The spoils are shared in the bat­tle of the

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Sam El­liott

THE rich­est game in Cham­pi­onship his­tory pro­duced a fin­ish even money couldn’t guar­an­tee. It was one of the bar­gain buys who kept As­ton Villa boss Roberto Di Mat­teo out of the fans’ fir­ing line.

With £123.5m-worth of tal­ent in the start­ing line-ups alone, it wasn’t just the his­tory of the clubs that gave this game a Pre­mier League feel.

Two Cham­pi­ons League win­ning man­agers met in the Cham­pi­onship, but a player Villa signed for less than £5m from Read­ing turned the tide. Aaron Tshi­bola eased any pres­sure on his boss, de­spite just one win in the first two months of the sea­son stunt­ing progress.

His late far-post header pre­vented what could have been a costly de­feat. It’s been a painfully slow start by Villa, but the courage shown in the sec­ond half was enough to give Di Mat­teo be­lief the cor­ner is be­ing turned.

Di Mat­teo said: “The sec­ond half was very good. We re­ally put them un­der pres­sure in that last half an hour – we cre­ated good op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“We were much more pos­i­tive with the ball and we showed we can turn the game around.

“Our chal­lenge is to turn the draws into wins now. We’re get­ting closer, we’ve been close a few times!”

The boss also con­firmed Jack Gre­al­ish, caught up in an­other all-night party scan­dal this week, will be avail­able for se­lec­tion against Barns­ley on Tues­day.

New­cas­tle knew what they were get­ting when they wrote a £11m cheque for Matt Ritchie. His en­ergy in­side the box, pounc­ing on an er­ror mid­way through the first half, could have broke the dead­lock. Mo Di­ame on the fol­low up re­ally should have.

Then they did. Isaac Hay­den threaded a fab­u­lous ball through to DeAn­dre Yedlin, the cross was pre­cise, and Tommy El­ph­ick with Dwight Gayle for com­pany got it hor­ri­bly wrong. The Villa skip­per helped the Toon on their way.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

GOAL MEN: As­ton Villa's Aaron Tshi­bola scores their equaliser and, in­set, New­cas­tle's Dwight Gayle cel­e­brates af­ter Tommy El­ph­ick scores an own goal

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