A hard-earned point for Villa at Hull

Posted by Kevin Hughes

LINDSEY PARNABY/Getty ImagesVilla manager Paul Lambert can take solace in knowing that striker Christian Benteke will return from injury following the international break.

Hull manager Steve Bruce was brutally honest in his assessment of Saturday's 0-0 draw with Villa.

'Bang average,' was Bruce's candid verdict of an encounter which was low in entertainment value; few of the 24,000-plus crowd at the KC Stadium would have disagreed, if any. But Bruce was satisfied, overall, with taking a point from the game, and the Villa camp have every right to feel the same.

- Report: Hull City 0-0 Aston Villa

Bruce was right. This was a not a classic. Villa were the brighter of the two sides in first half, certainly the first half an hour, and should have gone into the half-time interval a goal up. The major lesson to be taken from his match, from a Villa point of view, is to score when you have supremacy. To take advantage when the opportunity arises.

Villa didn't. Gabby Agbonlahor missed the most presentable of the game's chances, denied by a decent save from Hull's Allan McGregor, and the momentum shifted gradually away from Villa the longer the game dragged -- and it did drag -- on. Into the latter stages of the second half, it became more about preserving a point than risking one. There was little ambition from either team and little desire to push on for three points.

So, two points dropped, or a point well earned? Villa manager Paul Lambert might be inclined to consider the latter. To expect Villa to beat Hull merely on reputation alone, because Villa are an established Premier League club and the Tigers newly promoted, is ignorant. Ignorant of the start Hull have made to this 2013-14 campaign and of the form Bruce's team have been in to date. The KC Stadium is a difficult place to go into -- Hull remain unbeaten on their own patch.

Lambert's team selection suggested he was aware of Hull's threat, for the XI he started with made for a solid unit. Neither Leandro Bacuna nor Yacouba Sylla -- strong-running players capable of opening up games -- gained starts in midfield. Bacuna reverted to right-back; Sylla dropped to the bench.

A recall for Ashley Westwood, fit again following a thigh injury, meant Villa's midfield was heavy on holders and sitters, but light on cutting edge. Thus, Villa enjoyed the lion's share of possession, but didn't penetrate much with it, and there were scarce options on the bench to change that. With Danish striker Nicklas Helenius missing through injury, and no place for winger Marc Albrighton, the selected substitutes were low on inspiration. The two forward players who did feature, Jordan Bowery and Aleksandar Tonev, made no impact.

A second clean sheet in three matches -- and a successive blank away from home -- was very welcome considering Villa's defensive issues over the past 12 months. But the new-found discipline and organisation seemed to come at the sacrifice of creation and invention. That's a balancing act Lambert needs to master.

Still, with the league season interrupted again for the international break, it's timely to review Villa's performance so far. The quality of play has been mixed, but the bottom line is that Lambert's team have ten points from seven games, and that's a significant improvement on last season, when it took Villa until November 24th -- the 0-0 home draw against Arsenal -- to reach double figures.

Six of those ten points were taken against Arsenal and Manchester City; both victories could almost be considered bonus results. Of the seven games so far, only one has really been a disappointment. The home defeat to Newcastle in September was poor. All other games have produced positives.

The season continues its narrative of difficult matches for Villa, with Spurs and Everton the next two opponents, both at home, immediately after the business of World Cup qualifiers. By then, of course, Christian Benteke is scheduled to be back and the Belgian's comeback will definitely improve Villa's attacking play. His finishing and end product was certainly missed against Hull, and Lambert will be keeping everything crossed in the hope that nothing delays his return.


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