Glory days seem so long ago...
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.”
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