Mick McCarthy happy to play for point
BIRMINGHAM // "We are top of the League" was the chant from the Wolverhampton Wanderers support on full-time. Swiftly followed by something less complimentary to Manchester United. The champions might retort that it was characteristic of Wolves to make it there in such desultory fashion a goalless match with Aston Villa.
The gold-clad fans barely filled half their ticket allocation for a local derby and a unique opportunity to start a Premier League season with three consecutive victories. Their players opened energetically enough, yet did not force a save from Shay Given from the 20th minute until the full-time whistle.
If a defence led by Roger Johnson - "one of the best about", according to Mick McCarthy - deserved credit for shutting down Darren Bent, their opponents had far the better of the second half. The Wolves manager removed both his wingers midway through the second half to conserve his clean sheet.
An Aston Villa win would have also have taken the home side, temporarily, to the top of the table, yet they, too, were sparsely supported. An attendance of 30,776 was Villa Park's lowest for a league game since December 2006.
No coincidence that Bent's chance only emerged once Barry Bannan's perceptiveness has been inserted into Villa's midfield.
"Darren Bent is a player who thrives on the right moment and I can understand that sometimes Benty gets frustrated because there are times he has made a run and maybe the player on the ball just doesn't see it," said Villa manager Alex McLeish.
"Barry sees pictures. I guess Benty might fancy Barry in the team but it's difficult when you're looking at all the elements of how we want to play to keep everybody satisfied."
A similar conundrum beckons at right back. Having pared down the wage bill and taken a significant transfer fee from QPR for Luke Young, McLeish is hopeful of extracting Alan Hutton from Tottenham as replacement. Landing a player he employed so effectively as Scotland will would force a decision between the new man and Chris Herd, who was impressive here.
The 22 year old was unfortunate not to claim the winner with one header. And fortunate, by McCarthy's reckoning, not to concede a final-minute penalty. That really would have been pushing it.
Published: August 28, 2011 04:00 AM