Villa Pass Turf Moor Test

At the start of this campaign, many Villa fans would have expected their side to see off sides like Blackburn, Wolves and Burnley with some ease.

The claret and blue faithful may have been especially confident of claiming wins on the road against the likely strugglers because last season they made a habit of it.

But, after some strange Premier League results early on - like Chelsea's defeat at Wigan and Manchester United's troubles at Turf Moor - the Villans and supporters of the other top sides in the division have been forced to reassess their targets.

Claiming points against the teams fighting for their lives is now more difficult than ever as Villa have found out.

Burnley boss Owen Coyle has got his side playing the right way and, like Sam Allardyce at Blackburn and Mick McCarthy at Wolves, he refuses to adapt his style for anyone.

Martin O'Neill would have been expecting to at least win one of the encounters at Ewood Park, Molineux and Turf Moor but instead he has seen his side claim just two points from the three away trips.

There is no shame in that, though, and the most recent point - against the Clarets - was particularly pleasing for a number of reasons.


Villa conjured up some fighting spirit to come back from a goal down and O'Neill obviously rallied his troops in their less than luxurious dressing room at half-time.

Sir Alex Ferguson's United and David Moyes Everton have left Lancashire with nothing and with their tails between their legs but that was not the case for the Villans.

Emile Heskey's brave finish summed up the away performance in tough conditions against a side who may just finish in the top six when it comes to home record this season.

To say that Burnley are reminiscent of Stoke City, who have made the Britannia Stadium a fortress since their Premiership arrival, is unfair on Coyle's men. They play some really elegant football at times and they have learnt how to counter the ability of the top teams.

Some cracking cup runs while playing in the Championship have helped them gauge how to set up against the big boys and with a fervent home following they have all the backing they need to really ruffle some feathers.

Villa, though, were not to be denied their slice of the proceedings. They too were spurred on by a huge travelling army and Heskey's goal was no more than their loyal faithful deserved.

O'Neill has now got a side who can combat the toughest of oppositions and although they may have lost at Ewood, there are few blotches on the copybook so far this season.

In Richard Dunne, Carlos Cuellar and the currently absent James Collins, Villa have men who know how to face up to battles both in the air and on the ground as they showed on Saturday. And with many more tough away trips to come the trials and tribulations at Turf Moor can only be a benefit.