy’s own play­ing style.

While you could never fault their work-rate, McCarthy’s men them­selves never threat­ened Pier­luigi Gollini’s goal un­til those fi­nal breath­less min­utes.

An in­trigu­ing first half gave way to a dis­mal sec­ond which saw only one shot on tar­get.

Then sleepy Suf­folk awoke to the in­tro­duc­tion of twin strik­ers Luke Var­ney and Leon Best and Ip­swich shone as the game en­tered an ex­tended pe­riod of in­jury-time fol­low­ing a nasty clash of heads in­volv­ing Ash­ley West­wood and Teddy Bishop.

Fred­die Sears twice went close from free-kicks be­fore Best and Cole Skuse were de­nied by goalline clear­ances from Jonathan Kod­jia and Aly Cis­sokho.

The fi­nal chance fell to Sears but he was cru­elly de­nied a win­ner by the post.

The dra­matic fi­nale earned warm ap­plause from the home faith­ful but, in truth, it was in stark con­trast to a la­bo­ri­ous 90 min­utes which had been played out be­fore it.

Brett Pit­man’s shot was turned around the post by Gollini be­fore Villa’s best chance came in the sec­ond half when Jor­dan Ayew latched onto a poor back pass by Luke Cham­bers, but he was thwarted from tap­ping into an empty net by a bril­liant goal­sav­ing tackle by Adam Web­ster.

It is lit­tle won­der that McCarthy be­lieves man-of-the­match Web­ster is a Premier League player in wait­ing.

He said: “I think it was a fair re­sult and I was pleased with the per­for­mance and how we played against an ex­pen­sively as­sem­bled team of very good play­ers.

“We could have won it at the end but if that was my side, I would have said ‘great de­fend­ing’ so you have to give Villa credit.

“My play­ers gave ev­ery­thing and I can trust them to do that and leave noth­ing be­hind ev­ery match. That is a re­ally nice thing for a man­ager to know week-in, week-out.We may not al­ways play well but it is never be­cause we haven’t tried.”

From the other dugout, Di Mat­teo said: “I don’t think it was a bor­ing 0-0. We were re­silient and de­fended well against the threat of Ip­swich.

“We were bet­ter on the ball in the first half as we tried to cre­ate a bit of dan­ger and we had some half chances.

“The sec­ond half was a bit more dif­fi­cult but it was a good solid per­for­mance at a place that is al­ways dif­fi­cult to play at.”

Back in the Cham­pi­onship af­ter a gap of six years, the for­mer West Brom man­ager added: “It is a very com­pet­i­tive league and the qual­ity of foot­ball is much im­proved to when I was here be­fore.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

STALE­MATE: Ip­swich Town’s Christophe Berra chal­lenges As­ton Villa’s Mile Je­d­i­nak


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