Villa v Rams - Report
All we are saying is give us a goal.
Aston Villa 2 Derby 0
The Rams left Villa Park with that same old feeling, losing the match and without scoring again on the road, something that must be worrying coach Billy Davies.
Villa`s youngster Ashley Young scored one and made the other for Danish veteran Martin Laursen, as the home side kept the Rams rooted to the bottom of the table.
Martin O'Neill's men struck twice in the space of four minutes in the second half to end the resistance of the Rams who had fought hard for the opening half without finding that elusive goal. It was Villa's fifth win in seven home games and they were always in control whilst seldom firing on all cylinders once they had survived a promising start by the Rams.
Kenny Miller missed the clash, his hamstring hadn`t recovered in time and the Scot was replaced by Steve Howard, who was still searching for his first Premier League goal. Other changes to the Rams starting line up saw recalls for Andy Griffin, in at right-back with Tyrone Mears dropping to the bench, while Dean Leacock returned to take the holding midfield role in replace of Eddie Lewis as Davies rung the changes after the disappointing result at home to Everton six days previously.
Recalled striker Howard had the first chance of the game for the Rams in the second minute, his 25-yard shot was pushed away by Scott Carson. The home side then went close moments later Zat Knight`s initial header was blocked and his close-range follow up shot was well saved by Stephen Bywater.
It was a bright opening by the Rams and they went close again on six minutes, Jay McEveley's free kick found Giles Barnes, the youngster finding Craig Fagan who shot wide.
Villa upped the pace and England international Gareth Barry saw his shot deflect wide off Luke Moore, on 19 minutes and moments later Gabriel Agbonlahor fired agonisingly wide of the far post after he was found by Wilfred Bouma's cross.
Agbonlahor was a constant threat to the Rams defence with his pace and power while skipper Barry was an increasing influence in the first half and at the break the home side had received mild boos from the Holte End. Matt Oakley had worked hard for the Rams and it as all to play for in the second half.
After the break, Villa began to dominate and Barry was continuing his influential in the middle of the park, and their pressure finally paid off when defender Laursen struck on 57 minutes.
Rams second half substitute Gary Teale brought down Young, and from his resulting free-kick he picked out the run of Barry at the far post, and the midfielder nodded the ball back across the danger area and Laursen made no mistake from close-range.
Four minutes later Villa doubled their lead, a mistake by McEveley allowed Agbonlahor a free run at goal and, although Bywater blocked his shot, Nigel Reo-Coker picked out Young at the far post and he volleyed past a stranded Bywater.
Derby responded by bringing on Robert Earnshaw in place of Fagan, and the Welshman was soon sent clear by Barnes but Olof Mellberg recovered to get a vital touch on Earnshaw's shot that sent it inches past the post.
To their credit the Rams continued to press forward, Howard heading just past the post as Derby looked for a way back into the game and were well backed by a big following of supporters.
There were chances at both ends late on, Agbonlahor cut in from the left on 81 minutes and forced a good save from Bywater at his near post. While at the other end Earnshaw again fired over from Howard's flick-on but the game with Villa running out 2-0, and the Rams will hope for a better return when they entertain West Ham United on Saturday at Pride Park.
Aston Villa - GK Carson, Bouma, Mellberg, Laursen, Barry, Young (Maloney 68), L Moore (Berger 77), Agbonlahor, Knight (Davies 87), Petrov, Reo-Coker
Subs not used - Taylor, Gardner
Rams - GK Bywater, McEveley, Leacock, Oakley, Howard, Fagan (Earnshaw 66), Griffin, Davis (Teale 45), D Moore, Pearson, Barnes
Subs not used - Price, Jones, Mears
Referee - M. Halsey
Att - 40,938
Derby boss Billy Davies
'We worked very hard today - there was a good reaction from last week, and a good spirit from the lads. I thought we competed reasonably well but ultimately two lapses in concentration have cost us dearly.
"As I said to the players at the end it was a very good workmanlike performances with some good chances in the first half. But you can't afford to slack on what I call the small details and to lose a goal from the set play was a big loss for us. A lapse in concentration cost us the first goal and we kept working away but a sloppy second put us on the back foot.
"I don't think you can fault the effort of the lads. There were lots of good signs out there.
O'Neill believes 22-year-old Young — who has already forced his way in the England squad — can become a footballing great.
'Without doubt, Ashley is fulfilling the potential he had during his time at Watford and he has turned in a string of excellent performances,' said O'Neill.
'When he came here, he took a while to find his feet after scoring on his debut but you can see now his confidence is sky high and he has that ability to go past players.
'I believe he can become a really great player. He came in for a bit of harsh treatment today but he is expecting that and Derby were going to play hard.
'But at the moment his confidence is so high he feels something is going to happen every time he gets the ball.'
O'Neill added: 'There was more purpose about our game in the second half when Nigel Reo-Coker produced the sort of performance he's capable off.'
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