Defiant Dunne Denied Picture Book Ending

Richard Dunne came close to completing a fairytale first appearance against his former club but Craig Bellamy struck to secure a point for Manchester City at Villa Park.

Dunne, an eleventh hour transfer deadline day signing from Eastlands, netted the opening goal for Villa after just 14 minutes and in the process became an immediate Holte hero.

But City fought back in the second half and after some superb build-up play involving substitute Stephen Ireland and Emmanuel Adebayor, Bellamy smashed the ball past Brad Friedel.

Much of the pre-match hype surrounded Dunne and ex-Villa star Gareth Barry and it was the former, who really impressed in the opening stages of the match.

Hughes gave City plenty of attacking options with Adebayor, Bellamy and Carlos Tevez completing a trio of protagonists up front.

Villa also set their stall out to attack as Martin O'Neill kept faith with his less than fruitful 4-4-2 formation, which had suffered a defeat to ten man Blackburn nine days earlier.

And O'Neill's positive approach paid early dividends as his side pressed their visitors, who found it difficult to get into the game.

Barry received a hostile reception from the Holte End with many fans chanting obscenities and emitting boos, which some more reflective supporters would see as quite unnecessary considering his long and successful spell at the club.

But, England star Barry aside, City struggled to cope with Villa's constant pressure in the first ten minutes and after Stephen Warnock whipped in a corner from the right, Dunne brilliantly steered a header past former teammate Shay Given.


The colossus decided against celebrating in any way, shape or form and instead chose to trot serenely back to his own half.

Incidentally it was 1-0 to Dunne in the battle of the old boys as he rose above Barry to net what he hoped would be an important goal.

Unlike their Villa rivals, the City fans opted to applaud their former skipper despite him having struck an early blow to their hopes of claiming a landmark win.

Following Dunne's goal, Hughes' expensively assembled side pressed for an equaliser with Carlos Tevez firing a medley of shots at the Holte goal, but to no reward.

The Argentinean who, like Barry, is not averse to warm welcomes after lining-up at former stomping ground Old Trafford already this season, looked set to find his range imminently but it never materialised.

Villa continued to hold their own before the break and after the interval they went close to doubling their lead as James Milner walloped his effort wide after cutting in from the wing.

City then introduced Ireland as they struggled to gain a foothold in the game despite Barry's increasing influence in the centre of midfield.

But it was Villa who had another chance to put the match out of sight with Dunne once again winning an aerial battle from a corner, only to see his header drift agonizingly wide of Given's goal.

The influence of the Republic of Ireland international, particularly in the opposition box, drew comparisons to the man who last wore the number five shirt at Villa Park - Martin Laursen.


Dunne was having a tremendous game alongside fellow pillar of strength James Collins but neither could do anything to prevent Bellamy equalising mid-way through the second half.

The goal was a culmination of a fine move, which started almost as quickly as it ended.

After Agbonlahor was stopped by Joleon Lescott, the ball was fired up over the half-way line by Kolo Toure and in a matter of seconds it was in the Villa net.

Ireland released Adebayor, who pulled the ball back brilliantly for Bellamy to rifle a half-volley past the despairing Friedel.

It was a super finish from the makeshift winger and one which he and City just about deserved.

O'Neill introduced Heskey but the change was to no avail as neither side really had a clear-cut opportunity to snatch the three points.

Hughes will leave the Midlands with a smile on his face after denying a fellow top four challenger maximum points on their own turf, while another man on the same coach back to Manchester will have left slightly more disappointed.

Barry is unlikely to be thrilled at his own performance and indeed the reception he received from the majority of the Villa faithful but he remained magnanimous to the last as he applauded his former fans at the final whistle.

Despite the opinions of some supporters, the England talisman will be missed as the season goes on and, it has to be said, that his replacement Steve Sidwell was far from sensational in his former teammate's role.

O'Neill will be delighted with new acquisition Dunne's performance and that of the side but they will have to go one better if they are to get anything out of their next game against Chelsea at Villa Park in under two weeks time.